Analyze how Orwell represents the power of political leaders to oppress individuals through their use of rhetoric in the book Animal Farm.

In Animal Farm, George Orwell shows how political leaders use rhetoric to oppress others through the actions of the pigs, who justify their rule by means of fancy words and shaky yet plausible-sounding reasons. Soon, the other animals are firmly under the control of the pigs.

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Words are powerful weapons. If people don't think clearly, they can get caught up in the emotion of rhetoric and be swept along by lies and half-truths. Then, they can easily become oppressed as they are drawn further and further into the rhetoric of political leaders. They lose their ability...

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Words are powerful weapons. If people don't think clearly, they can get caught up in the emotion of rhetoric and be swept along by lies and half-truths. Then, they can easily become oppressed as they are drawn further and further into the rhetoric of political leaders. They lose their ability to think critically and to discern right from wrong, and pretty soon, they are trapped by tyranny. This is what George Orwell shows in his book Animal Farm.

Old Major begins the rhetoric of the book. He has a new philosophy to present to the animals on the Manor Farm. He wants a world where the animals are in charge and free from humans. This sounds very good to the animals, for they are tired of working for humans and having all their efforts stolen from them. For all of Old Major's rhetoric, though, he also provides some balance, because he warns the animals that if they go too far, they run the risk of acting just like the humans and oppressing each other. All animals are to be equal, he firmly maintains.

Yet Old Major predicts exactly what happens. The pigs Snowball and Napoleon lead the revolution and set up the animal reign on the farm under the philosophy of Animalism and their seven commandments. But the pigs soon began to abuse their position as leaders. They start taking more food and stop doing their share of the work, yet they use rhetoric to justify their privileges, warning that the farmer could return if the pigs don't have what they need to make the farm a success. The rhetoric-backed oppression has begun, for the animals are no longer equal.

The situation quickly escalates as Snowball and Napoleon fight over the windmill and Napoleon uses the dogs to drive Snowball off. Napoleon then claims that the windmill idea was his all along (even though he had opposed it). Napoleon and the other pigs begin acting more and more like humans, moving into the farmhouse and using rhetoric to justify themselves. They change the rules to fit their own desires and claim more and more privileges and honors.

Pretty soon, the other animals are hungry, tired, and downtrodden. The pigs become so much like humans that it is hard to tell the difference, yet all along, they use their words to show themselves in the best possible light and to threaten and control the other animals. Finally, the rules end up saying merely, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Here is the power of rhetoric and the abuse of leadership at its highest.

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In Animal Farm, Orwell shows political leaders’ oppression of others through rhetoric through Napoleon’s and Squealer’s justification of the pigs’ privileges and their efforts to discredit Snowball.

Rhetoric involves the use of persuasive speech or text. After the animals’ revolution, the pigs soon assume control, but for a while, they continue to assert that all the animals are equal. Napoleon shows a growing desire for power over the others and reluctance to share rulership with Snowball. These tyrannical ambitions are accompanied by Squealer’s writing and disseminating propaganda that supports Napoleon’s claims as well as all the pigs’ superior status.

One example of Squealer’s propaganda involves justifying the pigs’ exclusive access to nutritious dietary items of milk and apples. He persuades the other animals with the argument that the pigs are “brainworkers,” so their needs are more important than those of the other animals. This argument supports the leaders’ repressive policies by convincing the followers that their subordination is in their best interest.

Another example of a rhetorical strategy is the disinformation campaign that Napoleon and Squealer wage against Snowball after he disappears. Squealer creates fear of the absent former leader by blaming him for all the bad things that happen on the farm. Along with this fear, Squealer helps solidify the impression that only Napoleon’s powerful leadership will maintain their liberty and prevent the return of Farmer Jones.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on