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The use of literary devices by Orwell to establish a dystopian theme in Animal Farm

Summary:

Orwell uses various literary devices to establish a dystopian theme in Animal Farm. These include allegory to represent totalitarian regimes, irony to highlight the hypocrisy of the ruling pigs, and symbolism to depict the corruption of ideals. Through these devices, Orwell critiques the betrayal of revolutionary movements and the oppressive nature of power.

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How does Orwell use literary devices to establish a theme in Animal Farm?

Allegory and symbolism are utilized heavily throughout the story. In fact, the entire story functions as an allegory to the rise of the Soviet Union. Many of the characters are allusions to real historical figures, the most obvious being Napoleon as Joseph Stalin. Further allusions include Snowball as Leon Trotsky, Old Major as Karl Marx, and "animalism" as communism itself, with "Old Major's Dream" being a symbol of The Communist Manifesto.

Major political events in real life are shown in a shortened way, such as the Battle of the Cowshed being an allusion to the Russian Civil War and the rebellion of the hens representing Stalin's purge. When Boxer dies, it is one of the most tragic moments in the story and in the allegory as it represents Stalin's open betrayal of the proletariat he had sworn to represent. These are just a few examples of the allegories and symbols within an allegory that Orwell uses to display the farcical nature of true events and, to a larger extent, his disdain for totalitarianism.

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How does Orwell use literary devices to establish a theme in Animal Farm?

In Animal Farm, Orwell freely uses irony in presenting his powerful critique of Soviet Communism. A great example comes in the book's subtitle, "A Fairy Story," implying that this is just another fable involving talking animals with human personalities. But being as how this is an example of irony, Orwell actually means the exact opposite; this is an allegory on the very real events of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath.

In the actual text, there are numerous examples of irony. We have the famous example of verbal irony in the altered Seventh Commandment of Animalism, which used to state "All animals are equal," but which now says, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." This is an example of irony because it means the exact opposite of what it says. The animals are either equal or they're not; some can't be "more equal" than the others. Yet the Commandment has been cynically changed, like all the others, to serve the pigs' selfish interests.

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Examine how Orwell develops the theme of the power of words in Animal Farm.

Orwell presents words as being a very powerful weapon which, in the wrong hands, can be incredibly dangerous. At first, though, words are presented as inspirational, the impetus for radical social and political change: Old Major's stirring speech about the principles of Animalism holds out the prospect of a much better life for the farm animals; the Seven Commandments of Animalism establish ground rules for how everyone's supposed to conduct themselves in this Animalist utopia.

But words can also be manipulated to serve the interests of the powerful, and that's precisely what happens here. Napoleon gradually alters the inspiring words of the Seven Commandments to serve his own selfish interests. And Squealer, his propagandist-in-chief, expertly twists and distorts words to rewrite the past and create a parallel reality.

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Examine how Orwell develops the theme of the power of words in Animal Farm.

Orwell shows the power of words in the chants the pigs teach the sheep. The pigs know the power of words and especially of simplistic slogans that can be repeated over and over.

These slogans begin with Snowball. Because some of the less intelligent animals are having trouble learning the Seven Commandments, he boils them down to one: "Four legs good, two legs bad." We learn, and the pigs no doubt notice, that the sheep love this simple slogban and can repeat it over and over for hours.

When Snowball is run off the farm and Napoleon becomes all powerful, he uses the sheep's ability to bleat "Four legs good, two legs bad" for a quarter of an hour or more to put an end to discussions he doesn't want to have. When the farm is on the brink of famine, Napoleon has the sheep repeat the rumor that rations have actually increased, knowing the power of words to influence thought. When the pigs want to walk on two legs, they teach the sheep a new slogan to repeat mindlessly over and over: "Four legs good, two legs better."

Moreover, the pigs keep changing the Seven Commandments to support their increasing oppression of the other animals, finally reducing the commandments to one nonsensical statement that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

In showing how slogans can drown out thought, Orwell warns humans to avoid embracing simplistic statements. In depicting how the pigs can change the entire meaning of Animal Farm by changing a few words, he points out the importance of memory.

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Examine how Orwell develops the theme of the power of words in Animal Farm.

Orwell displays the thematic importance in the power of words through keeping linguistic construction in the hands of the pigs.  The pigs are the only ones who develop language as a means of power.  The fact that they are the only animals on the farm who can read is an integral part of this reality.  Their ability to control language is vitally important to their power.  No other animal, except for the disengage Benjamin, understands the importance of reading.  Squealer's use of language to construct truth and to spin anything to the other animals that benefits Napoleon's leadership is another example of how the power of words can benefit those in the position of power.  The presence of words in forming the Commandments is another instance in which the power of language is evident.  As the leadership of the pigs becomes consolidated more, the Commandments become one.  The other animals do not realize how power has changed because they cannot read.  Here again, the idea of language and power being vital to consolidation of control becomes evident in the novel.  Orwell makes it painfully clear that language and the ability to construct truth out of it is of vital importance to those in the position of power and in continuing their power.

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Examine how Orwell develops the theme of the power of words in Animal Farm.

In the first chapter, Old Major gives a speech to the other animals to inspire them and encourage a revolution. He explains that man (humans) are the cause of their miseries and determines that a revolt is necessary to improve their lives. He establishes the commandments of Animalism which set up a framework for the improvement of their lives. He then sings "Beasts of England" which is like a national anthem for the animals. The animals are inspired and excited with Old Major's reasoning and his encouragement. The song sends them over the top. This shows the power of words in speech and in song: 

The singing of this song threw the animals into the wildest excitement. Almost before Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it for themselves. 

Throughout the novel, the experiment of Animalism grows steadily worse. As Napoleon gains more power, he has Squealer change the written commandments in order to suit his desire for more power. This is done one commandment at a time, a sly way of changing the laws subtly enough that no animals might notice. The last commandment Old Major gives in Chapter 1 is "All animals are equal." In Chapter 10, after Napoleon has already changed some commandments, he changes this to "All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others." In other words, the pigs are superior to all other animals. Each time Squealer changes the commandments, the law of the land changes. The living conditions of the animals change as well. This shows the power of the written word and of written laws. This shows how written words and laws directly affect lives. 

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In Animal Farm, which literary devices does Orwell use to develop a dystopian theme?

Orwell's Animal Farm is a masterwork as a political allegory. First and foremost, you could refer to the novella's broad use of personification, in particular the personification of human classes via barnyard animal species. The fact that Orwell uses pigs, for example, as the ruling class, is of deep thematic significance (inviting the numerous apt comparisons between pigs and the capitalist ruling class). By employing the characteristics of certain animals (loyal and hard working dogs, sheep who follow, etc.) to represent classes of people within a political/economic system, Orwell uses personification very well.

Similarly, Orwell uses quite a lot of symbolism in the novella. One particularly good example is the windmill. The windmill symbolizes industrial enslavement of working classes. The pigs make the lower-class animals build the windmill for their own selfish gain, arguing (half truthfully) all the while that the windmill will be beneficial to the animals building it. As Orwell was trying to criticize Soviet Russia, he uses the windmill to represent a broad economic task that is ostensibly there to benefit the masses but which really benefits the people at the top. Later, the windmill also symbolizes humanity and human-centric farm craft, which the animals first united against but wound up subsequently engaging in themselves.

This brings us to a third literary device that Orwell uses well in the novella, which is irony. The behavior of the farm animals, from the start, was to revolt against tyranny and to establish a system in which the workers control their own production and profits. But in working towards this ideal, the animals (particularly the pigs) dig themselves into an even worse manifestation of the same system. The very tools they chose to secure their freedom are exactly what seals their continued wage-enslavement.

One further literary device that is well used in the novella is allusion. As one of Orwell's primary goals with the work is to criticize Soviet Russia, Orwell alludes frequently to Carl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto. As this was among the primary texts motivating the Soviets, Orwell also creates a situation where many of the exact same ideas are used by the pigs to galvanize the other animals into working towards the revolutionary goal.

All of these literary devices amount, in the novella, to a dystopian theme where the ruling class forces the lower classes into a form of wage-slavery while simultaneously forcing them to believe that the whole thing is for their own good. All of these devices have in common the fact that they are used for the benefit of the pigs (the bourgeoisie, if you will) and for the domination of the other animals (the proletariat). In this way, these devices work towards a dystopia that is particularly akin to Soviet Russia.

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