The idea Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely is proven to be true in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, through a number of dishonorable actions made by the leaders of the farm, Napoleon and Snowball. The animals on Manor Farm rebel by overthrowing their human caretakers, creating all new standards of living, and eventually learning the true intentions of their fellow comrades. The rebellion, manipulation, and dictatorship that takes place throughout the novel is a portrayal of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
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Orwell uses symbolism to compare the animals on the farm to the people revolting during the Russian Revolution to show how a moral government can quickly become corrupt through possession of absolute power.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a pair of two revolutions, the first took place in February and the second in October, which overthrew the government and placed someone new in power due to mistreatment of the people and corruption of the government. Orwell focuses Animal Farm on the corruption and rebellion that takes place during the Russian Revolution as a comparison to portray how power and government can turn corrupt when in the hands of one person.
Power on Manor Farm, before the rebellion took place, was totally in the hands of the humans who owned the farm. The humans in charge of the farm had absolute power in which they would make the animals work hard days in order to produce and later take the production of the animals for their own use. Mr.Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, runs the farm with no regard for the animals there and treats them as if their lives are not important. For instance, the animals are never fed, are slaughtered, no animal gets to die naturally, and every animal family is broken up by sale of the young: And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones such is the natural life of a pig. But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end (Orwell 10). The animals have finally had enough of the way they have been treated and decide to come together in an effort to overthrow Jones and take the farm into their own hands.
All of the animals on the farm come together in a meeting called by the respected and oldest pig Old Major to discuss the rebellion against the humans. As the animals gather in the barn for the meeting, the pigs are sure to be in the front, showing assertiveness, and listening to what Old Major is saying as an opportunity to gain knowledge and essentially gain power. The pigs are known as the most clever of the animals because they do things such as teach themselves how to read and organize animal committees, which makes them believe they are superior to the other animals. Old Major announces to the animals that he does not have much time left with them and that they have no choice but to rebel by running Mr.Jones off of the farm if they ever want to live a happy life. In preparing to overcome human rule, Old Major gives the animals a rule of thumb, reminds them to remain cautious, and never resemble humans: Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him (Orwell 9). Orwell foreshadows the pigs’ eventual abuse of power by the actions made by the pigs during Old Major’s speech at the meeting.
The animals on the farm are aggrieved with the way they are treated by Mr.Jones and come to an agreement to fulfill Old Major’s proposition of rebelling against the humans for the farm and working together for the common good. After being left in the cold and forgetting to be fed by the alcoholic Mr.Jones, the animals break into the barn and take all the feed they can get. When Jones and other humans arrive to the barn carrying whips, the animals drive them away from the farm. Like the Russian Revolution, the animals’ revolution comes from their anger of being mistreated. With Old Major gone, the pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, take his ideas and expand on them creating the Seven Commandments to govern themselves and filling the power void that used to be man’s. The pigs use their power advantage to manipulate the animals through the commandments and eventually gain control over them. The pigs begin manipulating the animals by breaking commandments and bending the rules for their own personal gain. For instance, the pigs broke the commandment Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy and justify themselves to the animals by saying it is necessary to interact with humans in order to get materials they need: Napoleon announced that he had decided upon a new policy. From now onwards Animal Farm would engage in trade with neighbouring farms: not of course, for any commercial purpose but simply in order to obtain certain materials which were urgently necessary (Orwell 42). Along with going against their own commandments, the pigs are confronted by the other animals regarding the milk and apples they have been secretly taking for their own meals. Sent by Napoleon and Snowball to explain their reasoning for taking the milk and apples each day, Squealer tells the animals that they only take those items for their well-being as the brains of the farm, not because they enjoy them: You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health (Orwell 14). Squealer also mentions that the farm needs and depends on the pigs. Although the pigs receive special privileges and break the commandments, they manage to verbally manipulate the animals into believing them when they say it is all done for the farm’s sake.
The rebellion and creation of Animalism on the farm results in a flourishing harvest and happiness from the animals; however, more signs of power and manipulation arise from the pigs based on their intellectual differences from the rest of the farm. Although most of the animals on the farm are happy, Mollie, a horse on the farm symbolizing the middle class during the Russian Revolution, is not pleased with the effects of the revolution and Benjamin, another horse, is skeptical of the situation, refusing to believe the good will continue.
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