How does Orwell explore the problem of rhetoric in Animal Farm? Paying particular attention to the character Squealer, how is language used as an instrument of social control? How do the pigs rewrite history?
George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, is an attack on totalitarian societies in satirical form. Although the immediate target of the satire is the communist regime of the Soviet Union and its evolution from idealistic Marxism through the horrors of Stalinism, many of the points Orwell addresses are universal ones concerning how a group or nation can slip into totalitarian or authoritarian rule.
Rhetoric and writing play a crucial role in both the initial animal revolution and its subsequent descent into authoritarianism. Major's initial insipration for the revolution occurs in a dream and a memory, and he inspires the other animals through song and conversation. It falls upon his heirs, Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer, to master the arts of rhetoric, and especially of written communication, to assert authority over other animals, actually organize a revolution, and run the farm. It is writing, in particular, that allows the pigs to transform Major's idealism into a system they call "Animalism" and assert social control.
After the power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball, the victor, Napoleon, rewrites history (as does the regime of Big Brother in Orwell's 1984), blaming all the troubles of the farm on Snowball and making him into a public enemy.
Squealer is the chief propagandist of Napoleon's regime, falsifying the past and manipulating language to convince the other animals that the pigs have remained true to the tenets of Animalism and that the animals are far better off and better treated than is actually the case. The character of Squealer is intended to show how rhetoric and media control, as used by such totalitarian figures as Hitler and Stalin, serve to sustain authoritarian regimes.