Literature Review : satire in George Orwell’s Animal farm.

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This article is premised on the novella Animal farm by George Orwell, focusing on the idea that it is a satire. Firstly, the term satire is going to be defined and a brief outline of what satire strives to achieve is given. This is then followed by the discussion, while illustrations and examples are drawn from the text.

Other secondary texts are going to be used in this article so as to buttress these points in as far as presenting how certain issues are being satirised in the text. It should be noted that satire uses some literary techniques to lampoon the vices of human nature. These devices are but not limited to irony, juxtapositioning, hyperbole, metaphors and animation.

Satire can be defined as an imitation of life situations with the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

Satire is particularly used in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. In the novella Animal farm, the whole plot can be inferred to be a satire of the Russian revolution. The text explore the political ideology of the transitioning from a capitalist to socialist system and back as well as the use, misuse and abuse of power.

To begin with, Animal farm is a satire of the Russian revolution. The storyline goes hand in glove with the characters who participated in the revolution of 1917. In the Russian revolution, people revolted and overthrew Tsar’s government and a communist government under the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin replaced it. After his death, there was a power struggle between his revolutionary colleagues Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin forced Trotsky into exile where he was later assassinated by the KGB, secret police. By extension, Tsar Nicholas II represents Mr. Jones or human beings, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin representing Old Major, Snowball and Napoleon respectively.

Religion is being satirerised in the novella Animal farm. This is evidenced by the character Moses the raven who speaks of sugar candy mountain where the animals do not work but rest and eat stalks of sugar. He is famous of his speech “up there comrades, is the sugar candy mountain 22. These men of cloth being represented by the raven do not necessarily work but offer a solace and fake hope to the masses, promising them a heaven in the future where they no longer work. According to Karl Marx, religion is the opium of the oppressed. Owell here uses satire to lampoon the nihilistic tendencies of religion and how it offers nothing but buttresses the capitalist system. Religion does this by creating a kind of people who are docile and ignorant of the principles of justice and equality.

Another aspect which is being satirized in the novella is the role of the working class. The working class according to some scholars are responsible for their suffering because they do not rise up to their oppressors. The working class is represented by Boxer and other animals who toil on the farm. Boxer blames himself and takes almost all the work upon his shoulders. He invents a maxim “I will work harder” so as to comfort himself while doing the work. Boxer represents the working class who have blind loyalty and are ignorant of the fact that the system is using them to as a means to satisfy their interests.

In addition, the author also mocks the concept of socialism, exposing the fact that it has loops and these can cause the whole concept to fall apart. There are principles of  socialism such as public ownership of the means of production and equality. The author here shows that in both cases, there is bound to be disorder. For instance, if the public owns the means of production, no one is answerable to anyone since they are all comrades. This is evidenced by Molie who was found with stalks of sugar in her possession. On the other hand, if there is leadership of some sort, there is no equality. This is evidenced by the pig who took windfall apples and milk because they were ‘the brains of the revolution.

Owell also uses satire to bring to light how the law can be used to support and also to oppose a certain ideology depending on who is in power and where his or her interests lie. This is evidenced by the concept of who is friend and who is foe. At the beginning of the novella, Old Major in his speech asserts that ‘man is the only real enemy we have’p3. During the course of the plot the animals knew it and kept it in their minds. What is surprising is the fact that at the end of the novella, Napoleon addresses Mr Pilkington and his men as ‘Gentlemen’ and at the end ‘ The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which’p44. This shows how satire is used to show that law can be used by the capitalist system as a means to their end.

Furthermore, the novella Animal farm can be said to be a satire because it ridicules the media and how it supports the capitalist system. This is evidenced by Squealer who is said to have the capability of turning ‘black into white’. According to Laurosh (1987) , Squealer represents the media and its use if propaganda to brainwash the minds of the masses. He uses techniques  so as to convince other animals that what is said is true. By skipping from side to side and calling the animals comrades and friends, Squealer manages to win them to his point of view. In addition, propaganda is also noted in the maxim ‘Napoleon is always right’ as well as the song ‘friend of fatherless’ composed by Minimus.

Another satiric element highlighted in the novella is the immobility of the educated elite. These according to Laurosh see the truth and do nothing about it. In the novella, this group can be represented by the donkey, Benjamin. They know how the system is duping them and their fellows but in the end do nothing about it. It should be noted that the author here can be applauded for aptly representing this group of people with a donkey, an animal famous of being dumb and stupid.

The revolution itself is being satirerised in the novella Animal farm. The word revolution in mathematical terms is a complete cycle. This is evidenced in the story that at the end the misery of the animals is still there and probably has worsened. The animals toil every day, their food is rationed and their produce is taken away from them just like in the days of Mr. Jones. In addition, the author also mocks the idea of exporting the revolution. This is evidenced when the animals tried to spread the revolution ideas to the neighboring farms and they failed.

All in all, one can say that the novella Animal farm is a satirical literary piece. The author uses satire to lampoon the institutions such as the media, religion, the working class, the educated elite as well as the whole concept of socialism as a whole. It should be noted here that the purpose of this concept is to ridicule and poke some consciousness so that the masses are aware of how the system works as well as how they can make a difference. At the end of the day, the issues being ridiculed should be reformed.


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