How is Animal Farm a satire on the Russian Revolution?

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Animal Farmis clearly a satire of the Russian Revolution. Orwell 's book even received criticism in Britain by some reviewers as a result. At the start of the book, the farmer treated the animals poorly--this is meant to show the state of the Russian peasant under the leadership...

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Animal Farm is clearly a satire of the Russian Revolution. Orwell's book even received criticism in Britain by some reviewers as a result. At the start of the book, the farmer treated the animals poorly--this is meant to show the state of the Russian peasant under the leadership of the czars. Old Major is meant to symbolize Marx and his theories of state-control of the means of production. Old Major's theories of "Animalism" stated that the animals could work together as long as all goods were controlled centrally.  

The chief conflict early in the book is the rivalry between Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon is ruthless and manages to rewrite history in order to place himself in key moments of the Revolution. Snowball, on the other hand, is more idealistic. Napoleon is based on Joseph Stalin, who was indeed ruthless in his use of mock trials and public executions. Snowball is based on Leon Trotsky, who, while being more idealistic, was chased out of the Soviet Union and killed while in exile in Mexico. The reader never knows what happens to Snowball in the novel, but Napoleon uses him whenever he needs a scapegoat.

Napoleon uses propaganda well in the story. He plays farmers off each other in order to get the best trade deals possible; Stalin used trade deals in order to establish Soviet relations with the outside world. Napoleon also uses his leadership to enrich his closest followers and secret police; Stalin's underlings lived like princes while most of Russia had a poor standard of living. Napoleon undertakes grand projects such as the building of the windmill as a monument to "Animalism;" Stalin built many monuments to his "greatness." Just like Stalin was paranoid, Napoleon also employs a food taster and his own secret police.  

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Looking at the characters in Animal Farm is important in understanding how the book satirizes the Russian Revolution. Orwell has deliberately created characters who are based on real figures from the Revolution and we can see this from the very beginning. Old Major, for example, who makes his stirring speech to the animals in Chapter One is based on Karl Marx, the revolutionary thinker and economist. Notice how the pigs transform the content of Old Major's speech into a social system called Animalism. This is a satire of Communism, the system created by Karl Marx which emphasises the exploitation of the working classes and argues that a revolution is the only way to bring about social and economic equality.

Similarly, consider the character of Snowball. One of the leaders of the Rebellion, Snowball is based on Leon Trotksy, a major figure in the Russian Revolution. Just like Trotsky, Snowball provided the ideological framework of the Rebellion. Moreover, his conflict with Napoleon mirrors that of Trotsky with Stalin. Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union by Stalin, just like Snowball was run off the farm by Napoleon after he declared his plans for the windmill. 

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Animal Farm is a satirical allegory, so all the characters in the story are representative of someone or some group that was key in the Russian Revolution.  Comparisons are as follows:

  • Old Major:  Karl Marx
  • Napoleon:  Joseph Stalin
  • Snowball:  Leon Trotsky
  • Squealer:  propaganda
  • Boxer and Clover:  loyal masses
  • Benjamin:  skeptics
  • Nine Dogs of Napoleon: KGB (secret police)
  • Moses:  religion
  • Mr. Jones:  Czar Nicholas II

In addition to the characters, the concept of animalism as defined by Old Major in the novel is similar to the concept of Marxism.  The characters in the novel have traits and perform actions that are similar to those of their historical counterparts.  For example, after Napoleon runs Snowball off the farm, he asks all the animals to confess their dealings with him.  After these confessions, Napoleon has the animals killed by the dogs.  This is representative of Stalin's treatment of those who were caught, tortured, and forced to confess only to be killed by the KGB for harboring secrets against the state.  The novel may be considered a satire because it shows how ridiculous the behaviors of the animals are as they attempt to throw Animalism aside to gain power and control (i.e. the pigs walking on two legs while with the humans).

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