George Orwell’s literature has many advocates and many critics, with some praising his heavily meaningful literary style, full of symbolism and other such literary techniques, while others criticizing it for being too dense, and open to far too much interpretation. “Animal Farm” is one such book which highlights this debate. The novel is the story of a Southern England Manor Farm, and the book’s title, along with the progression of the story, presents the parallel between change in the name of the farm, and with society in general. Typical of Orwell, the story is not simple a literal tale of the farm, but a portrayal of a utopian society, being the dream of Old Major who is central to the story.
In the story we get to know a prize winning pig, and when this animal dies, there is an upheaval in Animal Farm, and the small farm community undergoes some significant changes. In the book’s beginning, all of the farm animals are clearly presented as equals, and are happy for being so, but, in an obvious parallel to human society, once the pigs have the chance to gain power and control, the use it to change the rules to their advantage. The paradoxical ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ reveals the digression of fairness within Animal Farm as the tale unfolds.
When the pigs take control, they live the good life, not doing any work and relaxing all day, while the other animals are enforced into slave labour by the pigs, which ensures that Animal Farm remains in the hands of them and not the humans. It can be seen that his situation mirrors the Russian Revolution, by the suggestive use of settings and symbolism throughout. Similar to corrupt officials and revolutionists of Russia, Napoleon uses his power to kill Snowball on voting day. This is a far cry from the book’s outset, and we see a clear deconstruction of moral values with time, and a change in the rules that were made in utopian hope. The pigs begin to stand on two legs, believing that two legs are better than four (Orwell, 89), and when Snowball is killed, no other animals dare usurp the domination of Napoleon. This, and many other situations presents the inexorable degeneration of the farm from beginning to end.
Many people, scholars and critics agree that Animal Farm is a perfect example of Orwell’s literary tenacity, with writing and meaning that is often difficult to understand. It is no wonder, since in this book so many themes are apparently presented – utopian ideas, communism, revolution, and society at large. After the rebellion there is a meeting, where the animals convene to lay down the new rules of their newly formed society, which are made to apply to every animal. One rule is that animals must essentially be animals – they cannot live in a house, sleep in a bed, wear clothing, drink alcohol, smoke, or engage in human activities such as commerce (Orwell, 6). Hypocritically, while the pigs agree to this rule, they become more and more like humans as the story progresses, in the interests of gaining control over the farm. Things at first do not appear to bad, with the pigs learning how to read and write, but they become well assimilated later on, wearing human clothing, and acting like humans in every possible way. The other animals become wary of this and the pigs’ motives, and at the end of the book the pigs are caught smoking and playing cards inside the farm house with the humans, even though such things were made forbidden.
The ultimate downfall of animal farm lies with the breakdown of equality, and the want of the pigs to be human, which reflects the utopian society, which in this book, Orwell seems to be stating could never be possible, since eventually inequality would worm its way in somewhere and somehow. You can draw a parallel with any society, and with the contrasts between societies all over the world. The key point is that the hatred between unequal parties only leads to further inequality and hypocrisy, which is the seed of failure for the utopian society the animals try to create. It is very fitting that by the end of the book, we literally cannot tell the difference between the faces of the pigs and the humans. Orwell is often difficult to understand, but he also presents some very obvious moments of clarity.