What is George Orwell's message in Animal Farm?

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Animal Farm is an allegory for the events of the Russian Revolution and, as such, George Orwell's message concerns the corruption that results from power. While the animals in the story originally create an equal society, the pigs in charge, namely Napoleon, use their power to oppress the other animals, especially through propaganda and fear. Orwell's story is meant to be a parallel to the rise of the Soviet Union.

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Orwell's main message in Animal Farm is that power corrupts, even when idealism is at play. The events of the story are an allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917, where the bolsheviks overthrew the tsar in order to establish a communist regime. While the ideals of this new order were meant to foster equality for the oppressed masses, instead the Soviet Union became a totalitarian state in which propaganda was commonplace, so-called enemies of the state were punished brutally, and only a privileged few were allowed comfort and power.

Orwell's story shows in detail how ideals can become corrupted by power. At first, the animals believe they are all living equally, but when the pigs become more power-hungry and create excuses for giving themselves special privileges, a new hierarchy is created, in many ways replicating the old one (note how the pigs come to resemble the humans they overthrew). The novel allows Orwell to point out the dangers of such radical forms of ideology, the way a brainwashed populace can be willing to excuse the most horrific behavior from the state, and the way in which tyrants hold onto their power through propaganda and crafty rhetoric. Though he was specifically reacting to the Soviet Union, Orwell's warning can be applied to any totalitarian state.

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In Animal Farm, George Orwell attempts to lay bare the hypocrisy, brutality, and moral corruption at the heart of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

At the time when Orwell wrote the book, a disturbingly high proportion of leftist intellectuals in Western Europe and the United States genuinely believed that the USSR was some kind of socialist utopia which provided an example for the nations of the capitalist West to emulate. Orwell aimed to challenge this distorted worldview by exposing the realities of life under one of history's most notorious mass-murderers.

As has been stated in a previous answer, Animal Farm is a political allegory. The farm depicted in the story is meant to represent the Soviet Union under Stalin, just as Stalin himself is represented by Napoleon, the dictator pig.

All of the events that happen in the story are based on things that actually occurred in the USSR in the 1930s, whether it's the brutal murder of the regime's enemies—both real and imagined—the constant regurgitation of mindless propaganda, or the use of famine as an instrument of repression.

Orwell, as a man of the Left, didn't want to foreclose the possibility of radical political and economic change in society. However, in Animal Farm, as elsewhere in his writings, he highlights the potential dangers implicit in any form of radical ideology when it is applied to real-world conditions.

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Orwell's classic novella Animal Farm is a cautionary tale about the dangers of consolidating political power in a communist state and a warning against authoritarian regimes and dictators. Orwell's novella allegorically represents the events that transpired before, during, and after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, when Joseph Stalin usurped power and oppressed the entire Soviet Union. Similarly, Napoleon usurps power in the novella shortly after the Battle of the Cowshed and develops into a tyrannical ruler, who oppresses his subjects by forcing them to work long hours while continually reducing their food rations. Orwell's message warns readers about allowing shrewd, selfish politicians to consolidate power and gradually take away civil rights and liberties. He also warns readers about the various methods of manipulation and propaganda used by authoritarian regimes to oppress and control the populace. Squealer acts as Napoleon's mouthpiece and cleverly manipulates the animals using various rhetorical devices and propaganda strategies to deceive the animals into believing and supporting Napoleon's selfish, oppressive political agenda. Orwell's novella also emphasizes the dangers of government corruption and illustrates how maniacal leaders and debased politicians can establish and create an oppressive, terrifying society, where the majority of the population lives in fear.

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Since Animal Farm is an allegory based on the problems resulting from Russian Revolution, and its subsequent oppressive communist state, one of the messages of the novel is about how power can often lead to corruption and oppression. Even when a revolution is done with the best intentions, all directed toward the greater social good, it can devolve into a government which is just as bad (or worse) than the oppressive regime which it replaced. 

Other messages or lessons of the novel include the means by which a government rules and/or oppresses its people (or animals in this allegory). When the revolution begins, it is to establish the law of the land that all animals are equal. However, over time the pigs (leaders) clearly put themselves in a higher position (under Napoleon) and this reestablishes a hierarchy (which was what the revolution was supposed to have eliminated). This hierarchy divides the animals; thus, they are no longer all equal. 

The novel also shows the ways a group/government can manipulate and brainwash its citizens through the use of propaganda. Napoleon and Squealer constantly change the seven commandments in order to suit their increasing power. By the end of the novel, the commandments read less like a document stating the equality and happiness of all animals, and it reads more like the establishment of the privileges of pigs over all animals. Napoleon and Squealer not only change the commandments (usually acting as if they had never been changed); they also change history to suit their narrative. Snowball had been the hero of the Battle of the Cowshed, but in order to praise Napoleon and criticize Snowball, Squealer gradually changes the story, eventually making Napoleon the hero of the battle. At the end of Chapter 5, Squealer says:

And as to the Battle of the Cowshed, I believe the time will come when we shall find that Snowball's part in it was much exaggerated. 

Using propaganda and fear, the novel shows how even a revolution with intentions of total equality can devolve into an oppressive state. The further message is about the tendency for power to corrupt. As Napoleon's regime gained power and privilege, the corruption increased as well. 

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George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm warns readers about the many dangers of totalitarianism. Specifically, the book is an allegory for the Russian Revolution. Orwell was a fervent critic of Stalinism and wrote this book to show how the increased consolidation of power can become an oppressive force.

Consider how the animals dream of equality and peace and how then the pigs ultimately destroy these dreams. In the end, Napoleon’s leadership comes to mirror that of the humans whom the animals revolted against. Those who suffered before the rebellion continue to suffer. This ending shows how the utopian theories fueling communism, even though they seem great at first, actually result in totalitarianism.

But this book goes beyond warning readers about political ideologies. On a deeper level, the story warns readers about human behavior in general and how barbaric humans can be. Recall how there is no specific time that the story is set in and how it happens on an imaginary farm. By keeping the setting so general, Orwell is showing how at the end of the day, people in any time and place can be no better than animals. Just like in the book, there will always be people who are “pigs” who exploit their privilege and oppress others.

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Animal Farm is an allegory about what went wrong in the USSR, which initially adopted socialism as an idealistic, utopic experiment meant to liberate workers from exploitation and share the fruits of labor equally, but which quickly turned into a totalitarian regime that robbed people of their rights and their labor. Orwell, writing at a time when many people still defended the Soviet Union, meant to show that a well-intentioned revolution can easily derail. Key to this is language: the pigs are easily able to control the rest of the animals because they control the rhetoric. Language is very important, Orwell argues. We have to maintain vigilance over what is said and how it is said. The animals end up deceived because the pigs continually change the rules of the game through word games, finally changing "all animals are created equal" by adding to it the famous non-sequitur that some are more equal than others.

Violence--or putting controls on it-- is also important to maintaining freedom. Orwell illustrates this by showing how the pigs maintain a monopoly of violence by controlling the dogs, who act as executioners against the other animals. This combination of rhetoric and violence keeps the rest of the animals down, which is, of course, what happened under Soviet socialism--and more to the point, could also happen in nominally democratic states like Orwell's home county, England--or in the United States. 

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What are the major issues George Orwell raises in Animal Farm?

To me, the most important issue that Orwell raises is that of how a society like the one in the book can come to be.  I think it is not that important (though historically interesting) that the book is based on Russia or that it is about communism.  That stuff is in the past -- but this book can be relevant to the future.

What is interesting to me is the way that the pigs use propaganda to take and keep control of the society.  I am also interested in what conditions make it possible for them to succeed -- why do the animals let them?

So, to me, this is the major issue Orwell raises -- how is it possible for people in a society to come to be dominated by their leaders?

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What are the major issues George Orwell raises in Animal Farm?

Additionally, Orwell raises the question of whether or not Utopias can actually exist. In this instance, the idea of a community in which all work according to their ability and all receive according to their needs (the basic element of pure socialism) is a Utopian concept. It works well in theory, but in practice Utopias often become the opposite - dystopias - because of the simple flaw of greed and human nature. At first, simply being free from the restrictions and slavery imposed upon them by the farmer is sufficient. All work hard to create the perfect world, and none resent the work or wish for more than their share. But, and this is the main reason why socialism is better on paper then in practice, it is not long before the need for leadership is recognized. The pigs agree to act as leaders and soon they want more than their fair share because they feel as though they are entitled to it. Thus the Utopia devolves into dystopia - the perfect world is no more.

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What are the major issues George Orwell raises in Animal Farm?

  • Can a society exist by using the tennets of communism for more than one generation?
  • Is communism a better method of governing than capitalism?
  • Is communism fair to all elements of society?
  • Is communism prone to corruption more than other forms of government?

The communist leaders are compared to pigs who run everything and live a lavish lifestyle off of the backs of the workers.  How might this comparison work with a capitalist or socialist form of government?

We see that the horse was the most exploited of all of the workers, yet he remained true to the cause.  How is this true of persons today who are exploited yet believe in the political party to whom they have given their allegiance?

Some former patriots such as Snowball were villified by the current leaders in the novel Animal Farm.  How is this true of persons in politics today?

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What are the major issues George Orwell raises in Animal Farm?

Another issue Orwell raises and it may be related to the response above: The public needs to hold leaders in check and accountable for their actions.

The character Napoleon plays clearly represents Stalin, but the purpose of the novel for us today is to ensure a reign like his is not repeated. Our countries rely on many democratic procedures today and we fight for the freedom of others from dictatorial rule. Humanity demands we take such a role.

The distribution of power was wildly out of order in increasing levels throughout the book. If you wanted to look through a single worded lens I think you could take either power or leadership and find plenty of examples to demonstrate what went wrong.

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What are the major issues George Orwell raises in Animal Farm?

Orwell's main focus is a critique of communism and he builds it around a satirical look at the major events that helped to bring about a communist state in Russia and the growth of the Soviet Union.

He questions the communist outlook on religion, the communist record when it comes to civil and humanitarian rights, and one of the most dynamic issues is that of class and class conflict.  The animals themselves represent various historical figures in the communist movement and the struggles they have also represent specific events within the history of communist Russia, the Soviet Union.

Throughout all of these issues Orwell also questioned the use of propaganda by a state to achieve its goals, the manipulation of truth and falsehood, etc.

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What do you think are the main themes and messages George Orwell tried to convey in Animal Farm?

Being an allegorical satire, I think one theme or message Orwell is portraying is that humans should check themselves and know why they are doing what they are doing. If the entire piece is to offer a pessimistic perspective to the effects of the Russian Revolution and what ensued thereafter, then we have not learned. We must apply the absurd behavior we saw in the animals to make sure it doesn't happen to us.

For example, could we be receiving some sugar tablets and pretty ribbons for our hair in the form of bailouts right now? Are Americans who have lost their jobs taking too much advantage of the extensions to unemployment and foreclosure programs because they are being handed to us by our nice farmer?

Another theme is truth and lies. How do you know what to believe? Does information change over time? Following the propaganda of Squealer, the animals believe changed information about Snowball. Apply that to 9-11. Was it a real terrorist attack or a conspiracy created by our own government? I have heard people say both, yet I believe I know the truth and understand it. But then I question, how do I know that what I think I know is really true?

These themes are relevant and require close examination of the text and one's self. That's what makes Animal Farm such a powerful piece of literature. It is an allegory of all people's relationship to their government which much always be in a constant state of check.

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What do you think are the main themes and messages George Orwell tried to convey in Animal Farm?

The first theme of Animal Farm is to convey how totalitarian governments can arise.  Orwell tries to show how leaders (like Napoleon) can take over a revolution and turn it in to something that is meant only to help them personally.  Most of the rest of the themes relate to this.

A second theme is propaganda.  We see Squealer use all sorts of techniques to fool the other animals into thinking that things are okay or to fool them into supporting Napoleon.

A third theme is how various parts of a population respond to attempts to make a totalitarian government.  Boxer, for example, tries his best to help the government, thinking Napoleon is always right.  The pigs and dogs jump on Napoleon's bandwagon to get benefits for themselves.  The hends resist, but only when it is too late and they get executed.

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What are Orwell's major concerns in Animal Farm?

Although many people think Animal Farm is a direct attack on Communist Soviet Union, he actually uses the Soviet's as an example to show the danger of totalitarian governments and that corruption is inevitble when one becomes too powerful.  He also wants to warm readers about the dangers of revolutions and how they more often amount to pointless violence as the new government becomes even more corrupt than the original government once it gets its taste of power.  The pigs in the story prove all of this, as they originally set out with the goal of improving the farm; however, they soon lose their way and take advantage of the lesser animals when it benefits them to do so.  By the end of the book, the pigs (the new government) are no different than Mr. Jones (the old government).  Consequently, life on Animal Farm for all the animals except the pigs and the dogs are no better, arguably worse, than they were before the Animal Revolution.

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What are Orwell's major concerns in Animal Farm?

Simply put, Boxer is Orwell's major concern in his work.  The idea of the loyal subject, an individual whose only concern is "to work harder" is of significant concern to Orwell.  The fact that Boxer strives to "work harder" and then is "rewarded" for his efforts with a sale to the glue factory, sealing his doom is something that Orwell sees as representative of the future in terms of the relationship between government and governed.  Naturally, Animal Farm is a representation of the Soviet Union.  Yet, there is a larger concern for Orwell in the way in which individuals place trust in their government.  The idea of blind faith and loyalty, along with the refusal to question authority is something that concerns Orwell.  The idea that individuals can be sheep, literally and figuratively, causes significant worry in Orwell.  The ending of the book where the animals literally cannot tell the difference between humans and pigs is something that Orwell feels lies at the heart of all political orders that believe they are able to manipulate the will and heart of the people.  In order to avoid this state of affairs, Orwell demands a sense of questioning and accountability between people and their government.

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What point do you think George Orwell attempts to make in Animal Farm?

Orwell's story is illustrating the fact that revolutions often result in worse conditions for the people involved than they suffered under before. This was the case with the Russian Revolution, which is what Animal Farm is referring to allegorically throughout. After the Czar was overthrown, the Russian people expected freedom, equality, and prosperity. Instead, a dictatorship comparable to the pigs in the novel took over the government and imposed force and terror on the people. Millions of peasants died of starvation because they were opposed to collectivization. Millions were sent to concentration camps. The oppression was begun under Lenin but became even worse under Stalin. Orwell was a socialist himself, but he believed in democratic socialism, wherein the people have the final authority, as in Britain and the United States. Revolutions usually result in dictatorships under which the people are oppressed almost as severely as they were before. The major problem, as Orwell seemed to view it, is with human nature. People are selfish, and the most selfish tend to rise to the top. Napoleon in Animal Farm is a good example. The honest, hard-working people will always be exploited, like Boxer.

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