What is the moral of Animal Farm?

One might argue that the moral of Animal Farm is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Old Major's philosophy of Animalism is meant to liberate the animals, but in the end, it only results in further enslavement.

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Old Major's political philosophy of Animalism is expressly designed to liberate the farm animals, to free them from the oppressive yoke of Mr. Jones and other humans. In the Animalist utopia envisaged by Old Major, all the animals will come together to create a world of peace and plenty, where animals will finally be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Sadly, things don't turn out like that. As is often the case with projected utopias, Old Major's ends up as a brutal tyranny in which starvation, terror, and fear are very much the norm.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. And while there's no doubting the goodness of Old Major's intentions, it's also impossible to overlook the hell to which those intentions have led. The Animalist revolution was supposed to liberate the animals. In actual fact, it's led to an even greater enslavement than they endured under Mr. Jones.

Animal Farm is, of course, a satire on the Soviet Union under Stalin. The communist ideology espoused by Lenin—on whom Old Major is based—was doubtless full of good intentions. Communist ideology was based on the notion that a better world was possible for the poor and the downtrodden and that once they'd taken power for themselves, they would be able to construct a workers' paradise.

But as with the farm in Orwell's story, the Soviet Union under communism became a veritable hell for those that the revolution was supposed to serve, with famine, repression, and terror becoming the norm. In both the farm depicted in the story and the country on which it is based, the road to hell was paved with the very best of intentions.

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One important moral of the "fable" of Animal Farm is the ease with which language can be manipulated and twisted for evil purposes. Orwell was a journalist who understood the power of words and the power of propaganda. Therefore, he wanted to tell a tale that would urge humans to be on guard against powerful groups or individuals who might want to twist words to help themselves and harm others.

The animals are gradually re-enslaved because the pigs change the words—and hence the rules—of the farm. Most famously, the Seven Commandments are reduced to one, and that one makes no sense by stating that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

Most of the animals are fairly helpless against the manipulations of the pigs because they are not able to learn to read, but almost all humans have a high level of cognitive ability. Orwell is, therefore, encouraging people to use their wits in ways the animals cannot.

Orwell was concerned that the totalitarian dictatorship imposed by Stalin was being presented in left wing circles as benign socialism, and he wanted people to look past propagandistic language to see the horror of what was really going on.

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Orwell allegorically tells the story of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union under the tyrannical leadership of Joseph Stalin throughout the novella Animal Farm. Orwell illustrates how the animals' positive intentions of creating a utopian society are compromised following the Rebellion when the pigs consolidate power shortly after expelling Mr. Jones. After creating and establishing the tenets of Animalism, the pigs gradually become corrupted by power. Napoleon, who metaphorically represents Stalin, usurps power through brute force and intimidation and begins ruling the farm like a tyrant. Napoleon enlists the aid of Squealer, who spreads lies and false propaganda that support his unjust agenda. Instead of becoming the utopian society the animals initially dreamed of, Animal Farm becomes an oppressive, harsh environment, where animals labor all day and live in fear. Overall, Orwell's allegorical tale is a warning against communism or any form of government where power can be consolidated and leaders are likely to become corrupted by power. On an individual scale, Orwell's allegory examines how authority and influence can quickly corrupt a person. It is important to note that even Snowball enjoyed the privileges that came along with making decisions on the farm and ate the apple mash without second-guessing.

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There are a few key morals in the book, but the one that stands out the most is Lord Acton's famous notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The fuller quote is even more insightful.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

We see that these words are true increasingly in Animal Farm. At first, the pigs start off just like the other animals;  they want freedom and tout equality. The concept of animalism is fair.  As the story progresses, the pigs, especially Napoleon and Squealer, become more corrupt, as they grow in influence.  They use the animals for their own gain.  The most prominent example of corruption and self-serving is what they do to Boxer.  They sell off Boxer to the knackers, when he can no longer work.  They consume his labor, and now they consume what remains of him, his body, for their own purposes and gain.

Finally, the story ends when the pigs turn into men, which shows the corruption is complete.  Within the internal logic of the story, man is the epitome of corruption. 

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