Orwell Uses Key Characters in Animal Farm to Satirize Certain Characteristics in Human Nature
George Orwell’s celebrated work Animal Farm (1945), a dystopian allegorical novella, has been recognized as a literary piece which satirizes certain characteristics in human nature through its key characters. It is fundamental to recognize that the novelist makes use of these characters in order to establish that the leaders as well as the followers in a society can act in various ways that destroy freedom and equality of the individuals in the society. Thus, the novelist is focused on bringing out the relationship between leaders and followers in the social setting, and the key characters in the novel are used as instruments to disclose this relationship. Significantly, Animal Farm has been recognized as a fairy story told by a great lover of liberty as well as animals, but it reflects the realities of Soviet Russia during the Stalin era. The fundamental themes of the novel, that have generated relentless controversies during the wartime, include the abuse of power, the erosion of civil liberties, democracy versus dictatorship, and, most importantly, the relationship between leaders and followers. Most essentially, “Animal Farm is not merely about Lenin and Stalin… it has much to say to us today about the relationship between government leaders and followers.” (Rodden, 182) One of the basic concerns of the novelist in Animal Farm is to establish how true leaders inspire the followers while the false leaders deceive them, and the nature of this relationship has played a crucial role in the acquirement or loss of freedom and equality in the society. Therefore, it is essential to maintain that Orwell uses key characters in Animal Farm to satirize certain characteristics in human nature, and the readers are well-positioned to understand the relationship between the leaders and followers in the novel.
In spite of the fact that Orwell’s Animal Farm is widely recognized as a satire and critique of the modern totalitarian society in the background of Soviet Russian communism, it is a fascinating allegorical story portraying the relationship between leaders and followers. Significantly, the novelist presents the relationship between leaders and followers through the main characters of the novel who satirize various characteristics in human nature. Thus, Orwell presents pigs as taking over the command of the farm at the death of the Major, because they were “the cleverest of the animals.” (Orwell, 15) Thus, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, become the leaders of the ‘Animal Farm’ and they allegorically represent Joseph Stalin and Trotsky. In a reflective exploration of the major themes and characters in the novel Animal Farm, it becomes lucid that the novelist exhibits the failure of leadership to offer freedom and equality to the followers. “In short, it can be regarded as the failure of leadership or how an intelligent, devoted leader of the revolution to better the miserable lives of animals on Manor Farm, Snowball, is driven out by a Napoleon that animals think is ‘always right’.” (Moeller and Moeller, 133)
In a reflective exploration of the leaders in the work, it becomes evident that the two major leaders are presented in contrast to each other. In the novel, Snowball is presented as a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character.” (Orwell, 15) On the other hand, Napoleon is presented as “a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar … [who is] not much of a talker, but with reputation for getting his own way.” (Orwell, 15) These leaders were not able to bring about freedom and equality to their followers, although their followers of ‘Animal Farm’ were expecting nothing else. Both Snowball and Napoleon were rivaling each other for power and they disregarded their duties towards their followers.
A profound analysis of the relationship between the leaders and followers in the novel Animal Farm confirms that the majority of the followers were dissatisfied with their leaders and they wanted freedom and equality whereas their leaders were least concerned about it. However, the leaders are able to take advantage of the followers, thanks mainly to the different ways in which the followers often act and think. Although the leaders make their followers work like slaves, the followers are happy and grudge no effort, because they were “aware that everything they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings.” (Orwell, 15)
Another essential feature of the novel is that the novelist is effective in conditioning the readers to accept the plight of the followers through the use of powerful but straightforward language. In other words, Orwell makes use of a simple, but harsh, penetrating and figurative language in order to convey his sympathy with the animals. Thus, Orwell identifies himself with the animals, through his language, while retaining distance from the overall story. “The adjectives he uses are harsh, penetrating and figurative. He uses them to communicate his sympathy with the animals in what appears to be matter-of-fact observation; thus conditioning the reader while appearing to leave the interpretation of the facts to him.” (Akivaga, 32) Through the use of the special language, the author catches the attention of the readers to the specific relationship between the leaders and followers and they are made to sympathize with the fate of the other animals. The pigs in the novel are not elected leaders, but they are merely assumed leaders. Significantly, Orwell makes important observations with the tongue in his cheeks when he presents the superiority of the leaders over the followers. “The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership.” (Orwell, 15)
In conclusion, it is fundamental to realize that the novelist, through the use of effective language, places the readers in a situation where they sympathize with the followers in the novel. Orwell uses the key characters in Animal Farm to satirize certain characteristics in human nature, and the readers are well-positioned to understand the relationship between the leaders and followers in the novel. Whereas the followers in the novel want freedom and equality, their leaders are least concerned about them.
Akivaga, S Kichmu. Notes on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. 1976. P 32.
Moeller, Victor J. and Marc V. Moeller. Literature Circles That Engage Middle and High School Students. New York: Eye on Education, Inc. 2007. P 133.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Fairfield, IA: 1st World Publishing. 2004. P 15.
Rodden, John. Understanding Animal Farm: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Greenwood Publishing Group. 1999.