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In his novel Animal Farm, George Orwell shows how the ruling elite of pigs use education and indoctrination to help impose their control over the farm and the other animals. Obviously they use harsher methods as well (such as the snarling, vicious dogs under Napoleon’s personal control), but their use of indoctrination is emphasized throughout the book. Squealer, as the regime’s chief propagandist, is a central figure in these efforts. Examples of indoctrination include the following:
- Even before the rebellion occurs, the narrator notes that the
work of teaching and organising the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals.
- A few sentences later, the narrator reports that Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer
had elaborated old Major's teachings into a complete system of thought, to which they gave the name of Animalism.
- Later still, the narrator comments that
the two cart-horses, Boxer and Clover[,] . . . had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments.
- Snowball and Napoleon use pigeons to communicate their doctrines even to animals on other farms.
- At one point the pigs set up a “Wild Comrades' Re-education Committee (the object of this was to tame the rats and rabbits).”
- Napoleon himself is paraphrased as asserting that “the education of the young [is] more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up.”
- Meanwhile, efforts to teach the various animals to read are somewhat mixed:
As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly. The dogs learned to read fairly well, but were not interested in reading anything except the Seven Commandments. Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than the dogs, and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings from scraps of newspaper which she found on the rubbish heap. Benjamin could read as well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty. So far as he knew, he said, there was nothing worth reading.
- Elsewhere, however, the narrator notes that “The reading and writing classes . . . were a great success. By the autumn almost every animal on the farm was literate in some degree.”
Thus the ability to read and write, rather than being a means of liberation and intellectual growth, is inculcated by the pigs as a means of establishing and solidifying their power and control. Orwell shows how easily learning can be corrupted, but at the same time his own writing of this novel becomes a means of resisting the very kind of tyranny the book so memorably describes.
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