In Animal Farm, how do the pigs become what they hated?
George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) is a political allegory about the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Stalin's subsequent rule over the Soviet Union. The story begins with Old Major, a representation of the creator of communism, Karl Marx, assembling the farm animals to revolt against the humans. The revolt is successful, and the pigs establish the Seven Commandments of Animalism to help secure their new society.
After the animals defend the farm from a human attack, Napoleon begins to subvert Snowball. Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin, the tyrannical dictator of the Soviet Union from the 1920s until 1953. Snowball, on the other hand, represents Leon Trotsky, a one-time compatriot and later opponent and vocal critic of Stalin's. Napoleon argues for Snowball's removal from the farm and begins adopting human characteristics himself. He wears clothes, walks on two legs, and, with the death of Boxer, suppresses the other animals to advance his own interests. He eventually becomes as oppressive as the animals' former human master, Mr. Jones. This results in the novel's haunting last line: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which" (Orwell). This represents how the communist revolution in Russia, intended to elevate the working classes, ultimately resulted in the degradation of the proletariat under Stalin's rule. The communist leaders became the very thing that they intended to destroy.
The pigs, meaning Napoleon and his followers, become what they hated by gradually adopting the tyrannical practices of the very humans they initially sought to overthrow. With this, Orwell establishes the corrupting nature of political power through the case study of the communist revolution in Russia.
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This question gets to the heart of one of the paradoxes of the story. At the urging of Old Major, the animals rebel in a desire to seek freedom, but what they create is another form of servitude. At the head of all of this are the pigs.
At the beginning of the story, the pigs are sincere. We can see this in the commandments of animalism. The laws are fair and treat everyone as equal, but as the story progresses, the pigs, who emerge as leaders, begin to change. The text does not tell us why they changed, but we can see one key reason.
Lord Acton's words are appropriate, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." When the pigs experience the seductive allure of power they cannot resist. In the beginning it is small; they steal the apples, but later they rule with an iron fist. They understand what the humans understand, the corrupting power of power. This is why the pigs make all the animals serve them. The most graphic and emotive example of this is what they did to Boxer, the most faithful worker on the farm. When he could not work any longer, they sold him to the knackers to profit from his body being turned into glue.
In conclusion, the corruption started small, but once it started, it accelerated and completely transformed the pigs into the very ones they hated. Absolute power did corrupt absolutely.