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- Animal Farm: On the Gradual Corruption of Ideals
- George Orwell’s 1946 novel Animal Farm tells the story of the rise and fall of Animalism (Communism) on the Manor Farm (Russia). But that’s not what it is about. Animal Farm (and by extent, the story of the revolution against the Russian Czar up to the fall of the U.S.S.R.) is a story about the corruption of morals, of once pristine ideals twisted more and more until unrecognizable. The prize-winning pig, in the book’s first scene Old Major, Orwell’s parallel to Marx and Lenin, invents the concept of Animalism, by which the animals would have control over their farm and no man would be involved at all, for the man did not produce any useful products. And yet, by the end of the book, a dictatorial pig named Napoleon is in total control of the farm and, the last line says, as the farm’s animals watched Napoleon and his fellow pigs meet with the nearby farmers, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but it was already impossible to say which was which.”
- The story told in Animal Farm must be told and explained to people because it is a part of history. It is important and should be read because, as the saying goes, those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. Most people in this life are swayed by some morals. It’s important to keep conscious of these morals and of how they are changed by media and people and life. Of course, to keep completely static makes no sense, but many gradual changes over time can transmute one premise into a radically different one with shocking speed. This happens throughout Animal Farm. After Animalism is conceived, the animals write its seven principles on the wall of a barn. The fourth, for instance, read “No animal shall sleep in a bed.” This was to prevent the animals from living like humans. However, a few chapters later, it is seemingly magically different. The supposedly identical commandment (with some suspiciously fresh-looking) words at the end, then read “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.” These incremental changes conclude become, in aggregate, massive. The final and most important maxim of Animalism is “All animals are equal.” In the tenth and final chapter, the only remaining commandment was “All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others.”
- People, and especially children, must be aware of the meaning of Animal Farm because it prevents a reasonably well-known narrative from another perspective. Most see the decline of a republic or an empire and scoff. They see the glaring mistakes that rulers made and ask themselves, “How could anyone be foolish enough to let this happen?” Animal Farm shows exactly how because its characters are not fabricated. Most represent actual people. The jingoistic, gaslighting Napoleon is Josef Stalin. His more intellectual counterpart, Snowball, is Leon Trotsky, who is chased off the farm and becomes a monster, terrorizing the farm animals. It takes awareness of what is going on, and, importantly, willingness to act, to stop the downfall of a nation. One character who seems to realize what is wrong with the farm is Benjamin, the ornery donkey. Many compare him to Russian intellectuals who took issue with Stalin’s government but refused to take action. One large project which the animals complete after years of backbreaking labor is a windmill. Benjamin isn’t amused, as he recognizes the windmill is an empty promise which will not benefit the animals. He should speak out, as he recognizes the windmill for what it is. But he does not speak out, and Animal Farm continues to decline.
- In general, most want to avoid living under a dictatorship, especially seeing the horrors that they can cause from the outside. While the benefits that come from reading Animal Farm may not be helpful right here, right now, they very well could be. The real story of Animal Farm is about blissful oblivion. It takes awareness of the small changes being made all around to stop a descent from a paradisiacal utopia to a hellish dystopia, even if some still think they live in the former.
- Everyone should read Animal Farm because it functions as a guidebook for how to avoid life under an autocrat. It’s a perfect example of what not to do. The Manor Farm is a microcosm of the rest of the world. People must think critically about what is going on around them, of the small encroachments on their liberties. But just thinking critically is not enough. A farm full of Benjamins would be no help. Awareness is not enough. It takes action to change the world. Perhaps if there were more like Snowball, who stood for the ideals of Animalism and recognized its corruption and were willing to stand up for that which they believed in, the Manor Farm would have remained the Animal Farm. Perhaps if everyone understood the true meaning of the story of Animal Farm, the world would be a happier place for it.
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