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Find the elements of fable, satire, and allegory in the first chapter of Animal Farm.

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shaaan | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:46 AM via web

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Find the elements of fable, satire, and allegory in the first chapter of Animal Farm.

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 1, 2009 at 7:57 AM (Answer #1)

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A fable, according to Enotes "Guide to Literary Terms", is

"a short, simple story, usually with animals as characters, designed to teach a moral truth".

Chapter 1 of Animal Farm exhibits a simple, straightforward style.  Mr. Jones, of Manor Farm, is a drunken caricature of a man who appears only briefly at the beginning and end of the chapter.  The central actors in the narrative are the animals, each of which have distinct attributes which mirror characteristics found in their human counterparts.  Major, the leader, is old but wise; Clover is "a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal; Mollie, "the foolish, pretty white mare", comes "mincing daintily in, chewing at a lump of sugar".  It is clear that the story to follow will be making a statement about the moral strengths and shortcomings of man, as represented by the animals.

An allegory is

"an extended metaphor in which a person...idea, or event stands for...something else...more significant than the actual narrative".

The characters and situation introduced in Chapter 1 parallel the political situation in twentieth-century Russian history.  Major, the leader, is representative of Karl Marx.  He addresses the others as "comrades", and stresses that "the life of an animal is misery and slavery...(because) nearly the whole of the produce of (their) labour is stolen...by human beings".  Just as Marx instigated the Communist Revolution in Russia, Major urges that the animals band together to "get rid of Man, (so) the produce of (their) labour would be (their) own".

Satire is

"the use of humor or wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for exposing...frailties...of mankind's activities or institutions".

Satire is first evident in the depiction of Mr. Jones as a drunken, bumbling personality, who stumbles to bed and awakens only when the animals, who have had a serious meeting, boisterously join in singing their anthem, "Beasts of England".  When he is so roused, Mr. Jones blindly fires off his gun and ineffectually buries his shot in the wall of the barn.  Satire is also used in the author's description of "Beasts of England" as "a stirring tune, something between "Clementine" and "La Cucaracha", and Old Major's naive but astute warning that

"in fighting against Man, (they) must not come to resemble him...no animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money or engage in trade".

Old Major's cautions are a satiric foreshadowing of things to come.  In the decline after their victory, the animals end up doing every single thing against which he has warned them (Chapter 1).

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