In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, why were Old Major's teachings wrong?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the elderly boar named Old Major is the creature who inspires the other animals to rebel. It is Old Major – the allegorical counterpart of the German philosopher Karl Marx – who proclaims the essence of the philosophy that later becomes known as animalism. At one point, for instance, summarizing his point of view, he speaks as follows:

'Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!'

Old Major is arguably mistaken for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • He assumes that humans are the cause of all evils in the world. Later in the book, Orwell will show that animals are just as capable of causing evils as humans are.
  • Old Major picks out humans as scapegoats; he vastly over-generalizes; he assumes that all humans (not just some humans) are bad. Just as we will later see that not all animals are bad, so we can assume that not all humans are bad.
  • Old Major simply assumes that a society run entirely by animals will necessarily avoid the problems of a society run entirely by humans. However, he can point to no historical example of a society run entirely by animals; he thus has no concrete historical evidence with which to support his sunny assumptions.
  • Old Major assumes that a sudden, abrupt, wholesale change will produce the best results. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that a gradual, painstaking evolution in the right direction might better produce the kind of change that may actually survive and be most beneficial.
  • Old Major seems to assume that animals possess better fundamental natures than humans do, but he offers no evidence to support this assumption – an assumption that later proves grossly naïve.
  • Old Major assumes that positive changes can be produced in the twinkling of an eye – an assumption that, once more, proves highly naïve.

 

 

 

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