Animal Farm Essay
Thomas Foster’s How to Read Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines can help a reader understand literature like George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Foster explains about different types of writing methods. Animal Farm falls under Foster’s description of an allegory. Using Foster’s How to Read Like a Professor Orwell’s, Animal Farm will be interpreted.
According to Foster, an allegory is when “things stand for other things on a one to one basis” (98). Animal Farm has elements that do stand for specific people and events of the Russian Revolution. The first example is Mr. Jones. The farmer, Mr. Jones, was like the Romanov family. Mr. Jones drank so much he forgot to properly shut up the chickens. The Romanov family was drunk with power. Both were overthrown by revolution. Old Major stood for Lenin because both gave an ideology. Lenin’s ideology was all men were equal. Old Major stated “All animals are equal” (Orwell 32). Lenin and Old Major also both died before the revolution was over. History and Orwell’s story might have turned out differently if these two had lived. Napoleon could stand for Stalin. When Napoleon started changing the rules, becoming more human can be compared to Stalin’s changes and purges. Squealer can stand for Stalin’s propaganda machine. “The others said of Squealer that he could turn black to white” (Orwell 36). All of these elements can stand for one another. That makes Animal Farm an allegory.
Foster explains the difference between a symbol and allegory. “In general, a symbol can’t be reduced to standing for only one thing” (Foster 98). Many people would think that Animal Farm symbolizes the Russian Revolution and the aftermath. This cannot be further from the truth. The aspects and elements in Animal Farm are pretty clear. They cannot be interpreted in more than one way. Napoleon, for example, can only be interchanged for Stalin. No other Russian leaders before or after the Revolution can be compared. Foster explains symbols are “The thing referred to is likely, not reducible to single statement but will more probably involve a range of possible meanings and interpretations” (98). Animal Farm does not have many interpretations.
Orwell did not make his message hidden. One clue in the book involved the use of the word ‘comrade’ by all the animals. For example, Old Major said, “Comrades, you have already heard about the dream that I had last night” (Orwell 27). It was common knowledge that Communist Russians used that phrase. Another clue is the changing of the rules. In the beginning, Old Major’s seven rules were written on the barn wall. As the book went on the laws were changed subtly. Finally, the rules totally favored the pigs. This was the allegory of the Russian Revolution and the aftermath.
Orwell did have a deeper message other than the allegorical tale of the Russian Revolution and the outcome. His message was absolute power creates the same kind of leader a revolution deposed. The Russian Revolution against the Romanovs wanted to drag down the corrupt royal family. The Barnyard Revolution wanted to overthrow the drunken farmer. In both cases, the new leaders were no better than the deposed leaders. Orwell wanted everyone to know the evil of revolutions. It was widely known that Orwell did believe in Democratic Socialism. He wanted Socialism to thrive, but a fair Socialism. True Socialism or Marxism has equality among all. The problem becomes a leader is needed to complete a revolution. After the revolution, the leader normally gets the idea that they are responsible solely for the new regime. The result is the leader becomes powerful. Marxism never took into account human nature.
Foster’s How to Read Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines helped interpret Animal Farm. Orwell wrote an allegorical novel. Foster helped clear up the difference between symbolism and allegory. Foster gave a new perspective on an old favorite.
Foster, Thomas. How to Read Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading
Between the Lines. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2003.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Signet Classics, 1996.