In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, what are the similarities and differences between Old Major's opening dream of a new society, Snowball's dream of a society built around a windmill, and the...

In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, what are the similarities and differences between Old Major's opening dream of a new society, Snowball's dream of a society built around a windmill, and the society actually achieved by the end of the book?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Early in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, a pig named Old Major (obviously modeled on Karl Marx) imagines life on a farm freed from the tyranny of human beings:

This single farm of ours would support a dozen horses, twenty cows, hundreds of sheep -- and all of them living in a comfort and a dignity that are now almost beyond our imagining. Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? . . . Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own.  Almost overnight we could become rich and free.

Eventually the rebellion that Old Major hopes for occurs, and humans are expelled from the farm.  One leader of the new regime is a pig named Snowball (obviously modeled on Leon Trotsky). Snowball believes that by building a windmill (a symbol of industrialization), life on the farm can be transformed radically for the better:

a windmill . . . could be made to operate a dynamo and supply the farm with electrical power. This would light the stalls and warm them [that is, the animals] in winter, and would also run a circular saw, a chaff-cutter, a mangel-slicer, and an electric milking machine. The animals . . . listened in astonishment while Snowball conjured up pictures of fantastic machines which would do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation.

As it turns out, both Old Major and Snowball are utopian idealists. Each believes that a radical and fundamental improvement in living conditions can be achieved very rapidly, first by overthrowing the humans (symbols of the Russian aristocracy) and second by quick industrialization.  Neither of these dreams is fulfilled, but, before commenting immediately on the grim reality that instead results, it is worth noting some differences between the dreams of Old Major and Snowball.

In the first place, Old Major imagines that the animals will still do their own work after the rebellion and will profit from such work.  Similarly, Karl Marx believed that communism could only arise in nations with large working classes – nations which were already industrialized (unlike Russia). It was partly because Russia was so far behind the western powers in industry that the leaders of the revolution (especially Stalin, who ousted Trotsky as Napoleon ousts Snowball) so relentless pushed the process of industrialization.

In Orwell’s novel as in the eventual Soviet Union, neither the dreams of Old Major (Marx) nor the dreams of Trotsky (Snowball) were achieved. Life under Napoleon is in many ways no better than it had been under the humans. Napoleon and his entourage live comfortable lives, but,

As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been. They were generally hungry, they slept on straw, they drank from the pool, they laboured in the fields; in winter they were troubled by the cold, and in summer by the flies. Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, when Jones's expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember.

The animals do take some pride in running their own farm – until, that is, they realize later that they essentially have become Napoleon’s terrified slaves.

 

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