Why did George Orwell write Animal Farm?

Why did George Orwell write Animal Farm?

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm to bring public attention to the abuses of Stalinism. Orwell wrote the novella in the context of World War II, when Britain and the Soviet Union were allied against the Nazis and support for Stalin and the Soviet Union would have been at its strongest.

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Orwell wrote Animal Farm because he was disturbed at the British left's whitewashing of Josef Stalin's tyranny and atrocities. He feared that if Stalin's lies were accepted as truth and his dictatorship approved, it would be all the easier to undermine democracy and freedom in England. He did not believe supporting the principles of communism countenanced supporting the man who betrayed those principles in the real world.

Stalinism was the immediate target of Animal Farm, but it was not that alone that distressed Orwell. He wanted to speak out against any regime that twisted language and truth to serve its own agenda. He wanted, too, to speak out against any regime that oppressed the mass of the population for its own benefit. He didn't care what the ideology was of the ruling party, whether fascist or communist, if it was harmful to individuals in its society.

Orwell wanted to warn the British people in the simplest possible language and in the simplest possible story to beware being swayed by propaganda and the threat of force into giving up either their freedoms or their right to a fair share of society's resources. Even though this made him unpopular with his left-wing friends, Orwell believed speaking the truth essential. Many of the themes he brings in up in this work crop up later, in a more fleshed-out form, in 1984.

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Orwell actually describes his motivations for writing in the essay "Why I Write," stating,

The Spanish war and other events in 1936–37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.

Animal Farm, much like 1984, was written largely with this political motive in mind.

Remember, Animal Farm, the famous satire of the Soviet Union, was originally published in 1945, written during a context in which the United Kingdom had actually been allied with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany during World War II. This immediate political context must also be weighed against pro-Stalinist apologists among journalists such as Walter Duranty.

With this in mind, it is also worth noting that Orwell himself was not alone in trying to publicize and bring attention to the oppression of Stalinism, as can be seen in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, which sought to bring public awareness to the Stalinist purges.

It was in this context that Orwell wrote Animal Farm, seeking to influence public opinion against Stalin in a time when public support would have been at its strongest. Indeed, on these grounds, Orwell's novella was actually quite controversial when it was originally written, but at the same time, one might also state that this was also the reason it was so important for Orwell to write Animal Farm to begin with.

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Orwell had been shaped by his experience in the Spanish Civil War and by watching the way the revolution evolved in Russia and then the Soviet Union. He was concerned, as so many in the West were, about the rise of Stalin and what he saw as a "cult of personality" being raised around him. This danger only appeared to increase as Stalin consolidated his power during the second world war.

Orwell himself described Animal Farm as his first effort to use an artistic novel to also try and accomplish a political aim. He was proud of the way he was able to combine the two elements into this very memorable and significant story.

In particular, he felt it was a better representation of Stalin and the Soviet Union than what was generally accepted in Britain at the time he wrote it. He wanted to push back against the very positive image of Stalin held by some leaders and bureaucrats in the government.

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Orwell felt that political action and political speech were necessary in order to live a life of integrity and honor. Setting aside his particular views, we can say that Orwell wrote Animal Farm because he felt that he must say something about the political climate in which he was living. 

Had he held different political views, he may have written an allegory informed by capitalist beliefs...who knows, but given his outlook on integrity he probably would have written something even if he wasn't an adherent of democratic socialism. 

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This is a great question. There is also a good answer for this. Here is some of the background that might be helpful. The book was published in August 1945. This is still the context of World War II. Also there was a rising feeling among the British and Americans that Stalin was a force that they needed to oppose. Orwell did not like what he was seeing. Although he was democratic socialist, he was very wary of Stalin. He did not agree with his type of communism with all the abuses of power - the arrests, which seemed arbitrary, censorship, and simple abuse of power.

In light of this background, Animal Farm can be seen as an allegory to his historical context. In short, the power of corrupt leaders destroys the possibility of any type of utopia.

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George Orwell was inspired to write this short novel by the Russian Revolution of 1917. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his role as Emperor of Russia, and he and his entire family were assassinated a year later by the Bolsheviks. The character of Old Major, the pig who dies early in the story, is inspired by Vladimir Lenin, and Napoleon the pig is Joseph Stalin whereas Snowball the pig is Leon Trotsky.

Nicholas was an incompetent leader who was out of touch with the Russian people and who refused to change with the times, just as Mr. Jones (the farmer who owned Manor Farm) overworked his animals and did not treat them well. The animals rebelled against Jones just as the Russian people, led by Lenin and the Communist Party, rebelled against the tsar. Lenin helped to foment rebellion but then died in early 1924.

Stalin then lead the Communist party in Soviet Russia after Lenin's death until his own death in 1953. Just as Napoleon runs Snowball off the farm, Stalin had Trotsky removed from power in 1928 and eventually banished from the USSR altogether a few months later. Trotsky preferred a democratic socialism that was antithetical to the more dictatorial regime endorsed by Stalin, which is also evident in the ideological conflict between Snowball and Napoleon.

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Orwell's biography has everything to do with the reasons for writing Animal Farm. He says in one memoir that he wanted to write a piece of political fiction that would be entertaining, which is why he chose the animal fable as the vehicle for his satire. Orwell had worked for the British government in Burma where he observed and participated in its imperialist regime. While British imperialism was not the totalitarianism depicted in the novel, he did learn from his experience much about the relationships and the psychology of power, which in his mind, naturally corrupts the individual, even if he is well meaning--which the pigs in Animal Farm are not. The seduction of power is one topic Orwell studies in Animal Farm.

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From what I understand of Orwell, he was deeply disillusioned by what he saw as the corruption of the socialist ideal. He saw people rising to power who essentially carried on--even trumped--the abuse of power that happened under the monarchy. Animal Farm began, like 1984, out of resistance, but it became much more, which is why we still teach it today. As well as an allegory about the situation in Russia, it offers amazing insight into power relations. Look at what happens: the pigs rewrite the laws to suit themselves; the sheep blurt out whatever inane saying they are taught to say without ever once thinking about what they are saying and whether or not it is what they believe; the workers respond to stress by working harder, which, like Boxer, they do until they have worn themselves out completely, and so on. The animals correspond so perfectly to types of people in our society that the book has come to be not only a warning, but also a wry sardonic comment on the state of the willfully ignorant masses: we will forever be abused by corrupt authority unless we think and act with authority ourselves.

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