Animal Farm has been labeled by some as a dystopia or anti-utopia. “It is obvious that Orwell in Animal Farm set out with positive hopes of creating utopia. However, instead of projecting a utopia, he has projected an anti-utopia, a nightmarish world with a regime clothed in the beast fable of Animal Farm”. This idea of trying to create a utopia and instead of creating an anti-utopia is key in understanding the concept of leadership corruption illustrated by Animal Farm. The animals did not go into the rebellion wanting to create a Stalinist regime. All the animals, including the pigs, wanted to create a better living situation for all the creatures on the farm. The animals, including the pigs, wanted to create a utopian society Rich for themselves. Instead, in the end they created an anti-utopia that benefited no one except for the highest leadership.
Farmer Jones is portrayed at the beginning of the book as a “drunkard.” He is portrayed as someone who is unfair, treats his animals poorly, and only cares about himself. This is both expressed by the animals on the farm and shown in the descriptions by the narrator of the farm. Orwell, as the narrator supports the animals in their rebellion. “There is absolutely no doubt that Orwell’s sympathies are with the working class (the farm animals) in their revolutionary overthrow of Farmer Jones and establishment of a workers’ state (Animal Farm)” (John Newsinger). Orwell is showing, from the very beginning of the book, that it is not only the pigs that are subject to the corruption that is brought by power. He shows the reader that even humans have become evil in their positions of power. At the end of the book, after the pigs have completely taken over, become like the humans, and started living in the farmhouse, Newsinger remarks, “that as far as Orwell was concerned the pigs had become as bad as, indistinguishable from, not worse than, the humans” (Newsinger). The pigs were not simply poor leaders because they were animals or pigs instead, Rich for they were corrupted by the power in the exact same way Mr. Jones had been. They did not become worse. They became just like him.
Another obvious sign of the way leadership and power corrupts is seen in the evolution of the commandments of the farm. Shortly after the rebellion and the expulsion of Mr. Jones, the pigs, Napoleon and Snowball established a set of rules or commandments for the farm to live by. These commandments are very fair to all animals, and they are very well accepted by all the animals at the time of their institution. They state that all animals are equal and they protect the rights of the animals in general. There is nothing in the commandments indicating that one animal is better than another or giving specific power and authority to the pigs or to another species on the farm. Throughout the book, these commandments undergo subtle changes. The pigs, due to their level of literacy, have the ability to be persuasive in convincing the other animals that they are right. When these subtle changes occur, they are able to persuade the other animals that this is how it has always been. The changes that occur in the commandments are not changes that benefit all the animals, but instead benefit solely the pig leadership or justify the actions they have already completed. The rule changes specifically justify their wrongdoings and their breaking of the previous commandments. This evolution of commandments shows how power corrupted the pigs are. They were the ones who originally established the commandments. If they had wanted the commandments to unfairly benefit them, they could have established them in such a way originally. They instead established rules that gave the same rights to everyone. It was only after they were corrupted by the power and authority that they changed the rules to benefit themselves.
Another one of the most obvious examples of the way power can corrupt a leader is shown in the way Napoleon, the eventual supreme leader, uses the dogs. Shortly after the animal rebellion, the dogs have a litter of puppies. Napoleon takes those newborn puppies and hides them somewhere. No one else on the farm has any idea what has happened to them. Napoleon’s intentions, at the time of taking the dogs, was not known. The dogs, due to their aggressive nature and physical dominance, represent power. The fact that they are under the control of Napoleon gives him a lot of authority. It becomes clear later how this authority has corrupted Napoleon and caused him to use it in a way that hurts the others. First, he uses the dogs, not fully grown, to chase off his competitor, Snowball the pig, from the farm. The power that is gained by having the dogs causes Napoleon to do something that, from an outsider’s point of view, is evil and he would not do otherwise. The second example of the way the dogs corrupted Napoleon is when he uses them to slaughter the animals that he says have committed treason. These dogs and the power they give Napoleon, along with the success of the first exploit involving the dogs, give Napoleon the idea that he can do anything and get away with it. This power-high causes him to do more evil.
Finally, Animal Farm has been regarded over the years since it was written as a political satire comparing the Soviet Union to a farm of Animals. It is important to understand that while Orwell uses the Soviet Union as a clear comparison, Animal Farm is a witty tale about leadership in government in general. Orwell’s portrayal of the animals’ revolution shows the reader that the obtaining of power is not necessarily the most difficult part of becoming a leader, but instead, the difficult part is using that power correctly once it is obtained. The transformation of the commandments, the evolution of the commandments, and the story’s anti-utopian nature show how power corrupts a leader and causes that leader to act in a way they did not intend on acting before the power was obtained.
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