What does the term comrade mean in Orwell's Animal Farm?
George Orwell's Animal Farm is an allegorical depiction of life under a totalitarian regime, first under the control of a disgruntled farmer and then under the control of those who sought, in the name of liberty and equality, to replace the deposed farmer. Orwell's novel was inspired by the excesses of Bolshevik (communist) rule in Russia following the revolutions of 1917. As readers of Lenin, Trotsky, and myriad other communist leaders know, the use of the word "comrade" was a common title for those who shared their political and ideological leanings. While the word itself predates the development of communist or socialist ideologies, its application by theoreticians and others among communist ranks was routine, as when Trotsky repeatedly referenced Lenin as "Comrade Lenin."
In Animal Farm, the animals are motivated to rebel against the farmer by Old Major, a venerated boar who gathers his fellow animals together to address them as a prelude to action:
I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and before I die, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired.
Major continues to employ the word "comrade" throughout his address. The word becomes a part of the new order's vernacular, with animals addressing and referencing each other accordingly, as when Snowball, Napolean, and others rally their fellow revolutionaries.
"Comrade" does not have to apply solely to practitioners of totalitarian political philosophies, but its use became identified with communism by virtue of the writings and statements of leaders of communist movements.
In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the term comrade is first used by Old Major in his speech defining his philosophy of what would later be called animalism. He calls the animals comrades and urges them to treat each other equally and to work together to overthrow Farmer Jones. He says,
"And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades."
The term comrade simply means friend, mate or ally. Its use suggests equality. Rather than using terms such as sir, madam, lord, lady, king or queen, which relate to class or status, the animals are now simply comrades and share everything equally. The term is closely related to the Communist revolution in Russia where the leaders referred to each other as comrades in their struggle to remake Russia into a Communist state like the one first envisioned by Karl Marx. The novel is usually seen as an allegory of the Russian Revolution, so it is fitting that Orwell should have the animals address each other as comrades. By the end, of course, this sense of comradeship is lost as the pigs become just as ruthless, if not more, than the humans in running the day to day activities of the farm. The original ideas of equality are lost and by the last chapter, the term comrade is not mentioned as the pigs change the name of the farm from Animal Farm back to Manor Farm.