Discussion Topic

The significance of animals possessing human traits and abilities in Orwell's Animal Farm

Summary:

In Animal Farm, animals possessing human traits and abilities symbolize the flaws and corruption within human society. By anthropomorphizing the animals, Orwell critiques political systems, particularly totalitarian regimes, and illustrates how power can corrupt individuals, leading them to mirror the oppressive behaviors they initially sought to overthrow.

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Why do animals act like humans and vice versa in Orwell's Animal Farm?

The book was written to illustrate events that were occurring in the world, particularly the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, the emergence of Communism, the struggle between the forces within Russia, such as the epic battle for control between Trotsky and Stalin, with Stalin emerging victorious.  Orwell wanted to illustrate these events but he needed to do so in a way that would shield him from attack from the powerful forces in the Communist party.

So Orwell writes Animal Farm like a fairy tale where animals take on human characteristics.  But make no mistake, the book is really a political satire aimed at criticizing and drawing attention to the brutality of the Communist regime and what they can do to a society of people.

It is an allegory, where characters really represent something else, in this case the animals are really the actors from history that created the conditions that resulted in rise of Communism in Russia, turning it into the Soviet Union.

"Orwell makes the characters easily identifiable for those who know the historic parallels, because he gives each one a trait, or has them perform certain tasks, that are like that of a historical figure. Old Major is identified with Karl Marx because, just as Old Major develops the teachings that fuel the Animal Rebellion, Marx formulated the ideas that spawned the Russian revolution."

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Why do animals act like humans and vice versa in Orwell's Animal Farm?

I believe that Orwell's point was to demonstrate that human beings are capable of displaying characteristics of animals under certain circumstances, and that animals are more intelligent than humans credit them. The desire for absolute power and control exists among both species. 

The farmer was obviously an "ignorant" character, one lacking education or even social "graces" according to social mores. Ignorance in humans can often be a catalyst for animalistic behavior, such as murder, abuse, and desire for survival at any cost.  What a person doesn't understand, he is often afraid of, as in the farmer's case. The farmer was determined to survive, at any cost.

Pigs are considered to be the most intelligent of all animals, with the exception of chimpanzees.  Pigs are an appropriate choice, given the setting of the story, as well as the characteristic of higher intelligence.  Orwell chose to give the animals the gift of speech in this novel, which enhances both plot and characterization.  The pigs are the dominant characters because of their intelligence, while the remaining animals follow their lead, almost in blind submission.  This results in the pigs developing a "pecking order" among the animals, as often seen in human society.  The pigs begin to assume more human characteristics, one being the need for justice as they feel oppressed by the farmer.  In history, oppression often leads to a "coup" to establish justice and stability for those being oppressed by those in power.

The pigs develop a brilliant plan to take control of their farm, but in the process, there is dissent among the pigs, which filters down to the "lower" animals.  In human nature, it is difficult for more than one person to wield absolute power and control, as in a dictatorship.  The pigs begin to argue about details of their plan, with an underlying current of who is and should be in total control of the animals when the farmer has been supplanted by the pigs. 

At the end of the novel, we see the culmination of the struggle for dominance and power among the animals; this dominance by the pigs will be attained at any cost, a human trait that has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history.  

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Why do animals act like humans and vice versa in Orwell's Animal Farm?

The animals are more or less behaving like humans because Orwell wrote the story to illustrate in very simple terms how political movements originally based on ideals of justice and fairness can be hijacked by those hungry for power. The specific reference point is the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, with Napoleon representing Stalin and Snowball Trotsky, but the implications are broader. Orwell hopes his audiences will see how they can be like the innocent animals in the story, duped when the "pigs" (in the broadest sense representations of power-hungry people) manipulate language and violence to serve their own agendas. Language was important to Orwell and he wanted to show us, as humans, how important it is to carefully examine what is being said to us to make sure it makes sense and that, under the guise of protecting our rights, words aren't twisted to steal our rights. By using animals, which provided some distance from humans, Orwell hoped to make crystal clear the danger of power and propaganda.

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Why does Orwell give the animals human qualities in Animal Farm, like the ability to speak and reason?

This story is an allegorical fable. Fables are not true but told to prove a point, thus Orwell took some creative license to build the story. When allegory is used, it is meant to represent on several levels something that is real. In this case, as the story is unfolding readers of that current time would have recalled the situation of the Russian Revolution which Orwell modeled his book after. For every generation since the original publication, it has been a sincere warning to watch that revoltions or modifications in government should work to always remember the people, as Old Major was trying to point out.

The abilities to speak and reason give Orwell the ability to create differing intellects among the animals so that a certain breed could take over and become the new government by the end of the story. If one group did not have ability to be better in some way than the others, the story would not have been able to prove the point by the end.

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What human characteristics, besides speech, has Orwell given to the animals in Animal Farm?

Orwell's characters are an ingenious combination of animal and human characteristics. Orwell uses the animal's natural or stereotypical traits and exaggerates them to represent a specific group or class of society. For example the pigs are intelligent, so they are the intellectual class, which tries to take over. The horses are strong, but not so smart, so they represent the laborers. The sheep, of course, are the blind followers. The dogs are smart and strong, but loyal to a fault, so they are the secret police.

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What human characteristics, besides speech, has Orwell given to the animals in Animal Farm?

I assume you mean "given to his animals." If this is the case, two important elements are the human capacity for both religious and political blindness

Religious hypocrisy is found particularly in Moses, the Raven. "Moses preaches "the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died;" in that distant land "it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges." Obviously, when the story is played out, the reality is certainly nothing like what Raven promises.

Political hopes for utopia are also lambasted. The propensity of human beings to blindly follow the crowd is perhaps the most important theme of Orwell's novel. As the notes here at eNotes rightly point out, "(t)he only protection the average citizen has against a similar tyranny developing in his own country is his refusal to blindly follow the crowd (like the sheep), the repudiation of all spurious explanations by propaganda sources (like Squealer), and diligent attention to all government activity, instead of faithfully following those in power (like Boxer)."

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In Animal Farm, why are animals capable of speech and human-like thought?

Animal Farm is a satire of the Russian Revolution, distilled down to a small venue that can be easily understood. Because the real-life people important to the Russian Revolution are represented by animals, the animals need to be able to both speak and present their ideas easily. Without these abilities, they would simply be moving around at random, as animals do. The entire book starts with a dream by Old Major; there is some scientific evidence that animals can dream, but their dreams are likely not similar to human dreams. This also speaks to the final moral of the story, that the pigs, who have taken over the farm and are exploiting the other animals, are no better than the humans they deposed:

What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing?
(Orwell, Animal Farm, msxnet.org)

If the animals could not speak, the pigs could not communicate with humans to form their eventual alliance. By the same token, if the animals could not think as humans, they could not form their revolutionary ideas, and so the story would never start. It is not known if animals have the ability of abstract reasoning as humans do, nor if they dream in anything but colors or shapes, but both of these attributes are vital to the story.

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