What single most important point was Orwell trying to make in Animal Farm?What single most important point was Orwell trying to make in Animal Farm?

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bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Orwell wanted us to realize that the old saying, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" rings true no matter what type of government has control.

Animal farm is a thinly disgused re-telling of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Much like the Russians under the thumb of Czar Nicholas, the animals were being mistreated by the selfish, cruel Farmer Jones. So, the animals rose up (like the Bolsheviks) to depose the dictator and rule themselves.

At the beginning of animal rule, under the idealistic ideas of Old Major (Karl Marx) it seemed that everyone sharing everything was a wise and fair way to construct a society (like the communism that took over in Russia after the Czar). However, very soon a couple of the animals (Napoleon and Snowball) like Trotsky and Stalin wanted control so they fought for power.

Eventually, Napoleon won and became the new leader of the animals. It looked like he was giving the animals control over their lives, and making everyone share with everyone but that was just propaganda.

The power of Napoleon's position was heady for him. The more he got, the more he wanted. When he couldn't get it fairly, he stole, cheated and lied to get it. He became so corrupt, that at the end of the book...no one could tell him apart from the humans that he had rebelled against. His power ruined him.

That, I think, is what Orwell wants us to know. We must learn from history and watch those in power...because it is all too human for those good people we put in power to become corrupt because they cannot handle the lure of absolute power.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many specific points that Orwell was making in Animal Farm. In my mind, the most pressing was how individuals have to exercise a level of scrutiny regarding their government.  The animals' lack of an effective voice of dissent at the earliest of stages is what causes the farm to be run in the manner it is and becomes the reason why Napoleon is able to consolidate his power over the farm in such a manner.  I think that Orwell wants people to understand how political power is constructed and advocate that the peoples' need to speak out and to exercise a voice of dissent is the one element that can serve to limit or ensure that a government is responsive to the needs of its citizens.  The animals on the farm believe the government with so much ease that it makes it easy for the pigs to strengthen their control on the farm.  From Boxer's need to "work harder," to Mollie's self- interest, to Benjamin's cynicism, to Moses' religious diversions, to Clover's willignness to believe, to the mimicry of the sheep, Orwell contributes a narrative that suggests if individuals remain silent or refuse to question the authority structure that governs them, bad things cannot be far from behind.

hilahmarca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure this is the "single most important" point Orwell was trying to make, but I think a major one is the importance of educating the masses especially in the wake of a revolution.  Because of this lack of education, the animals were blissfully ignorant of all the things the pigs did to manipulate them.  The conditions on the farm did not improve because there was not enough intelligent animals to check the pigs on any of their wrong doings.  Napoleon even took great strides to ensure that education wasn't available to all animals, as he set up special courses for certain animals but deprived the majority.  This was well calculated, and there is no coincidence that he was against Snowball and all his committees that attempted to provide the masses with education and skills that would make them independent and no longer reliant on the pig's oppressive leadership. 

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, the central point of this book relates to deception. It is a commentary on a well-intentioned, ferverntly believed revolution which fails to achieve its ultimate aim because 1) political animals mixed with apolitical animals in a political setting led to an imbalance of power and 2) the imbalance of power was instituted and made possible by an ability to deceive on the part of the politically savvy animals. 

As Gandhi said, when words lose their meaning, we lose our freedom. The leaders in Animal Farm were able to steal the freedom of the labor force by robbing the language of the commandments of their meaning. 

At least, that's one way to look at it. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with everything said in the first two posts.  I also think that Orwell is trying to tell us that there is no such thing as a utopia on Earth.  I think that he is telling us that even beautiful visions of a perfect world will be corrupted by human beings and human nature.  This fits in with what the other two posts are saying because what makes us unable to have utopia is what they mention.  It is the fact that people don't really hold their rulers accountable and it is the fact that rulers become power hungry.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Published in 1945, Animal Farm, whose major plot events parallel occurrences in the Russia and what was to become the Soviet Union, served as a criticism of the rule of Joseph Stalin.  Napoleon's altering of the Seven Commandments resembles the dictates of the Communist Manifesto.

The Communist Manifesto (1848) stated that the result would be ‘an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
As they say, the new boss is as bad as the old boss. If that cliche does not work for you, there's: power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Basically, Orwell is cautioning us about revolutions in general, not just the Russian Revolution. If there is a power vacuum, someone will take it.