Absolute power can propel anyone out of his wits and drive him corrupt and perilous. This is the subject of George Orwell’s short novel, which lucidly and vividly delineates the reason of failure of Communism. Animal Farm, an allegorical novel, is a sarcastic and a pungent satire on totalitarianism, very particularly of Stalin era. Although Animal Farm is a simple fable of farmyard animals but it is of great symbolic value. This biting satire establishes how easily revolutionary ideas and intentions of social service are turned upside down to betray the revolution by dishonesty, ignorance, pride and greed of their corrupt leaders and bend it into autocracy. It gracefully points out that it is the essence of human nature to prevent people from being equal and happy, or at least equally happy.
Animal Farm opens with a concealed meeting of the animals of “Manor Farm” in darkness called upon by Old Major, the old boar of the “Manor Farm”. He shares with the other animals of farm his dream of a farm steered and governed by the animals themselves, without the control of oppressive Mr. Jones, the owner of “Manor Farm” and other humans, where all the animals enjoy freedom and equality and work to brace themselves rather for parasitic humans. Old Major passes away three days later, influencing distressed animals with a vision of a revolution and fueling them with the desire to rebel against the their tormentor, Mr. Jones.
The two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, take up the cause to prepare for a revolt and lead the animals to a rise and successfully oust Mr. Jones of the farm, thus ending his rule. Animals then take control of the farm and rename it as “Animal Farm”. At this point animals aim to rule the farm themselves for their benefits, on an equal basis and with mutual respect for all. Seven Commandments of ‘Animalism’ are laid down and painted on the wall. The Seven Commandments are:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal 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.
The pigs, especially Snowball and Napoleon, take upon themselves the leadership and the responsibility to educate other animals, and give suggestions on how to improve the farm. They come up with various ideas, especially building a windmill. At first, the animals work collectively and support each other, toil harder than before, especially Boxer, a loyal, dedicated and a respectable cart-horse to complete their tasks and yet they were at bliss as they enjoyed their freedom. The harvest is most productive than they’ve ever seen, and everyone has more food and more freedom from jobs and functioning of farm is smooth. Soon, the pigs are at the top of the hierarchy. However everything changes when Napoleon gets rid of Snowball, who worked for the well-being of the animals and makes changes to the governance of the farm and assumes supreme leadership.
Under Napoleon’s baleful leadership things turn ugly as he along with his aids pass over absurd commands, handle the affairs of farm with dishonesty, wickedness and greed and without care for their comrades. They deprived animals of their rights and made them work beyond their permit and without much self-gain, whereas the pigs themselves didn’t do too much of the physical work, considering them suited for managing and directing only. Animals felt that their hope of a utopia, for what they labored for and freedom, was no longer a possibility. Artful Napoleon made others believe that Snowball was responsible for all evils that had befallen on them. Squealer, a young pig and a stirring orator justifies every policy and statement Napoleon made and also managed to change all the Seven Commandments to their advantage.
Years pass, and the pigs, once comrades turned into dictators. They learn to walk upright, carry whips and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are reduced to:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others“.
Lies, corruption, private interests and tyranny take over the farm, making life miserable for the animals, back to the way it was before in the times of Mr. Jones. Napoleon, now the holder of absolute power annuls practices related to the revolution, and announces an alliance with the humans and changes the name of the farm to “The Manor Farm”. Animals can now see that the faces of the pigs look similar to humans, and none can mark the difference between them.
Story of Animal Farm runs parallel with history of Soviet reign, with Napoleon resembling to Stalin, Snowball to Trotsky, and Boxer as common hard working Soviet people and several of the other characters and situations have obvious specific depiction. Animal Farm is a perfect story that portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution, rather than the act of revolution itself!
This award winning novel is masterpiece and a landmark in political literature – a definite read for all.