How does Orwell show the importance of education during the novel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Orwell makes it clear that education and power are linked in Animal Farm.  Consider how power resides with the pigs and they are the only ones who know how to read and write.  Muriel knows how to read a bit, as does Benjamin, but their power is severely limited.  The majority of power resides with the pigs who know how to read and write.  The other animals are told that it is not important for them to be educated as the pigs will do the thinking for all of them.  In this, Orwell is clearly demonstrating how power can be used to create a setting in which those who have it are able to be in the position of power over others.  At the same time, Orwell demonstrates how the lack of education creates a condition of powerlessness amongst the other animals.  Consider that Boxer, the strongest on the farm and most respected, keeps striving to want to learn the entire alphabet in his retirement and that Clover, the one animal who is able to reach out to everyone, is not able to read.  In this dynamic, one sees how education is kept away in order to consolidate the power of those who are in the positions of power.  If Boxer were able to read or if Clover was literate, the reality is that they would be able to activate power and initiate it on a level of a grass roots type of power that would rival the control that the pigs have.  Orwell is zealous about the idea that when education is used by the masses, a challenge and threat to the existing power structure is evident.  It is for this reason that Orwell constructs education remaining amongst the powerful and elite, to prevent the masses from having it.