In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the pigs, led by Napoleon, constantly rewrite history in order to justify and reinforce their own continuing power. One obvious example of this tendency involves Napoleon’s attitude toward the construction of the windmill. Since the proposal for the windmill is offered by Snowball, Napoleon’s rival and opponent, Napoleon rejects the idea. Later, after Snowball has been expelled from the farm, Napoleon changes his mind, without explanation, and orders that the windmill should be constructed. Later still, he claims that he never really opposed construction of the windmill but only pretended to do so for strategic reasons. Even later, he claims that the windmill was his own idea, and after that he claims (falsely) that Snowball was behind the destruction of the completed windmill (which was in fact badly constructed and was blown down by strong winds). Finally, when the windmill is rebuilt, Napoleon claims complete credit for the project and even names it after himself. The episodes involving the windmill thus offer perfect examples of how the ruling pigs, led by Napoleon, write history. Squealer, the regime’s chief propagandist, is heavily involved in most of the rewritings.
Another example of how history is re-written involves the career of Snowball himself. He was one of the original revolutionaries and was wounded when he valiantly resisted a human attack upon the farm. He was also the chief strategist in successfully defeating the attackers. Nevertheless, because Napoleon considers Snowball a rival, Snowball is eventually expelled from the farm. His reputation is attacked; his role in the history of Animal Farm is rewritten; and he ultimately is falsely declared to be a traitor and a collaborator with the farm’s enemies. He is the victim of a thorough rewriting of history.
Finally, one more example of the rewriting of history involves the rewriting of the original principles of Animalism. The final four principles, for instance, are the following:
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
Later, these commandments are rewritten in ways that benefit the new ruling class, especially Napoleon and his close allies. Thus, later edicts proclaim that no animal shall sleep in beds with sheets (although blankets are allowed); that no animal shall drink alcohol in excess; that no animal shall kill any other animal unless such killing is necessary; and that all animals are equal, but that some are more equal than others.
By emphasizing the rewriting of history (as he does again in his later novel 1984), Orwell shows the terrifying consequences of altering truth, not only about the present but about the past.