Why do animals behave like humans, and humans like animals in Orwell's Animal Farm?

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The book was written to illustrate events that were occurring in the world, particularly the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, the emergence of Communism, the struggle between the forces within Russia, such as the epic battle for control between Trotsky and Stalin, with Stalin emerging victorious.  Orwell wanted to illustrate these events but he needed to do so in a way that would shield him from attack from the powerful forces in the Communist party.

So Orwell writes Animal Farm like a fairy tale where animals take on human characteristics.  But make no mistake, the book is really a political satire aimed at criticizing and drawing attention to the brutality of the Communist regime and what they can do to a society of people.

It is an allegory, where characters really represent something else, in this case the animals are really the actors from history that created the conditions that resulted in rise of Communism in Russia, turning it into the Soviet Union.

"Orwell makes the characters easily identifiable for those who know the historic parallels, because he gives each one a trait, or has them perform certain tasks, that are like that of a historical figure. Old Major is identified with Karl Marx because, just as Old Major develops the teachings that fuel the Animal Rebellion, Marx formulated the ideas that spawned the Russian revolution."

kccichocki's profile pic

kccichocki | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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I believe that Orwell's point was to demonstrate that human beings are capable of displaying characteristics of animals under certain circumstances, and that animals are more intelligent than humans credit them. The desire for absolute power and control exists among both species. 

The farmer was obviously an "ignorant" character, one lacking education or even social "graces" according to social mores. Ignorance in humans can often be a catalyst for animalistic behavior, such as murder, abuse, and desire for survival at any cost.  What a person doesn't understand, he is often afraid of, as in the farmer's case. The farmer was determined to survive, at any cost.

Pigs are considered to be the most intelligent of all animals, with the exception of chimpanzees.  Pigs are an appropriate choice, given the setting of the story, as well as the characteristic of higher intelligence.  Orwell chose to give the animals the gift of speech in this novel, which enhances both plot and characterization.  The pigs are the dominant characters because of their intelligence, while the remaining animals follow their lead, almost in blind submission.  This results in the pigs developing a "pecking order" among the animals, as often seen in human society.  The pigs begin to assume more human characteristics, one being the need for justice as they feel oppressed by the farmer.  In history, oppression often leads to a "coup" to establish justice and stability for those being oppressed by those in power.

The pigs develop a brilliant plan to take control of their farm, but in the process, there is dissent among the pigs, which filters down to the "lower" animals.  In human nature, it is difficult for more than one person to wield absolute power and control, as in a dictatorship.  The pigs begin to argue about details of their plan, with an underlying current of who is and should be in total control of the animals when the farmer has been supplanted by the pigs. 

At the end of the novel, we see the culmination of the struggle for dominance and power among the animals; this dominance by the pigs will be attained at any cost, a human trait that has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history.  

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