Two Views on Orwell’s Animal Farm

How does a lie become a truth? How does a person become brainwashed, and indoctrinated, and lose consciousness of reality? Why do thinkers believe in utopias and fantasies about classless societies that eliminate crime, poverty, and avarice? Why do ideologues imagine that there is no Mother Nature or God the Father who create and establish the order of reality and the nature of things? Why do intellectuals always believe that politics is the salvation of the world? Orwell’s classic exposes the fallacies of revolutionary wars and totalitarian governments whose idea of change predicates violence, deconstruction, and death as the final solution.


In the name of a love for freedom and a hatred of tyranny, the animals on Mr. Jones’ Manor Farm revolt against the cruel despot who enslaves the animals, exploits their labor, deprives them of food, and reduces them to the miserable lot of beasts of burden with no leisure or pleasure. After their glorious victory against Mr. Jones in the Battle of Cowshed, the animals form a new political order to eliminate the abuses of the old regime and to establish “the golden future time” that promises more freedom, riches, prosperity, abundance, and comforts than ever imagined. They burn all the symbols of their wretched lives under Mr. Jones’ rule: the bits, rings, halters, blinkers, nosebags, and whips that oppressed them. Instead of living under tyranny and slavery, the animals proclaim equality as the new governing principle, and found their rule of law under The Seven Commandments that purport to eliminate all class distinctions and special privileges for the ruling class. No animal shall wear clothes, sleep in a bed, drink alcohol, or kill any other animal: “All animals are equal,” declares the Seventh Commandment.

Under the leadership of Napoleon and Snowball, two clever pigs that can read and write, the animals begin a new era according to the philosophy of Animalism. They enjoy more leisure and more rations, they work more productively, and they live together harmoniously without the temptations of pride, envy, and avarice. They distinguish between the goodness of animals and the evil of human beings in the First and Second Commandments that state, “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy,” and “Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” While all the animals embrace the doctrine of equality and anticipate their share of the abundance of milk and apples to be divided among them, they soon learn that the theory of Animalism is more abstract and theoretical than real or true. The pigs designate the bounty of milk and apples for their own exclusive use. Squealer explains, “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples.” They allegedly partake of this food to preserve their health and govern wisely for the common good of Animal Farm. Thus begins the propaganda campaign to indoctrinate all the animals into imagining that a brave new world had dawned with benevolent, enlightened rulers whose higher knowledge surpasses the intelligence of the common man. As Napoleon consolidates his power with police dogs to terrify his opponents and with Squealer to appease the credulous animals, he resorts to all the tactics of ideology to glamorize “the golden future” that will succeed the tyrannical rule of Mr. Jones.

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First, Napoleon demonizes Snowball, his rival, as a “traitor” who never performed heroic deeds in the Battle of Cowshed, but secretly remained the ally of Mr. Jones. The fierce dogs unleashed by Napoleon attack Snowball and drive him from the farm. When some of the animals protest the cruel banishment of their noble leader and great hero, “the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and the pigs fell silent and sat down again.” Might is right. Second, Napoleon employs Squealer as his chief propagandist, a master rhetorician who “could turn black into white.” When the animals complain that the pigs’ hoarding of the milk and apples violates the doctrine of equality, Squealer rationalizes that the pigs as the “brainworkers” could not function as thinkers or leaders without this nourishment. Squealer propagates the idea that Napoleon is committed to the equality of all animals and has assumed leadership out of a sense of sacrifice “in taking this extra labor upon himself” lest the poor animals “make the wrong decisions.”

Third, Squealer resorts to the repetition of slogans to suppress all thought and brainwash the animals. At the hint of the slightest complaint about any of the policies of Napoleon, Squealer retaliates, “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Mr. Jones come back?” Thus Boxer, thoroughly indoctrinated by Squealer’s verbal engineering, has only one response to the failures of Napoleon’s policies (“I will work harder”) and only one reaction to Napoleon’s schemes (“Napoleon is always right”). The revolution’s theory of equality does not correspond to reality, for Napoleon presumes to be superior to Snowball and the pigs regard themselves as the elite rulers to be served and obeyed by all their subjects.

Orwell shows that the establishment of Animal Farm demands an elimination of the past or a revision of history. Napoleon deconstructs the record of Snowball’s bravery in battle and accuses him of treachery, a spy of Mr. Jones. Squealer publicizes to the animals that Snowball is a “criminal” and that his role in the animals’ victory against Mr. Jones’ army was “small.” The idea of the windmill originally proposed by Snowball and rejected by Napoleon has been misconstrued, explains Squealer. Napoleon actually “advocated” it from the beginning and only “seemed to oppose the windmill, simply as a manoeuvre to get rid of Snowball, who was a dangerous character and a bad influence.” It was a matter of wise policy or “tactics.” Ultimately, Napoleon, with the benefit of Squealer (government in alliance with the media), manipulates the law to legitimize evil and give an air of normalcy to all the abuses of totalitarian rule.

All the Seven Commandments are reinterpreted and subtly updated for the self-interest of Napoleon. The Fourth Commandment that forbids animals from sleeping in human beds now reads, “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.” When Napoleon executes Snowball and other animals who question his policies, the Commandment “No animal shall kill any other animal” is rephrased with the words “without cause” added at the end. After Napoleon affords himself the luxury of living in the farm house, sleeping in a bed, dressing like a human being, walking on two legs, and drinking alcohol, the law is once again adjusted: “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.” Finally the grand theory itself that all animals are equal must be adapted to the progressive times and to the agenda: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” All truth is relative.

Thus ideology functions like Procrustes’ bed. If the legs of the victims are too short or too long, they must be tortured to fit the box. It is inconceivable that the bed be fashioned to conform to the size of the legs. Animal Farm twists and mutilates the truth to fit the political theory of Napoleon, but never does an ideologue adapt his ideas to conform to the nature of things, to correspond to the truth about fallen human nature, or to honor the wisdom of the ages.

Is the United States the New Animal Farm?

When it comes to literary oracles, few are more terrifyingly on target than George Orwell. His fable Animal Farm is a veritable prophecy of a political perversity only too applicable in American politics. Though this classic is traditionally read as a satire of Stalinism, it should also be read as a satire of Americanism. As such, it introduces a terrible concept: when America declared independence from English tyranny, it slowly enslaved itself under American tyranny. Benighted and beset as Americans are nowadays, they are nonetheless working as hard as cart-horses to prove Orwell a prophet by demonstrating that mass illusion, mass intimidation, and mass indifference are the engines that produce political complacency and political corruption.


Published in 1945, Orwell’s Animal Farm presents the history of a revolution that went wrong and the gradual, yet total, overthrow of the original doctrines of governance. The animals of Manor Farm drive out the drunken Farmer Jones and his abusive hands, affecting a complete takeover of the farm. They jubilantly rename it Animal Farm and undertake the work of administration themselves. The resourceful and respected pigs quickly assume leadership in the absence of Jones, but progressively prove that their natures are not as elevated as their intellects. Perversion piles upon perversion unto a heartbreaking culmination that dramatically demonstrates the insanity of dystopia.

Animal Farm is a book born of bleak, yet benevolent, outlook. It posits that revolution is a thing true to its name: a revolving that returns, like an infernal circle, to the autocratic power and blind capitulation originally repulsed. It is a principle suggestive of an ingrained brutality in political animals that cannot be broken; and the political animals in the “land of the free” are not far better off than Orwell’s pitifully enslaved animals. True freedom is the unimpeded capacity to realize the human good. Freedom in America is popularly defined as mere license, which enslaves when inclinations stray from the good. This American fallacy defines liberty as getting whatever is wanted; and, moreover, that the government is there to give it. Senseless entitlement for handouts and bailouts is not freedom, however, but slavery—and that slavery results in subservience.

Political creeds are famous for becoming political rationalizations for power-hungry pigs—and the flagship of the free world is offering nothing to the contrary. Dogma very quickly and very easily becomes propaganda. As Orwell intimated with his animals, Americans are attesting that man is an animal doomed to the wheel of fate, ever returning to the tragedy he flees from, rendering evil inevitable, and revolution pointless. The resulting apathy that is so prevalent in America is the condemnation of nations. “Revolutions,” George Orwell wrote, “only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert.” The American masses are far from alert. They are stultified and sleepy under a host of tyrannies that define the American mindset with impunity, chief among them being the “dictatorship of relativism,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dubbed it.

American relativistic dispassion to the machinations of the government is akin to Orwellian capitulation. As in Animal Farm, the fears and confusions bred of a rapidly changing culture and its permeating devices are disorienting and discouraging, and, in the end, disarming. “What can I do?” The phrase is common enough. “What difference can I make?” Everyone has heard it, if not thought it or said it oneself. The answer to these questions of passivity is enacted in surrendering and succumbing in the teeth—or the cogs—of the system, while tax dollars fund everything from the madness of gay “marriage” to the murder of unborn babies. Surrender. Succumb. What can you do? (The NSA is probably still listening.)

Helplessness breeds hopelessness. Charlatans like Comrade Trump are embraced. Lies like Planned Parenthood’s are believed. Media distortions of history are made gospel with unquestioning acceptance. Work harder, America. That is what Americans do. Work harder, despite the injustices all are subject to. Work harder. Comrade Pelosi smilingly says we must pass the Affordable Care Act to find out what is in it. Profound. Passed. Work harder. Comrade Clinton’s emails are as inconsequential as the Benghazi YouTube raid. Forgiven. Forgotten. Work harder. Comrade Biden is a good Catholic because he is pro-choice. Hosanna. Halleluiah. Work harder. Comrade Obama is a wise, fearless leader whose nuclear deal with enemy Iran secures the future. All hail the wise, fearless leader—(don’t mind the Iranians testing missiles inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon). Work harder. What else can we do? Do not ask questions, comrade. Put your head down and work harder, as did Comrade Boxer before his loving conquerors, Comrade Squealer, and Comrade Napoleon.

In the end, whether capitalist or communist, corruption maintains its rule—which is to say, solving the plights of the human condition strictly politically has a bad track record, and the United States is just another instance. Democracy is not immune from the spirit of dictatorship. There is certainly nothing in America’s “democratic” common core educational system that prepares citizens for democracy. Soft tyranny has become the obvious objective, producing agents that are thoroughly thoughtless and indelibly indoctrinated, who automatically regurgitate the party lines of liberal acceptance. As in Animal Farm, equality is the chief American slogan and the culmination of all commandments; but it presents a slippery slope of contradiction:


If the truth of man’s created equality is no longer considered self-evident, but rather a mutable matter determined by government interpretation and agendas, the role of conscience will be as targeted as Kim Davis is. When the subjective truth becomes law, objective truth becomes criminal.

The tyranny raging in America is well captured in Lord Byron’s play, “Sardanapalus:”

Think’st thou there is no tyranny but that
Of blood and chains? The despotism of vice—
The weakness and the wickedness of luxury—
The negligence—the apathy—the evils
Of sensual sloth—produce ten thousand tyrants,
Whose delegated cruelty surpasses
The worst acts of one energetic master
However harsh and hard in his own bearing.
The false and fond examples of thy lusts
Corrupt no less than they oppress, and sap
In the same moment all thy pageant power
And those who should sustain it; so that whether
A foreign foe invade, or civil broil
Distract within, both will alike prove fatal:
The first thy subjects have no heart to conquer;
The last they rather would assist than vanquish.

American tyranny and slavery is bred of ten thousand luxuries that lull into a compliant inaction. It is in itself a travesty how the multitudes shrug off travesty, holding their tongues in a species of fear branded “tolerance.” On a mental and moral level, Americans are in the habit of swallowing and suffering as much as the animals of Animal Farm. Falsehoods. Injustice. Slaughter. Uneven-keel politics. Bald-faced manipulation. How long will Americans labor in their traces and trenches before they recognize that their freedom is slavery? When will the real rebellion come? When will the authentic American Revolution arise? A second and sacred Civil War? What can we do? We must work harder in the name of Truth. “Rebellion to tyrants,” as Thomas Jefferson was wont to say, “is obedience to God.” Work harder.


  • Mitchell Kalpakgian and Sean Fitzpatrick

    Mitchell Kalpakgian is a native of New England, the son of Armenian immigrants. He was Professor of English at Simpson College (Iowa) for 31 years. During his academic career, Dr. Kalpakgian received many academic honors, among them the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Fellowship (Brown University, 1981) and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (University of Kansas, 1985). Sean Fitzpatrick is a native of Ottawa, Canada, and a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, CA. He is the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, PA.

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