Discussion Topic

Aspects and components of the totalitarian and tyrannical state in Animal Farm


The totalitarian and tyrannical state in Animal Farm is characterized by the consolidation of power by the pigs, the manipulation of language and propaganda by Squealer, the use of fear through the threat of violence by Napoleon's dogs, and the alteration of history and commandments to control and oppress the other animals.

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What aspects make Animal Farm a totalitarian society?

Animal Farm is established with good intentions. The animals rise up to overthrow Jones and envision a society based on the teachings of Old Major, in which all animals will be equal and the exploitation of the many by the few (i.e. people) will cease. But by Chapter Seven, it is obvious that the animals' experiment has become a totalitarian nightmare. The animals, near starvation, labor on another windmill, the first one having collapsed due to poor design. The hens are forced to give up their eggs, and, when they protest, are starved into submission. Napoleon makes Snowball into a figure of fear, claiming that he is sabotaging the farm at night, and Squealer's manipulation of the truth about Snowball through propaganda is a hallmark of totalitarian governments everywhere. At the end of the chapter, the degree to which Animal Farm has degenerated into totalitarian government is made clear, as Napoleon has several animals executed in plain view of the rest as punishment for supposedly treasonous activities. Many of the animals have so internalized the pigs' propaganda that they actually turn themselves in to be brutally killed by Napoleon's dogs. The event has a profound effect on the animals, as seen in Orwell's description of Clover's thoughts:

These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion...Instead...they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes. There was no thought of rebellion or disobedience in her mind. She knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they had been in the days of Jones, and that before all else it was needful to prevent the return of the human beings...But still, it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled. 

At this point, it seems, Animal Farm has become a truly totalitarian society, far from Old Major's vision of equality and prosperity for the animals. Using terror, mind control, and violence, Napoleon has made himself into a dictator as brutal as the humans.

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What components make up the tyrannical state in Animal Farm?

We might say that in George Orwell's Animal Farm, the animals move from one tyranny to another. Let's look at some of the components of each to help you get started on this question.

Under the rule of Mr. Jones, the animals have nothing to call their own. The farmer takes whatever they produce, including their young, and even kills them when he is finished working them almost to death. They live with no freedom at all, and Old Major points this out and calls on the animals to overthrow the humans.

The animals actually do that eventually under the leadership of the pigs, and they start their own society. The animals set rules for themselves and vow to be completely equal around the farm. But that soon changes as the pigs between to take over power. Pretty soon, the animals become divided, and Napoleon (backed by his dogs) takes control. The pigs start acting more and more like humans, and they change the rules the animals set for themselves. Napoleon begins to do exactly what Mr. Jones had done. The animals are no longer equal, and they lose what they produce, just like before. Boxer the horse is even sent off to the glue factory when he can no longer work. There is tyranny yet again, and the animals must work hard and eat little, just like before, while the pigs live in luxury.

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