In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, various speakers present themselves as “just plain folks” in an effort to make their propaganda more widely appealing and more potently effective. One of the first propagandists to speak in this way is Old Major himself – the elderly pig (modeled on Karl Marx) who first encourages the animals to rebel. Old Major’s presentation of himself as a simple creature – a creature with whom other creatures can readily identify and who has the interests of those other creatures at heart – appears in a variety of ways, including the following:
- He speaks to the other creatures as his equals – as his “comrades.”
- He calls attention to his own mortality and indeed to his own impending death.
- He says that he considers himself obligated to share his insights:
I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. I have had a long life, I have had much time for thought as I lay alone in my stall, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living.
- As the preceding quotation, suggests he speaks modestly, as when he mentions “such [that is, whatever] wisdom as I have acquired,” implying that he does not possess total wisdom.
- As the preceding quotation shows, he emphasizes his loneliness.
- As the preceding quotation also shows, he suggests that any wisdom he possesses is rooted in long thought and painful experience – experience of the sort the other animals have also endured.
- He speaks not of his life alone but of “our lives.”
- He emphasizes that he has been subject to just as much mistreatment as all the other animals.
- He speaks as a kind of English patriot who is proud of the land into which he and all the other animals have been born.
- He focuses on problems – and solutions – that are very easy to understand.
- He directly addresses different segments of his audience, as if he is speaking particularly to them.
- He singles out specific individual (and popular) animals for special attention, implying that he admires and sympathizes with them as much as the other animals do.
- He speaks frankly and without equivocation; he takes on the roles of plain talker and truth teller.
- He asks questions of his audience, as if he respects their opinions and wants them to think for themselves.
- As he concludes the main portion of his speech, he once again presents himself as a spokesman who strongly identifies with his audience and sees himself as one of them:
And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.
In all these ways, Old Major presents himself as just one of the folks.