"The road to hell is paved with good intentions", as the old saying goes. And there are few more graphic illustrations in literature of the truth of this saying that Orwell's masterpiece of satire.
Prior to the Animalist Revolution, Old Major convinces the animals that paradise on earth is just around the corner. Once the animals have risen up and driven the hated human oppressor from the farm, they will begin to build an Animalist utopia in which everyone will work together for the common good. There'll be no more hunger, no more backbreaking toil, no more oppression. Life for all the animals will be happy, blissful, and carefree.
Of course, it doesn't work out like that. Once Mr. Jones has been sent packing, the pigs take over and proceed to establish a brutal dictatorship built on lies and repression. Under Napoleon's despotic regime, the animals are treated far worse than they ever were when Mr. Jones was in charge. The Animalist Revolution started off with such high hopes, and yet the hopes and dreams of the animals lie buried in the dust, the emancipatory potential of Old Major's ideas destroyed once and for all.
Animal Farm is, of course, a satire on the Soviet Union under Stalin. Communism promised a better life for the poor and the downtrodden. Yet its undeniably good intentions ended up in mass starvation, repression, and unimaginable poverty for the very people it was supposed to liberate.
Animal Farm serves as both a social critique and a warning. It is an allegory of the Russian communist revolution and the corruption of the movement's original ideals by dictator Joseph Stalin. In this role, Animal Farm helps teach about history, as teachers encourage young readers to check out characters' allegorical connections to historic figures.
But Animal Farm is not historical fiction. Its main purpose is to heighten readers' awareness, to alert them that what happens in the novel—and, by extension, what happened in early twentieth-century Russia—could take place in their lives, too. Readers need to be on the lookout for signs of hypocrisy and abuse, question leaders, and, above all, learn to read and write!
The major reason Napoleon and his fellow pigs can seize power so easily and maintain it so steadily is because they can read and the other animals can't. Therefore, the pigs can (and do) manipulate written language at will. It's important for us to be able to recognize this.
Animal Farm is an important book for society because it shows the negative effects of propaganda. Unless individuals are smart enough to realize when their leader is taking advantage of them, they will always follow blindly with the majority. After a respected boar called Old Major encourages the animals to rebel against the humans, fend for themselves, and treat each other as equals, the animals in the farm are enthusiastic. After Old Major's death, the pigs, considered to be the smartest, take the reins and guide the farm animals to freedom. However, they don't teach other animals to be leaders and end up staying in power for so long that it corrupts them, until they see themselves as superior. This is when the problem starts.
Animal Farm is an important allegorical work that illustrates the possible dangers of a socialist regime, where power is consolidated, and leaders are given free reign to establish certain agendas that can adversely affect the population. The novella allegorically represents the events surrounding the Russian Revolution, the establishment of the Soviet Union, and its unfortunate transformation into a totalitarian state ruled by Stalin. The animals on the farm become disenfranchised, oppressed civilians, who are powerless against Napoleon's authoritarian regime.
Essentially, Orwell portrays how ruthless leaders can usurp power in a socialist government, where power is consolidated, and the masses are subjected to the agenda of the leaders. Orwell's novella serves as a cautionary tale of communism and depicts life under the rule of a tyrannical leader. The illusionary dream of a utopian socialist state is depicted as government officials quickly become corrupted and oppress the other animals on the farm. Society can benefit from Orwell's novella by recognizing the ascension of tyrannical leaders, becoming aware of the negatives associated with political regimes, and understanding how government propaganda functions.
Animal Farm is considered an important work of satire on the concept of Marxism. By containing the social functions of an entire country into a small area, and using animals to show human foible, George Orwell is able to show the inevatible collapse of a utopian Marxist society. All the well-meaning platitudes in the world mean nothing when the leaders refuse to follow the same rules they lay out for society; by subverting and ignoring the laws, Napoleon and the pigs become dictators instead of equal citizens. All socialist and communist societies collapse under the weifght of an oppressive government which keeps its citizens working hard and out of power; they take everything that is produced and distribute only what is absolutely necessary to survive. As a satire and a cautionary tale, Animal Farm is very relevant to society even today, sixty-seven years after its initial publication.