How is Animal Farm an allegory for the Russian Revolution?

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Animal Farm is an allegory, a story with a deeper meaning. Specifically, it uses the setting of an English farm and a number of animal and human characters to symbolize the Bolsheviks and their revolution, which took place in 1917.

We can see this clearly through the character of ...

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Animal Farm is an allegory, a story with a deeper meaning. Specifically, it uses the setting of an English farm and a number of animal and human characters to symbolize the Bolsheviks and their revolution, which took place in 1917.

We can see this clearly through the character of Old Major, who symbolizes Karl Marx, the philosopher whose works inspired the revolution, and also Vladimir Lenin, the man who organized it. In addition, just like Lenin, Old Major dies early in the story, leaving the running of the farm to somebody else. In history, this person was Joseph Stalin, who became the leader of the Soviet Union. In the story, this role is played by Napoleon, who takes charge of the farm early on and whose reign is characterized by violence and manipulation—again, just like the reign of Stalin.

So, to understand how Animal Farm functions as an allegory, it is necessary to take a deeper look at the characters and events and relate them to the history of the Soviet Union. By doing this, you will see the many parallels between the novel and the real history.

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The plot and major events in the book parallel the Russian Revolution directly. For example, the Battle of the Cowshed represents the Russian Civil War and its battles with occupying Germany, in which Leon Trotsky proved to be an able stratagist, and the expulsion of Snowball represents Trotsky's eventual expulsion by Stalin. Most of the named characters represent figures in the revolution: Old Major is Karl Marx, Napoleon is Stalin, the dogs are Stalin's Secret Police, and Squealer is Stalin's propaganda. The movement of the farm from a Marxist Utopia to a dictatorship parallels Stalin's accumulation of power and the brutality and lies he used to control his people.

...a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak... Instead — she did not know why — they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.
(Orwell, Animal Farm, msxnet.org)

Orwell did not intend to provide a subtle message with Animal Farm; it is a strict and deliberate condemnation of Marxist ideology, but without an explicit alternative. Orwell tended to be pessimistic about social ideals and believed that most social systems would lead to abuse and fraud eventually. In this case, he showed how the Russian Revolution and the actions of Stalin would lead to a worse system than even the Czars. Animal Farm exemplifies the inevitable decline of Marxist-based societies.

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I would examine the enotes contributions on this topic.  The link detailing "themes" and "characters" as well as "historical context" can really be helpful here.  I would say that one major allegorical element in the novel is how the Revolution on the farm was carried out far before anyone anticipated and before the animals were ready for revolution.  This is very similar to the Russian Revolution in that the interpretation of Marxist thought in Russia was to advance the cause of Revolution before the nation had undergone the necessary stages of industrialization to make such alteration possible.  At the same time, one can see the division between Napoleon and Snowball as the division between Stalin and Trotsky.  The use of Squealer as the force of the pigs' propaganda is similar to the Russian News Organization "Pravda," where state controlled media ends up becoming part of the political organization's extension of power.

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