Although it tells about the animal life (fable) which can be considered as a children’s literature, Animal Farm written by George Orwell contains satirical messages toward Europe’s political condition in the 19th and 20th century. The social class issue is represented by the differentiation of human and animal but it changes after the animal rules the farm. It is also depicted about how the excessive political power of a man (or animal in this story) leads the country into a destruction or dystopia. The animal works hard to abolish the social class between human and animal by conducting the rebellion. However, after the rebellion prevails, the social class is never abolished, because it creates another social class among the animals. Although the animals have a philosophy that “all animals are equal”, there is always existed two classes, the leisure class and the working class. Thus in this paper, I will discuss about the impossibility of equality among social classes and how the dominant class sustains it which is represented in this novel.
The problem of this novel firstly served by the vision of Old Major, the oldest boar and can be considered the leader among the animals, who sees the inequality between the animal and the human. He questions “what is the nature of this life of our?” (Orwell, 1945, p. 3) which signs the awareness of the animals about the life. After the awareness of the unfairness comes into being, the animals then realize their fate which is forced to work hard but at the end they are slaughtered. Because of that, the animals, particularly Old Major, blamed Mr. Jones, the human character and their farmer, for his treatment toward the animals. Thus, the animal named the human as their enemy. In this occasion, the animal creates a distinction of classes, which are the animal and the human. The animal feels they are the working class because they always work hard to serve human needs. This consciousness becomes the fuel of the rebellion of the animal.
The distinction of their classes also can be viewed by who produce more often. The animal, of course, feels they have produced milk, eggs, and their breeds. However, according to Old Major, “[m]an is the only creature that consumes without producing” (Orwell, 1945, p. 4) and have set the animal to work for them. It refers to the leisure class which produces less and consumes more. Their life actually depends on the work result of the working class. According to Old Major’s dream, all the animals can do is to rebel to the human to gain the equality. However, the rebellion is just planned by the “more intelligent animals on the farm” (Orwell, 1945, p. 8), which are the pig and the dog. The pig, specifically, becomes the animal’s think tank to create the strategy to blow down the domination of human because they are more intelligence than other proved by their ability to speak, read and write.
Mr. Jones who has means of production in order to extract the animal’s maximum potential makes the animal alienated. Hence, the consciousness of this alienation makes the animal looks forward to equality between human and animal. However, since it is impossible to “turn” human into animal, the animal states that “[w]hatever goes upon two legs is an enemy” (Orwell, 1945, p. 6), and at last, they prevail to kick Mr. Jones and his men out of his own farm. After the successful uprising, the Manor farm is owned by the animal and the animal can get their liberty. Also, the animal changes their farm name into “Animal Farm”
Furthermore, after the animal gets their own sovereignty, they manage the farm by themselves, without human’s aid. The pigs, who have more intelligence than any other animals, become the prominent leaders among them. It is all because their capability to manage other animals, especially their rhetorical ability. Because the inequality in their intelligence, some animals have to work harder, and some other animals do not. Therefore although they prevail to be equal (because they are all same as animal), the different intellectual level creates another social class gap. The pigs become their manager while the other animals such as horse, sheep, and cow become the pigs’ worker.
The knowledge which is possessed by the pigs, however, has a power. Because of that, the other animals believe of what the pigs are said. Williams argues that:
But the ‘ideology’ then hovers between ‘a system of beliefs of a certain class’ and ‘a system of illusory beliefs – false ideas or false consciousness – which can be contrasted with true or scientific knowledge. … This separation, however, is very much easier to carry out in theory than in practice. (Williams, 1977, p. 66)
Since the pigs have the power of knowledge, they can control the animal’s ideology. They create “a system of illusory beliefs” among other animal so that they believe that their life is better than before the uprising. Actually, they work harder under the pigs’ management. The pigs, who now become the upper class, maintain the status quo by making very much propaganda through the mouth of Squealer, the small fat pig. Squealer is characterized as a small pig who smart in negotiating, debating, and creating beautiful rhetoric so that the other animal always believe in what he said. His position is like the representative of the pigs, so other animals know the information of what the pigs are doing from his squeals.
Even more, the pigs actually know that the animal except the pigs are stupid by stating “[i]t was almost unbelievable, said Squealer, that animal couldn’t be so stupid” (Orwell, 1945, p. 78). The pigs, in the Napoleon regime, as the one who have more intelligence did not hold any education program to educate other animals, while they just build school for their children. So, it sustains the stupidity of the working class and the domination of the leisure class. Because they do not know anything but working, the notion “all animals are equal” is a mere propaganda to gain the support from the working class.
To spread the propaganda (to establish the status quo), the pigs use several forms of media. The first media is the “Beast of England” anthem. Firstly, the anthem is introduced by Old Major to gain the unity of the animals. The anthem contains messages that the animal shall unite to overthrown the domination of human, and every animal have to work hard to get it. However, after the pigs ruling, the song is banned to be sung.
‘It is no longer needed, comrade,” said Squealer stiffly. ‘Beast of England was the song of the Rebellion. But the Rebellion is now completed. The execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act. The enemy both external and internal has been defeated. In Beast of England we expressed our longing for a better society in days to come. But the society has now been established. (Orwell, 1945, p. 56)
In this quotation, Squealer forbids the animals to sing ‘Beast of England’ because the pigs think that the perfect condition of the farm has been established, although other animals do not think so. The song is banned because the pigs worry whether the animals will do the same rebellion toward the pigs. So, the pigs need to prevent any kind of action that can ignite other rebellions.
Because Squealer always said that the existing condition is better, it makes the animals, especially Boxer the horse, works harder by saying “I will work harder” all the times. The illusory belief becomes stronger by the divine statement of Moses the crow that there will be Sugarcandy Mountain, a place where the animals “shall rest for ever from [their] labours” (Orwell, 1945, p. 73). However, the pigs reject Moses’ statement, because, I think, it can creates the imagination whether the animals can rest from their labor. Of course, if the animals get rest from their labor, the pigs will get no food and have to work. It will distract the pigs’ position as the dominant class.
Also, the execution of the traitors creates a psychological effect to the animals. They become frightened to speak of what they had seen on the reality. The existence of the dogs around the pigs also creates fear. When someone protested about Napoleon’s decision, “they were promptly silenced by a tremendous growling from the dogs” (Orwell, 1945, p. 40). Although they realize that they see the injustice done by the pigs, they “lacked the words to express them” (Orwell, 1945, p. 55). So, all they can do is “remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to [them], and accept the leadership of Napoleon [the pig leader]” (Orwell, 1945, p. 55).
The Seven Commandments which enacted when Old Major is still alive also bond the animals into false consciousness. The later commandments are amended without informing other animals. Instead of making the animals united, the pigs use the commandments to strengthen their position as a dominant class. Of course other animals do not understand about it, because they can barely read these commandments. However, when Muriel noticed the amendments of the commandments, he does not understand what the meaning of the altered commandments is, because the pigs use manipulated language so that they just can read but nothing can they understand. For example, when Muriel realizes that the Fifth Commandment which sounds “No animal shall drink alcohol” is expanded into “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess”, he can just read it without knowing the meaning. In fact, it is a way done by the pigs to legitimate the alcohol drinking for their own sake.
As the representative of the pig, Squealer always makes propaganda to glorify the Napoleon’s regime. He always uses the maxims “Napoleon is always right” or reminds other animal to work harder like Boxer does. Also, he uses the statistic to ensure the other animal that there are many improvements after Mr. Jones’ departure. Again, it makes a false consciousness toward their existing condition, because if the existing condition is compared with the condition before Mr. Jones’ left, they work harder and paid lessen. However, Squealer prevails to design a notion that the condition will be better if they (the working animals) work harder, even Boxer, when he realizes that there is something wrong with their farm, innocently he states that “[t]he solution, as I see it, is to work harder” (Orwell, 1945, p. 54).
However, when the animals realize there is something wrong with the farm, nobody dares to speak. It can be happened because of the propaganda which Squealer sent to them; so that it creates a false consciousness among them therefore they think that everything is alright. Also, it might be because the animals get a trauma to realize that there are two classes among them, which are human and animal, although actually, the two classes are still existed in another form, which now are the pigs and the other working animals. The working animals do not want to be a subordinate class anymore, so they always think that there is no class distinction among them. The class issues become taboo to be spoken, because they believe that the life is getting better without human.
The death of Snowball who carries humanity issue by Napoleon’s hoof symbolizes that Napoleon kills the humanity. In the Battle of Windmill, Snowball, who is the former friends of Napoleon, turns to be the leader of human force. He brings the message that he supports the “humanity”. Snowball was killed by the Napoleon’s hoof, as the same as the humanity which had been lost from the working class animals. The working class animals have been alienated by Napoleon and friends. They become robot and forget what the aims of rebellion: to live happily without terror from anyone.
Although this novel contains a ton of political issue, it still can be considered as a children’s literature, because, as Hunt says following Sutherland: “[t]he books thus express their authors’ personal ideologies (whether consciously or unconsciously, openly or indirectly)” (1992, p. 18). The book cannot be separated from Orwell’s political view which sees that the totalitarianism is not the answer of capitalism which emerged by the Industrial Revolution in England. The class abolishment is merely a false consciousness because, however, there is always a leisure class and the working class even in the totalitarian governmental system. Orwell states that he wrote this book in full of his consciousness, as to depict the political condition on that day (Orwell, 1946).
To conclude, the novel depicted the lower class’ struggle to get the equality. Firstly the lower class is the animal, while the upper class is the human. After the human’s defeat, the social class is happened again among the animals because of their differentiation of intellectual level. However, the pig, who has more intellectual capacity, maintains the status quo because it is a privilege for them, so that they don’t have to work because there are other animals that fulfill their needs. The false consciousness of being equal actually alienated the working class, but they cannot do anything because of their lower intellectual capacity. The dominant class designs propaganda in kinds of media, particularly spreading issue and terror. Also, the status quo is maintained by maintain the working class’s stupidity.
Hunt, P. (Ed.). (1992). Literature for children. London: Routledge.
Orwell, G. (1945). Animal Farm. Henemann Educational Publishers.
Orwell, G. (1946). Why I Write – Essay by George Orwell. Retrieved December 10, 2011, from George Orwell Web Source: http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essays/why-i-write.htm
Williams, R. (1977). Marxism and literature. New York: Oxford University Press.