In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the animals are asked to “voluntarily” work on the windmill on Sundays. Why is it not really voluntary?

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In chapter 11, Napoleon announces that the animals will be expected to work on Sunday afternoons, despite already working “like slaves” throughout the rest of the week. Napoleon says that the work on Sunday afternoons will be “strictly voluntary” but that “any animal who absent(s) himself from it (will) have his rations reduced by half.” This qualification, imposing heavily reduced rations upon those animals who do not “volunteer,” completely contradicts the notion of volunteering. To volunteer means to act freely of one’s own will and...

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Animal Farm - The animals are asked to “voluntarily” work on the windmill on Sundays. Why is it not really voluntary?

George Orwell’s classic fable presents the reader with a vision of a dystopian society that reflects the atmosphere of the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin in Russia during the early part of the twentieth century.

Like all oppressive governments, the Soviet Union of the 1920s and 1930s claimed the moral high ground by stressing the political motivation for its actions was the well-being of its citizens and the creation of a free society. In reality, the endgame for those with a lust for power was strictly the acceptance of involuntary servitude by the subjugated citizenry whose labors were intentionally coerced by unjust leaders through the use of propaganda as a weapon.

The pigs portrayed in the novella are metaphorical characters based on the significant diverse personalities comprising the Russian government and the Russian populace. For instance, Napoleon symbolizes the character of Stalin and Snowball represents Leon Trotsky who fell out of favor with Napoleon and was ultimately forced out of Animal Farm (Russia). Nothing about these characters leads the reader to believe that their adopted societal rules would favor the working proletariat class. In fact, Orwell states the following: “All that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything that they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings.” The less educated Boxer, with his limited intelligence, succumbs to the political propaganda they spread. He announces his loyalty to the oppressive regime in Chapter VI by stating, “I will work harder.” He blindly embraces the communist cause by indicating, “Napoleon is always right.”

The religious implications should not be ignored. The windmill must be rebuilt on Sundays, which is traditionally a day of rest when servile work is frowned upon. The animals rebuilding the windmill might symbolize the victory over humans, but their devotion to the laborious task is far from voluntary.

Further Reading

"What Does The Windmill Represent In Animal Farm" eNotes Editorial, 8 Sep. 2010, Accessed 15 Jan. 2020.