What makes Animal Farm a totalitarian society? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Animal Farm is established with good intentions. The animals rise up to overthrow Jones and envision a society based on the teachings of Old Major, in which all animals will be equal and the exploitation of the many by the few (i.e. people) will cease. But by Chapter Seven, it is obvious that the animals' experiment has become a totalitarian nightmare. The animals, near starvation, labor on another windmill, the first one having collapsed due to poor design. The hens are forced to give up their eggs, and, when they protest, are starved into submission. Napoleon makes Snowball into a figure of fear, claiming that he is sabotaging the farm at night, and Squealer's manipulation of the truth about Snowball through propaganda is a hallmark of totalitarian governments everywhere. At the end of the chapter, the degree to which Animal Farm has degenerated into totalitarian government is made clear, as Napoleon has several animals executed in plain view of the rest as punishment for supposedly treasonous activities. Many of the animals have so internalized the pigs' propaganda that they actually turn themselves in to be brutally killed by Napoleon's dogs. The event has a profound effect on the animals, as seen in Orwell's description of Clover's thoughts:

These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion...Instead...they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes. There was no thought of rebellion or disobedience in her mind. She knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they had been in the days of Jones, and that before all else it was needful to prevent the return of the human beings...But still, it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled. 

At this point, it seems, Animal Farm has become a truly totalitarian society, far from Old Major's vision of equality and prosperity for the animals. Using terror, mind control, and violence, Napoleon has made himself into a dictator as brutal as the humans.