By George Orwell
(Summarized by David E. McConnell)
This book is an allegory. This means the book is not about some talking pigs on a farm. It’s about what they represent or "symbolize." It’s about individuals having “visions” or “ideals” that later are corrupted by followers who distort the ideals to suit their own selfish ambitions. Such happenings have repeatedly occurred throughout history among groups of people; especially political and religious groups (e.g., the Nazis).
This is a story that uses animals to reflect human issues and behavior. The book compares "types" of people to certain animals. There are sheep (mindless followers), dogs (bullies) etc. People’s behavior is likened to an animal’s behavior. Over time changes in basic principles are instituted, and tactics are employed to dupe simple-minded followers—the vision is distorted into its very opposite. There is ambition, rivalry, use of propaganda and intimidation to create fear in controlling others and disposal of threats to the leadership.
Surely in the following summary of the book it will not be hard to see in the character Jones a representation of religious apostasy. Old Major may be viewed as a likeness to Maurice Johnson and the other animals as likenesses to other individuals in “the leadership” as well as their mindless followers; one, Benjamin the donkey, even understood what was happening. It should be easy to see in Napoleon a likeness to Robert A. Grove and in Squealer a likeness to his lieutenants. You’ll have to read the actual book to get the full impact of the story, but perhaps the summary below will give enough for you to see and reflect upon what has taken place in the apostate camp led by Robert A. Grove and what they have done with the vision left by Maurice Johnson.
One night, all the animals at Mr. Jones’ Manor Farm assemble in a barn to hear old Major, a pig, describe a dream he had about a world where all animals live free from the tyranny of their human masters. Old Major dies soon after the meeting, but the animals—inspired by his philosophy (that they call Animalism) that all animals are equal—plot a rebellion against Jones. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, prove themselves important figures and planners of this dangerous enterprise.
When Jones forgets to feed the animals, the revolution occurs, and Jones and his men are chased off the farm. The pigs become the supervisors and directors of the animal workers. Snowball forms a number of Animal Committees. Though all fail, he does prove successful at bringing a degree of literacy to the animals, who learn to read according to their varied intelligences. Snowball changes the name of Manor Farm to Animal Farm and proposes building a windmill to provide electricity to increase efficiency. He paints Seven Commandments of Animalism on the barn wall:
1) Whatever goes up on 2 legs is the enemy.
2) Whatever has 4 legs or wings is a friend.
3) No animals shall wear clothes.
4) No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5) No animal shall drink alcohol.
6) No animal shall kill any other animal.
7) All animals are equal.
Napoleon, meanwhile, focus his energy on educating the youth and takes the infant pups away from their mothers, presumably for educational purposes. He opposes the windmill and argues that it will only interfere with food production.
Of course, the irony of the entire episode in the barn is that the animals will eventually betray the ideals set forth by Major. He warns, for example, that the animals must never come to resemble their human oppressors—but by the end of the novel, the tyrannical pigs are indistinguishable from their human companions.
Initially, the rebellion is a success: The animals complete the harvest and meet every Sunday to debate farm policy. The pigs become the supervisors of the farm. Napoleon, however, proves to be a power-hungry leader who steals the cows’ milk and a number of apples to feed himself and the other pigs. He also enlists the services of Squealer, a pig with the ability to persuade the other animals that the pigs are always moral and correct in their decisions.
Squealer, as his name suggests, becomes the mouthpiece of the pigs. His habit of “skipping from side to side” while arguing “some difficult point” dramatizes, in a physical way, what the smooth-talking pig will later do in a rhetorical sense: Every time he is faced with a question or objection, he will “skip” around the topic, using convoluted logic to prove his point. In short, he eventually serves as Napoleon’s Minister of Propaganda. When the animals learn that the cows’ milk and wind fallen apples are mixed every day into the pigs’ mash they object since all animals should share; all being equal. Squealer convinces the animals that the pigs’ greed is actually a great sacrifice explaining that the pigs need the milk and apples to sustain themselves as they work for the benefit of all the other animals. Squealer using pseudo-logic thus portrays the pigs as near-martyrs who only think of others and never themselves.
On the Sunday that the pigs offer the windmill to the animals for a vote, Napoleon summons a pack of ferocious dogs that chase Snowball off the farm forever. Napoleon announces that there will be no further debates; he also tells them that the windmill will be built after all and lies that it was his own idea, stolen by Snowball. For the rest of the novel, Napoleon uses Snowball as a scapegoat on whom he blames all of the animals’ hardships. So Napoleon and others who rise to power often revise the past in order to keep their grip on the present and future.
No animals shall drink alcohol.
is changed to read,
No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
is changed to read,
No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
Thus, a minor grammatical revision permits major revision of a law that legitimizes and excuses Napoleon’s tyranny. As Napoleon grows more powerful, he is seen in public less often.
The terrible atmosphere of fear and death that has now come to characterize Animal Farm is discussed by Boxer and Clover. Boxer, naturally, concludes that he must work harder to atone for “some fault in ourselves”; like the confessing animals, he wants to purge himself of nonexistent evils. Clover, however, does gain a small amount of insight as she looks at the farm from the knoll and considers that the terrors she has seen were not in her mind when old Major spoke of his dream. However, since she lacked “the words to express” these ideas, her possibly revolutionary thoughts are never brought out. With Snowball gone, none of the animals are encouraged to read—for the same reasons that slaves throughout history were similarly deprived.
Boxer again offers his strength to help build a new windmill, but when he collapses, exhausted, Napoleon sells the devoted horse to a glue-boiler. Squealer tells the indignant animals that Boxer was actually taken to a veterinarian and died a peaceful death in a hospital—a tale the animals believe. Now that he is in total and undisputed control of Animal Farm, Napoleon becomes a paranoid egomaniac.
Question: Can you tell the difference between the apostate camp that Robert A. Grove, Incorporated leads and the incorporated denominations that surround them? There are only two that come to my mind—the denominations admit that they have denominated themselves and, with some exceptions, generally seem less ruthless in their dealings with their flock. It seems the vision of avoiding sectarianism has become its opposite.
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