How do Animal Farm and The Outsiders reveal the themes of discrimination and segregation?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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On the surface, The Outsiders and Animal Farm appear to have little in common.  However, both books are about individuals on the outer edges of society.  The farm animals get no respect from the humans who oppress them, and the greasers get no respect from the rich kids and the more well-off members of their town.

Although not every community is made up of rebelling farm animals and warring teenage gangs (more likely the latter than the former), literature does tell us about ourselves.  Segregation is a community’s way of making sure the “other” stays in its place so that the rest of the people can feel superior.  In The Outsiders, this means that the “Socs,” or the wealthy, “socialite” class, can maintain their privileged lives while the working class struggles.  The Socs have every advantage, yet they pick fights with the greasers for fun, increasing the chances that they will have criminal records.

Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream "Greaser!" at them, which doesn't make you feel too hot, if you know what I mean. We get jumped by the Socs. (Ch. 1)

The Socs can go back to their cushy lives once they are out of their teenage years, with any run-ins with the law laughed off as youthful indiscretions and records wiped clean so they can go off to college, while the greasers are considered ne’er-do-wells and shipped to prison instead.  Wrong neighborhood, wrong haircut, car, and clothing, and different treatment: class discrimination.  Different strokes for different folks, and different treatment under the law results in a different future for young people.

Ponyboy and the other greasers are terrorized by the Socs.  We can see this best in Johnny's situation.  Poor Johnny is so demoralized and has post-traumatic stress from his beating that he is a shell of his former self.  The situation of constant jumping and rumblings between the greasers and the Socs may be fun for the Socs, and even seem like fun for some of the greasers, but it is a war zone for most of them.  They cannot escape because they are targets simply because of who and what they are.

In Animal Farm we see two different layers of discrimination.  This is an allegory of the Russian Revolution, which can be extrapolated to revolution in general.  In the beginning, the animals are beginning discriminated against by the humans because they are animals.  Clearly, the humans do not think they are capable of living on their own or organizing.  We see this in our own world, when groups are undervalued and infantilized.  Unfortunately, the animals are also mistreated by the humans who are forcing them to depend on them.  When the humans stop feeding the animals, the animals have had enough.

When the farm is under animal control, things are supposed to be idealistically egalitarian under the new form of Animalism, a socialistic principal where everyone shares work and property.  Alas, it is not meant to be.  Segregated by nature, the animals have always been separated themselves and soon the pigs begin to use that natural separation to their advantage.  They quickly have the other animals convinced that they are inferior to the pigs, and the pigs deserve special privileges.

We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. (Ch 3)

The pigs go so far as to say that if they are not there to protect the other animals and run the farm, Jones would come back!  They use fear to convince the other animals to give them more and more control.

As the pigs manipulate the situation, they segregate themselves from the animals and use discrimination to ensure that the animals stay in a constant state of fear.  For example, they use Snowball as a scapegoat, and target other scapegoats, with mass executions to spread terror and keep the animals in line.  They also make sure the animals are isolated and spread propaganda to other farms.

In each case, we see examples of how segregation and discrimination in literature resemble situations in our world.  Literature is indeed a window to ourselves.  While the two books are different, they each show how terror is spread by the manipulation of the outcast.

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