Comparing Animal Farm to 1984, how is the message about society similar?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Though George Orwell was a socialist, the key similarity between his two most famous books is that both deal with the corruption of a system that is intended, initially, to be based on socialist principles.

Animal Farmis an allegory which retells the history of the Bolshevik Revolution and the...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Though George Orwell was a socialist, the key similarity between his two most famous books is that both deal with the corruption of a system that is intended, initially, to be based on socialist principles.

Animal Farm is an allegory which retells the history of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union in a fairy-tale format. The animals (the Russian people) overthrow Mr. Jones (the Czar) and take over his farm with the supposed goal of fairness and equality for all. But due to the power struggles of the leaders, Napoleon and Snowball, and the imperfections and tendency toward hypocrisy of animal nature (that is, human nature), the experiment in equality fails and the animal farm becomes just like traditional human-controlled farms (in other words, capitalist countries) in having a ruling class that exploits the population as a whole. 1984 is also a picture of a Soviet-like state, supposedly socialistic and with equality of people as its goal, projected into the future in an extreme form where the ruthless, totalitarian rule of a Stalinist type of government has crushed the population and controlled it not only physically, but mentally as well. The state imposes a nightmarish form of mind control, illustrated by Winston's re-education after his arrest for thought crime.

Orwell's message in both books is not so much that these examples of socialism gone wrong are inevitable, but that this is what has happened in the twentieth-century, and that it can occur in the future in a worse form. Each story identifies the weaknesses in society that have allowed this to happen: power lust and hypocrisy among ruthless leaders and the tendency of people in general to let themselves be victimized and to exhibit a herd mentality (the animal allegory is thus especially appropriate) when intimidated by the leaders and by one another. Both Animal Farm and 1984 are descriptions of society and grave warnings of the horrors that humans are capable of, given the bloody history of the twentieth-century.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Orwell wrote both Animal Farm and 1984 as satires on society, with a focus on corruption of power and the adoption of collectivism. When there is a single overriding power in charge of everything, there is no outlet for individuals to seek their own goals and ideals; suppression of the individual creates an environment that promotes collective thinking, and thus societal stagnation. One example in 1984 is the Two Minutes of Hate, where all citizens are compelled to feel irrational, emotional hatred of a "common enemy." Because the citizens cannot create their own opinions, they have no reason to question Big Brother.

In Animal Farm, a similar focus is placed on propaganda techniques. The sheep, who are incapable of independent thought, are entirely informed by emotional arguments without deeper meaning.

...Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the sheep... It was noticed that they were especially liable to break into 'Four legs good, two legs bad' at crucial moments in Snowball's speeches.
(Orwell, Animal Farm, msxnet.org)

This removal of individualism is key in the construction of an almost-religious dictator figure. Instead of a government based on the good of the people and the defense of equality and liberty, both governments are based entirely in control of the citizens and exploitation of their abilities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team