How does Orwell use literary devices to establish a theme in Animal Farm?

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Allegory and symbolism are utilized heavily throughout the story. In fact, the entire story functions as an allegory to the rise of the Soviet Union. Many of the characters are allusions to real historical figures, the most obvious being Napoleon as Joseph Stalin. Further allusions include Snowball as Leon Trotsky, Old Major as Karl Marx, and "animalism" as communism itself, with "Old Major's Dream" being a symbol of The Communist Manifesto.

Major political events in real life are shown in a shortened way, such as the Battle of the Cowshed being an allusion to the Russian Civil War and the rebellion of the hens representing Stalin's purge. When Boxer dies, it is one of the most tragic moments in the story and in the allegory as it represents Stalin's open betrayal of the proletariat he had sworn to represent. These are just a few examples of the allegories and symbols within an allegory that Orwell uses to display the farcical nature of true events and, to a larger extent, his disdain for totalitarianism.

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In Animal Farm, Orwell freely uses irony in presenting his powerful critique of Soviet Communism. A great example comes in the book's subtitle, "A Fairy Story," implying that this is just another fable involving talking animals with human personalities. But being as how this is an example of irony, Orwell actually means the exact opposite; this is an allegory on the very real events of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath.

In the actual text, there are numerous examples of irony. We have the famous example of verbal irony in the altered Seventh Commandment of Animalism, which used to state "All animals are equal," but which now says, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." This is an example of irony because it means the exact opposite of what it says. The animals are either equal or they're not; some can't be "more equal" than the others. Yet the Commandment has been cynically changed, like all the others, to serve the pigs' selfish interests.

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