Interpretive Note on George Orwell’s Animal Farm
From early centuries, novels have been a great medium to imprint one’s life as well as to read about others’ lives. The real events influenced novels could be categorized into two types; in the first type, the setting and scenes could be an exact replica of the real life happenings. In the second type, different sentences, characters, settings, etc come in to give a new interpretation, but at the same time based on the same real life happenings. In both the cases, there will be little scope for artistic leanings. This paper will look at one such novel, Animal Farm which was based on the real life happenings and was produced as a kind of propaganda, and not produced for the sake of art. So, this paper while focusing on Animal Farm written by George Orwell, will analyze how the characters particularly Squealer was influenced, and had clear parallels with the Soviet rulers, diplomats and even media, thus becoming a propagandist.
The totalitarian regime in Soviet Union under Stalin was one of the main influences for George Orwell while writing Animal Farm. Even though, there have been no recorded evidence of Orwell visiting Soviet Union, he based all the details in the novel from the Soviet Union he knew, read, heard, etc. Maximum number of characters in the Animal Farm was inspired from the leaders, media, and people of Soviet Union from 1917- 1945. Squealer also known as Propaganda is a small fat porker, who serves as the close confidante of Napoleon and carries out various actions to justify and amplify Napoleon’s image, even though Napoleon functions in an autocratic way. Squealer was clearly inspired by Vyacheslav Molotov and the Russian paper Pravda. There are a lot of parallels between what Molotov and Pravda did for Stalin and what Squealer did for Napoleon. Vyacheslav Molotov was a prominent Soviet politician and diplomat during the Stalin’s regime, even being regarded as a protégé of Joseph Stalin. Pravda at that time was the underground Bolshevik newspaper with Stalin as the chief editor. With the ouster of the Czars and the actualization of the communist rule, Molotov rose along with Stalin. Then, when Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union, Molotov started to take care of all the propaganda for Stalin through Pravda. During Stalin’s regime, Pravda was the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Then, it became the leading newspaper of the Soviet Union carrying all the propaganda and the decrees of Stalin, mainly by distorting the truth and by providing a biased picture. This role of Molotov and Pravda was only replicated by George Orwell through the character of Squealer.
Squealer being the persuasive pig was given the role of a propaganda chief by Napoleon. “He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white” (Orwell, 36). The main function of Squealer is to make all the other animals in the farm ‘hero worship’ Napoleon, without raising any opposition to his actions or words. Squealer does that function by totally twisting the truth and bending the principles of animalism, put forward by Old Major. He does that so it suits or fulfills his and Napoleon’s wishes. He gives his own version of truth and makes the other animals believe in him, by using his charisma and persuasive skills. “Hes first described as a manipulator and persuader. Orwell narrates, “He could turn black into white.” Many critics correlate Squealer with the Pravda, the Russian newspaper of the 1930s.” (novelguide.com). The other card, Squealer uses to control the animals is by using an assumed threat from Mr. Jones, the original owner of the farm. That is, he always warns the animals that Mr. Jones could come back any moment and will again oppress them, unless they support Napoleon, who can only protect them from Mr. Jones. “I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking the extra labour upon himself. Do not image, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility.” (Orwell, 69). His foundation for many of his arguments is that the animals do not want Mr. Jones back in power in the farm, and therefore must support Napoleon. These activities of Squealer clearly parallel Molotov and Pravda because all of them created lies or distorted truth mainly to keep their leader or someone in power. Also, Napoleon used Squealer like Stalin used Pravda to create a positive image for himself, even though he committed some of the worst crimes. So, the use of propaganda by Molotov and Squealer made Stalin and Napoleon more powerful in the negative sense, and provided them the freedom to rule their constituents in an unethical and undemocratic way. Even when Napoleon committed wrongs and there is a slightest opposition, Squealer was there to protect him and safeguard or elevate his image. So, this reflection of controversial personalities and media houses throughout the story make the book a kind of “propaganda” and not as a work of art.
novelguide.com. Character Profiles. 23 April 2009.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm: a fairy story. New York: Signet Classics. 1996