In chapter 1 of George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the song "Beasts of England" is sung very enthusiastically by the animals. Why? Why can even the stupidest of them easily remember this song?

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In Chapter 1 of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the song “Beasts of England” is first sung to the other animals by Old Major. It is a revolutionary song, designed to promote the overthrow of human tyranny. As a piece of political propaganda, the song is effective for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • It is sung to “a stirring tune, something between Clementine and La Cucaracha.” (This comment is a good example of Orwell’s satire and sarcasm, since both songs associated with that tune are a bit ridiculous.)
  • The song uses a good deal of anaphora, or repetition of initial words, thus making it easy to remember. Consider, for example, the first stanza:

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,

Beasts of every land and clime,

Hearken to my joyful tidings

Of the golden future time.

  • The song uses much repetition in general, once again making it easy to remember.
  • The phrasing of the song is very simple, clear, and straightforward, again making it easy to recall.
  • The song begins on a very optimistic note, thus making it appealing to potential singers.
  • The song is as simple in its message as it is in its phrasing: animals are good; humans are bad. There is nothing complex or sophisticated about the song’s meanings or purposes.
  • The song appeals not only to the self-interests of its intended singers but also to their patriotism.
  • The song promises not only material abundance but also freedom from cruelty and oppression.
  • The design of the song is simple: each stanza consists of only four lines; only the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme; and the length of lines alters between eight syllables and seven. There is nothing artistically sophisticated or challenging about the song.
  • The final stanza echoes the first stanza, thus giving the song a strong sense off symmetry and completion.
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Near the end of the first chapter, when the animals sing this song, Orwell writes the answer himself to your very question... at least in part:

The singing of this song threw the animals into the wildest excitement. Almost before Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it for themselves. Even the stupidest of them had already picked up the tune and a few of the words, and as for the clever ones, such as the pigs and dogs, they had the entire song by heart within a few minutes. And then, after a few preliminary tries, the whole farm burst out into 'Beasts of England' in tremendous unison. The cows lowed it, the dogs whined it, the sheep bleated it, the horses whinnied it, the ducks quacked it. They were so delighted with the song that they sang it right through five times in succession, and might have continued singing it all night if they had not been interrupted.

In this passage, we see that the "stupid" animals could pick it up because of the tune and some of the words. To me, this means that familiar sounding 'Clementine' and 'La Cucaracha' motivated the animals. The language of the song must have pleased them as well. No matter how dumb an animal or person is, if you give them what they want to remember, it is easier to remember.

Other reasons for the ease of remembrance this passage shows include the facts that every animal could sing it in their own way, and they repeated it 5 times.

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