Animal Farm by George Orwell – Background Information
Animal Farm, written by George Orwell in 1945, is an allegory about animals on a farm that started a coup d’état, or rebellion, to break free from the farmer, as – according to them - their misery sourced from humanity. They thought that animals could only be free once they started to rule themselves. Their maxim to live by was “All animals are equal”.
Once their insurgency succeeded, the pigs, called Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer, rather quickly founded a system of thought, called Animalism. They invented 7 commandments for all the animals:
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill another animal.
- All animals are equal.
At first, every Sunday, there was a meeting to discuss about the farm’s policy, but that soon changed when the pigs were able to lure the other animals into believing that their decisions were the morally correct ones and the animals believed them, as the pigs did invent Animalism and they didn’t want to question their “heroes” and supervisors.
However, as the pigs began to thirst for more power, and moved into the old farmer’s house, they slowly began to change the edicts to suit their own needs best. For example, when they were caught sleeping in the farmer’s bed (see edict #4) they unreservedly altered it to “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.” Or when the pigs were caught drunk (see edict #5) they once again converted it to “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess”, which fit their needs.
The animals thought that their lives now were much better than before, when they had been ruled by humans, but that only seemed to be the case because they barely remembered life before Animalism anymore.
The truth was, the animals were suffering from hunger and cold, because the pigs took all the food for themselves, whilst still pretending to be nice and only mean well.
Later, when the farmer returned to claim back his farm, a war started in which the humans lost, thanks to Snowball’s amazing tactics. Ever since then, this battle has been known as The Battle of the Cowshed. And during this battle, the windmill of the farm broke down. Squealer and Napoleon blamed Snowball for this, thus chasing him off Animal Farm forever.
All the other animals believed the pigs. Boxer, a horse, offered his help to rebuild the windmill, which was gladly accepted by the pigs. By then, Boxer was considered the strongest, most valued animal in this endeavour.
The pigs once again “readjusted” the rations for the animals, they always called reductions of food and such “readjustments” but never actually “reductions”.
And after a terrible accident of Boxer with his health deteriorating, he had to stop building the windmill, which Squealer and Napoleon did not seem to like, as they ordered the knacker to take Boxer away, but telling him and the others it was a veterinarian.
One of Boxer’s good friends, named Benjamin, could clearly read what was written on the side of the van, reading as follows: “Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler, Willingdon. Dealer in Hides and Bone-Meal. Kennels Supplied.”, he also told his fellow animals what he had seen, and they tried their hardest to let Boxer know of his fate and help him, without success though, as Boxer was too weak to kick open the door of the van and get out.
After a few days, and the animals having been back to work, Squealer came to tell them the bad news: Boxer has unfortunately died in the hospital, even after he had been given the most expensive medicine and utmost care. He also cleared the “misunderstanding”, being shocked they would really think that Napoleon would do something as cruel as sending Boxer to the knacker. In reality, it was a veterinarian that had bought the van of the slaughterer and had yet to paint over the old design, that was it. The animals understood and were glad that Boxer wasn't actually taken to the slaughterhouse. Squealer even went as far as to say that he had been with Boxer in his last, dying hours. Boxer’s last words before passing away had been:” Forward comrades! Forward in the name of the Rebellion. Long live Animal Farm! Long live Comrade Napoleon! Napoleon is always right.”
Weirdly enough, the pigs very soon had enough money to buy lots of alcohol again. They even started wearing clothes and walking on two legs.
The pigs truly lived their life to the fullest, eating way more than the other animals and not having to work.
Some time after that, the maxim “All animals are equal”, that the animals liked so much, changed to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Obviously, the veterinarian story being from true, it was all just part of Squealer’s propaganda. For example, the animals’ life being better than before the rebellion, even though it was not true, or Boxer’s death and last words, all of it was a lie. But the animals believed the pigs nevertheless, because, well, they founded Animalism, a great system of thought, and were able to read and write! The pigs seemed to think that they were simply “better” than the rest.
The intention of George Orwell with Animal Farm was to draw attention to how easily the opinion of enlightened people can be controlled by totalitarian propaganda. For him, it was of utmost importance that people of western Europe could see the Soviet régime for what it was. For the people to see that there is little to no evidence that the USSR was progressing anywhere but a hierarchical society, in which the rulers would give away as much of their power as any other ruler would, nothing, and that every act and word of these rulers must be excused, if not imitated.
After Mr. Orwell had watched a little boy, around ten years old, riding a huge cart-horse in a narrow street, whipping it whenever it tried to turn around, that he got the perfect idea to portray the story as it is today. He thought to himself: “If only the animals became aware of their strength, we should have no power over them.” He also found out that, if it comes to exploiting animals, all humans unite against them, which should not be the case. Adding to that, various episodes were taken from the actual Russian Revolution, though George Orwell did change the chronological order to complete the symmetry of the story. He did not want to comment on the work, as it would be poorly written if it did not speak for itself.
Johanna Scholl 10a