Power As A Leading Theme In Animal Farm
Power in the Trotters of a Pig
Power; the one thing people always try to cling to; the object that from even the beginning of time people never stop to seek, gain and finally lose to another. Power is the element in one’s leadership that can raise up a nation or ruin it. So, in truth, power can transform or corrupt a whole society. George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, captures this concept in a form a satire, using a story about farm animals to represent the failure of the communist state of Soviet Russia. His story begins with a meeting that revolves around a speech by Old Major (Lenin), a wise, white boar that urges the farm animals (Russian people) to revolt against Mr. Jones (Czar Nicholas II) and the humans. After Old Major’s death, the animals rebel and conquer the Manor Farm (Russia) for themselves and rename the property “Animal Farm” (Soviet Russia). Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin)—two pigs—rise to power. Snowball, a pig that hopes to form a new society based on the idea of Animalism, uses his share of power to attempt to transform Animal Farm into one of the most successful farms by planning with committees, advising for a windmill and a three-day workweek for the benefit of the animals. Napoleon, however, uses his share of power for personal gain, training a secret militia of dogs (KGB), relinquishing opposition against his leadership, and reserving the luxuries for the pigs and dogs only. After a while, Snowball and Napoleon start to conflict over different views, inevitably pushing Napoleon to exile Snowball out of Animal Farm for complete control/influence. He then forces the animals to work harder and harder, with Squealor’s support of deliberate propaganda to keep his foothold in power. After many years committing forbidden human vices and manipulating the Seven Commandments, Napoleon and his gang of pigs eventually turn human, the one thing they initially strived to avoid.
Leaders, such as Snowball and Old Major use power beneficially for the good of the animals, while Napoleon and Squealor use power for their own gain. The choice whether to use power to transform or corrupt lies on the motive, mindset, and goals of the individual.
Power is first introduced in the novel in the hands of Old Major. A sage and elderly boar, Old Major uses his power wisely, based on the respect the animals give him by losing some sleep to hear him talk. Old Major uses his power through speech, inspiring the animals to revolt against Mr. Jones, take back the farm, and establish a society based on the concept of Animalism, an idea where all animals are equal and all humans are enemies. His empowering speech shows how much Old Major cares about the welfare, even after his death. In his speech, Old Major stresses; “And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are equal.” (Orwell 31) Old Major urges the animals to remain strong in friendship among each other and to fight side by side against the common enemy, man. His good leadership and pure use of power would later impact another leader, Snowball, in how to use power for the sake of Animal Farm.Just like Old Major, Snowball uses his power to transform. Once in leadership, Snowball attempts to transform Animal Farm by instituting various committees of animals, blueprints for a windmill, and planning to create a three-day work week. He is a vivacious creature, often winning the favor of the animals over Napoleon by the use of colorful and persuasive speech. This trait makes him a threat to Napoleon’s future plans:
Until now the animals had been about equally divided in their sympathies, but in a moment Snowball’s eloquence had carried them away. In glowing sentences he painted a picture of Animal Farm as it might be when sordid labour was lifted from the animals’ backs…[But at this moment] Napoleon stood up and, casting a peculiar sidelong look atSnowball, uttered a high-pitched whimper of a kind no one had ever heard him utter before. (Orwell 13)
The high-pitched whimper that Napoleon utters marks the end of Snowball’s leadership when the dogs, the puppies Napoleon trains to be his bodyguards, chases Snowball out for exile. Even though Snowball is no longer leading the way, his influence and ideas continue to circulate throughout the farm like wildfire until Napoleon, the “partner in power,” extinguishes Snowball’s merit and honor to make himself look like the rightful leader of Animal Farm.
Napoleon uses the dark side of power. Napoleon corrupts the society with his power by manipulating the Seven Commandments, sending out anti-Snowball propaganda, and eventually oppressing them. At first, Napoleon had similar intentions as Snowball, striving to achieve good for Animal Farm. But as time goes on, power begins to consume him, such as with the milk and apples and the barn house for a home, eventually pushing Napoleon beyond the brink and exiles Snowball for complete control. Once in power, Napoleon schemes of ways to trick the animals in to believing that they are still free, as to prevent rebellion against his leadership. One of the ways he does so is by reclaiming Animal Farm as a republic: “ In April, Animal Farm was proclaimed a Republic, and it became necessary to elect a President. There was only one candidate, Napoleon, who was elected unanimously (Orwell)”. By claiming that Animal Farm is a republic and allowing the animals to vote for a president, Napoleon misleads the animals to think that they have freedom and power to choose whom to rule, which would make it less likely to look as if Napoleon was oppressing them. Although Napoleon has a talent of getting his way, he would not be able to stay in power without the help of Squealor, whose profession of propaganda keeps the pigs above and the rest below.
Squealor would consider as a person of true persuasion. He never failed to win the favor of the animals or their agreement on items such as privileges for the animals to keep the pigs healthy to lead. His power of speech is expressed in the novel: “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 7)”. His talent is harmless at first, but with the expulsion of Snowball and the pigs’ rise of power, Squealor abuses his gift for the pigs’ personal gain. His deceitfulness earns the pigs, as well as himself, special items such as milk and apples “for their health”:
Comrades!” he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Oursole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. We pigs are brainworker over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. (Orwell 14)
Squealor often convinces that the things the pigs do are for the benefit of all the animals, but in actuality it is for them. With so much influence over the animals, especially those who are ignorant and slow, Squealor makes arguments that no one can refute. His statements are irrefutable through the manipulation of the Seven Commandments of Animalism: “There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran: ‘ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS (Orwell )’”. With no one smart enough to stand against the pigs or any actions to refute, the animals feel more downtrodden than in Jone’s time, even though they don’t remember anymore with Squealor’s false reports of success. This propaganda prevents the animals from remembering the fundamentals of Animalism as well as the conditions of Jone’s time; so they cannot compare to the present.
The power that each leader of Animal Farm uses is based on their motive, mindset, and goals. Old Major’s and Snowball’s motive are for the good of Animal Farm. Their mindset is to find anyway possible to benefit the other animals as a whole. And their goal is to achieve perfect comradeship through Animalism. Napoleon’s and Squealor’s motive to gain as much power as possible and gain as many luxuries as they can while denying them to the other animals. Their mindset was greedy for power and luxury. Their goal is gain to complete control of animals, physically and mentally.The same power is given to Snowball and Napoleon from Old Major, but they use it in completely different ways. This supports the idea that power can transform or corrupt based on the leader who wields it. Since it has such an effect on the society they lead, power is indeed used for persuasion and manipulation, granted Snowball uses the side of persuasion more, while Napoleon uses manipulation more. What George Orwell is trying to convey through Animal Farm is that the duality of power shifts between transformation and corruption if it is abused.
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