Ruchika Verma/The Elements of Existentialism in George Orwell’s Animal Farm

Ruchika Verma

Lecturer,

Department of English,

Lovely Professional University,

Phagwara, Punjab.

Abstract:

Since times immortal, the tradition of domination is in existence on the earth. The powerful have always dominated the powerless or weak. The human race has always had the history of dominator and dominated. The Aryans divided the society into four distinct classes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaish and Shudra, with the Shudras being dominated and suppressed by the upper class. Even in animal world this is something quite common that the big animals suppress the small ones to show their power and domination. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is one of the best examples of class distinction and inequality being practised in the name of equality. It shows that how the intelligent pigs use the other animals on Manor Farm for their benefits and upliftment. It gives us a glimpse of modern politics where no one helps the other person without any malevolent motive. It also gives us a glimpse of the fake compassion that is shown by politicians for their followers as long as they are of use for them.

 

Paper:

Eric Arthur Blair was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic writing with the pen name George Orwell. He was one of the most prominent writers of 20th century whose work voiced the social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism and commitment to democratic socialism. The Times ranked him as the second greatest British writer on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. His writings still influence the popular and political culture with many of his neologies like Orwellian, cold war, Big Brother, thought police etc becoming part of the language.

Animal Farm is a socio-political novel that tells us the story of the pathetic condition of weak being oppressed by the intelligent/ strong animals. The author has made use of fable to narrate the tale of exploitation of weaker section which makes the novel an interesting read. Animal Farm was a farm owned and managed by Mr.Jones. He was not a good master and due to his habit of heavy drinking was often careless towards his animals. This is a typical example of rich landlords indulging in all wrong habits and being careless towards their people who are forced to work endlessly for them.

One such incident led to rebellion on the farm, something that was brewing up in the minds of the animals because of the inciting speech of old Major, an old prized boar on the farm, which was further fuelled by Snowball and Napoleon, after old Major’s death. Old Major is an example of a great thinker who showed path to others, Snowball exemplifies that politician who wants to work for the well-being of the people but is pulled down by others and Napoleon stands for those who work towards their upliftment at the cost of others. Had Mr.Jones been a good and caring master then may be no animal would have ever brought the idea of rebellion in his mind leave alone rebelling against him. May be it was this careless attitude of Mr.Jones only that forced old Major to give such an inciting speech to the animals on the farm

‘Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength;… It is summed up in a single word—Man. Man is the only real enemy we have.

Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. (ch.1, pg.3, 4)

The result of this rebellion was that Mr.Jones was driven out of the farm by the animals and not only Mr.Jones but even his wife ran away from the back door gathering whatever little things she could gather at that point of time. Mrs.Jones actions showed the human nature of not being able to overcome the greed and desire for riches and valuables even when one’s life is at stake. The animals became their own masters. They were more than happy by this new found freedom and may be they were expecting a great change- a change that would never come as long as the equality is not there, as long as discrimination is prevalent.

Now the animals were being led by the pigs who were believed to be the most intelligent animals on the farm and under their abled guidance they burnt all the symbols of their slavery i.e harnesses, nose-rings etc and also the farm was renamed as ANIMAL FARM.

Napoleon sent for pots of black and white paint and led the way down to the five-barred gate that gave on to the main road. Then Snowball (for it was Snowball who was best at writing) took a brush between the two knuckles of his trotter, painted out MANOR FARM from the top bar of the gate and in its place painted ANIMAL FARM. This was to be the name of the farm from now onwards. After this they went back to the farm buildings, where Snowball and Napoleon sent for a ladder which they caused to be set against the end wall of the big barn. (ch.2, pg.15)

Even the teachings of old Major became a kind of rule book for the animals according to which they were being governed by the pigs. All animals except the pigs followed these teachings by heart and soul, whereas whenever the pigs got a chance they used to break them for their benefits only. This shows that rules are made by rulers for their benefits and exploitation of the poor

… had elaborated old Major’s teachings into a complete system of thought, to which they gave the name of Animalism. Several nights a week, after Mr. Jones was asleep, they held secret meetings in the barn and expounded the principles of Animalism to the others. (ch.2, pg.9,10)

These commandments were no less than a Bible for the animals, even for the pigs at the beginning. These gave a sense of zeal and sense of belongingness to animals, something very common whenever we tend to get a rightful possession over something or when we are successful in our venture. This zeal doubles when the success comes unexpectedly. Now the zealous animals worked for self not for humans. In the meanwhile, Pigs had learnt how to read and write from the discarded books of Mr.Jones’ kids. This helped them in better administration of the farm and gave them upper hand over the other animals. It was this education only which somewhere gave them a strong hold over other animals, allowing them to dominate them and also its lack became a reason for the other animals getting suppressed by them. This shows that education is all powerful and if used tactfully can turn tables on anyone.

Initially they tried to educate other animals too but it did not yield much result as most animals were not able to learn much except a few like Benjamin, the donkey and Muriel, the goat. Some like Mollie were reluctant to learn beyond writing their name. Still all were happy with their new found freedom.

As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly. The dogs learned to read fairly well, but were not interested in reading anything except the Seven Commandments. Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than the dogs,… Benjamin could read as well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty… Clover learnt the whole alphabet, but could not put words together. Boxer could not get beyond the letter D. He would trace out A, B, C, D, in the dust with his great hoof, and then would stand staring at the letters with his ears back, sometimes shaking his forelock, trying with all his might to remember what came next and never succeeding. On several occasions, indeed, he did learn E, F, G, H, but by the time he knew them, it was always discovered that he had forgotten A, B, C, and D. Finally he decided to be content with the first four letters, and used to write them out once or twice every day to refresh his memory. Mollie refused to learn any but the six letters which spelt her own name…

None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A. (ch.3, pg.20,21)

The animals were happy in their own world on the farm, having nothing to do with the world outside the farm. But this happiness and freedom of animals was interrupted, and peace of the farm was disturbed by an attack on the farm by armed men led by Mr.Jones. He still harboured the desire of having a possession of his farm back from the animals and this cherished desire was aired by the people in Red Lion, a local bar where he used to go and drink heavily. He was always telling the people about his plight there with the hope of getting sympathy. Animals under the leadership of Snowball fought the human beings bravely and finally defeated them with two of them getting injured and one was dead. Basically their victory was the result of Snowball’s strong belief in unity and brotherhood, trait that we find missing in Napoleon who was greedy and self-centred. The animals commemorated this victory by singing “Beasts of England”, a song taught to them by old Major. This song infact bound the animals together through all their sufferings. This battle was given the name ‘Battle of Cowshed’.

There was much discussion as to what the battle should be called. In the end, it was named the Battle of the Cowshed, since that was where the ambush had been sprung. Mr. Jones’s gun had been found lying in the mud, and it was known that there was a supply of cartridges in the farmhouse. It was decided to set the gun up at the foot of the Flagstaff, like a piece of artillery, and to fire it twice a year—once on October the twelfth, the anniversary of the Battle of the Cowshed, and once on Midsummer Day, the anniversary of the Rebellion. (ch.4, pg.29)

This battle brought about many changes on the farm including new reforms and committees being made for the wellbeing of animals on the farm by Snowball. Snowball and Napoleon were always at loggerheads because of this as the former emphasised on the development of animals whereas latter laid emphasis on the military development of the farm. They both were like two politicians from opposition parties or from the same party but with contrasting ideologies. Both had their own set of supporters among the animals, but finally Snowball was driven out of the farm by the dogs led by Napoleon, when the former was trying to impress the animals with the need of windmill in the farm and garner support from them.

These dogs were just like a private army in the manner of Stalin who was having forced support that helped him in suppressing those who dared to raise their voice against him. Now Napoleon was wholly solely the master of the farm with Squealer as his faithful follower. The very first change that came on the farm after this incident was that the “Sunday Meetings” were put to an end, they were no longer meant for discussing things but only for the animals getting instructions from Napoleon, saluting the flag and singing “Beasts of England”.

Napoleon, with the dogs following him, now mounted on to the raised portion of the floor where Major had previously stood to deliver his speech. He announced that from now on the Sunday-morning Meetings would come to an end. They were unnecessary, he said, and wasted time. In future all questions relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of pigs, presided over by himself. These would meet in private and afterwards communicate their decisions to the others. The animals would still assemble on Sunday mornings to salute the flag, sing ‘Beasts of England’, and receive their orders for the week; but there would be no more debates. (ch.5, pg.36)

Some animals who tried to protest against this were quietened by the dogs just the way the forced support of Stalin eliminated entire families for disobeying Stalin. Now the life was no longer the same on the farm. The animals were disillusioned, their dream of a peaceful, free land of their own was coming to an end. The animals were always living under constant fear of Napoleon and his dogs. Soon the plans of Snowball like construction of windmill etc were being initiated by Napoleon in his name and also he, through Squealer, accused Snowball of being a traitor. The animals were forced to work extra in the name of voluntary work which actually was not voluntary but indirectly the animals were given an indication of reduction of the rations of those who would refuse to do this voluntary work. Soon the animals were toiling hard for the windmill as well as in fields with the pigs doing easy tasks like supervision and enjoying at the cost of other animals. But this was resulting in the reduction of food grains. The animals felt happy and forgot their sufferings as their hard work being to take shape in the form of windmill. However, the elation of animals turned into sorrow with the weather playing havoc and erasing the windmill to the ground. This natural destruction was also attributed to Snowball by Napoleon, who he said used to visit the farm at night. He ordered investigation into it. On the other hand, humans refused to believe that Snowball was behind it and said that the walls of the windmill were thin due to which they fell down because of the strong winds. Most of the animals believed in what Napoleon said revealing their fickle nature. Even the humans revealed their nature of showing interest in the matters of other people even if it is something not concerning them.

The pigs had also started dealing with the outside world i.e the human beings in order to procure the things that could not be produced by the animals on the farm like horseshoes, machinery for the windmill, etc. Their link with the outside world was Mr.Whymper. But soon this trade for basis amenities changed into a trade for procuring luxuries for pigs where the other animals had to contribute in one or the other way. The first contribution came from the hens in the form of their eggs. Initially the hens protested by laying their eggs on roof rafters and letting them fall on to the ground and rendering them useless for anyone. Finally, they had to budge and agree for this business deal as they were forced to starve to death by the strict orders of Napoleon.

Their method was to fly up to the rafters and there lay their eggs, which smashed to pieces on the floor. Napoleon acted swiftly and ruthlessly. He ordered the hens’ rations to be stopped, and decreed that any animal giving so much as a grain of corn to a hen should be punished by death. The dogs saw to it that these orders were carried out. For five days the hens held out, then they capitulated and went back to their nesting boxes. Nine hens had died in the meantime. Their bodies were buried in the orchard, and it was given out that they had died of coccidiosis. (ch.7, pg.51)

Few days after this debacle, the animals were summoned in the barn by Napoleon. Everyone was clueless about this meeting but what happened over there shocked the sensibilities of all the animals. Some animals were killed by Napoleon’s dogs for betraying the farm as these disillusioned and scared animals were forced to confess to be working for Snowball. However, this was just a way of Napoleon to create terror and fearful atmosphere on the farm. The scared, stupefied animals left the barn and gathered near the windmill.

…They were the same four pigs as had protested when Napoleon abolished the Sunday Meetings. Without any further prompting they confessed that they had been secretly in touch with Snowball ever since his expulsion, that they had collaborated with him in destroying the windmill, and that they had entered into an agreement with him to hand over Animal Farm to Mr. Frederick. They added that Snowball had privately admitted to them that he had been Jones’s secret agent for years past…

The three hens who had been the ringleaders in the attempted rebellion over the eggs now came forward and stated that Snowball had appeared to them in a dream and incited them to disobey Napoleon’s orders… Then a goose came forward and confessed to having secreted six ears of corn during the last year’s harvest and eaten them in the night. Then a sheep confessed to having urinated in the drinking pool—urged to do this, so she said, by Snowball—and two other sheep confessed to having murdered an old ram, an especially devoted follower of Napoleon, by chasing him round and round a bonfire when he was suffering from a cough… And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet..

When it was all over, the remaining animals, except for the pigs and dogs, crept away in a body…. (ch.7, pg.56, 57)

They hurled together and started singing “Beasts of England” in a mournful manner. These activities had started shaking the faith of the animals. Now, no longer “Beasts of England” motivated them but somewhere it gave them solace and they hoped of good times ahead. Suddenly, Squealer appeared there and told the animals not to sing the song anymore as it was meant for rebellion and Napoleon had declared that with the confessions of animals and punishments meted out to them the rebellion was over, so this song was no longer required and had thus been abolished by his orders.

They had just finished singing it for the third time when Squealer, attended by two dogs, approached them with the air of having something important to say. He announced that, by a special decree of Comrade Napoleon, ‘Beasts of England’ had been abolished. From now onwards it was forbidden to sing it. (ch.7, pg.59)

All the animals were shaken completely. Few days after this incident, Clover went to the wall, taking Muriel along to check the commandment and clarify her doubt. She and many other animals remembered that the commandment said that no animal is going to kill other animal. As they reached the wall to check it, it had already been tampered with by Squealer and it said that no animal is going to kill any animal without a reason. Squealer, the mouthpiece of Napoleon, made the animals see the reason behind these killings. This is another instance of the fickle mindedness of the animals who without questioning anything believed in what Squealer said. After this no animal ever dared to question the actions of Napoleon.

Life on the farm was going on like before only with hardships and sufferings increasing day by day. Rations of the animals were decreasing day by day but the luxurious life of the pigs was continuing like before only, infact they had started consuming alcohol too. News of decreasing food was spreading like wildfire among humans too and to put an end to it Napoleon decided to show a wrong picture to Whymper so that he could go and tell the people about the same.

In addition, Napoleon ordered the almost empty bins in the store-shed to be filled nearly to the brim with sand, which was then covered up with what remained of the grain and meal. On some suitable pretext Whymper was led through the store-shed and allowed to catch a glimpse of the bins. He was deceived, and continued to report to the outside world that there was no food shortage on Animal Farm. (ch.7, pg.50)

One day when a beech spinney was cleared, a pile of timber was found that was lying over there since the time of Mr.Jones. For pigs every such thing was like a new business proposition that was going to get money for their luxuries. Talks were going on with both the neighbouring farms- Pinchfield and Foxwood-though earlier the terms with them were not good. Everytime the deal was to be finalised with one of the farms, Snowball was rumoured to be in that farm and the deal could not be finalised. However, soon the deal was finalised with Mr.Fredrick, the owner of Pinchfield, and again Napoleon gave an example of his shrewd nature. Infact by this time the teachings and dreams of old Major had all been overcome by greed and desire for luxuries of pigs. Fredrick was asked to pay in cash instead of cheque (something that the pigs heard for the first time so, thought it to be a means of deceiving them by Fredrick).

The pigs were in ecstasies over Napoleon’s cunning. By seeming to be friendly with Pilkington he had forced Frederick to raise his price by twelve pounds… Frederick had wanted to pay for the timber with something called a cheque, which, it seemed, was a piece of paper with a promise to pay written upon it. But Napoleon was too clever for him. He had demanded payment in real five-pound notes, which were to be handed over before the timber was removed…

Meanwhile the timber was being carted away at high speed. When it was all gone, another special meeting was held in the barn for the animals to inspect Frederick’s bank-notes…. (ch.8, pg.67)

 

But soon Whymper came with the news how Napoleon was deceived by Fredrick with fake currency notes. So, finally oversmartness of Napoleon had taken him for an expensive ride and Fredrick didn’t even give him time to recover from it. This was something that Napoleon deserved by then the poor animals too had to pay a price for it. Immediately after this the farm was attacked by Fredrick and his men, giving no time to Napoleon to make any arrangement, even Mr.Pilkington refused to help them.

…Terrified, the animals waited. It was impossible now to venture out of the shelter of the buildings. After a few minutes the men were seen to be running in all directions. Then there was a deafening roar. The pigeons swirled into the air, and all the animals, except Napoleon, flung themselves flat on their bellies and hid their faces. When they got up again, a huge cloud of black smoke was hanging where the windmill had been. Slowly the breeze drifted it away. The windmill had ceased to exist!

…There were songs, speeches, and more firing of the gun, and a special gift of an apple was bestowed on every animal, with two ounces of corn for each bird and three biscuits for each dog. It was announced that the battle would be called the Battle of the Windmill,,…. (ch.8, pg.69-72)

Once again animals started with the building of windmill. Their hardships had increased far more than before. Just like the lower classes keep on working for the benefits of upper classes in the same way the lower animals were always toiling hard for the pigs. Exploitation is part of the life of lower class. Also the animals had started building a school building for the thirty-one young pigs believed to be parented by Napoleon. With the birth of these piglets started obvious discrimination between pigs and other animals like these young pigs were not allowed to play with the young ones of other animals. Similarly, when a pig and any other animal were passing each other on the road then the other animal was to give way to the pig by standing aside and after the pig had gone its way must it go its way. This discrimination reminded one of the rule of Hitler where Nazis were the privileged class and Jews were the subjugated ones.

About this time, too, it was laid down as a rule that when a pig and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand aside. (ch.9, pg.76)

These incidents are in a way testing times of anyone’s patience. And the patience exhibited by the animals is a reminder of the exploitation of powerless Jews by powerful Nazis. The animals never protested or asked any questions and animals like Boxer always felt “Napoleon is always right”. But even their loyalty was not paid back properly by him. Boxer was always the one who reached the site of windmill before other animals and also the one who left it after all other animals had left. He toiled very hard for the construction of it. And when he met with an accident on the construction site the pigs should him his true colours. He was brought back to his shed by other animals and had to stay their without any medical aid attended to only by Clover and Benjamin that too when they were free. This showed that when somebody losses physical strength then s/he becomes useless for the authorities, they want those who can toil for them not the ones who become dependent upon them. Boxer was now a burden because of lack of physical strength and his disability. They had to get free of him at the earliest and they did it. After two days of the accident, a van came to take him to the town. Benjamin, who could read as well as any of the pigs, told the animals that the van didn’t belong to the vet but to a knacker and the animals in vain tried to help Boxer to come out of it. Boxer, who earlier was a strong animal was now helpless and could not even defend himself. On the other hand, Squealer in his convincing manner convinced the animals that it was vet’s van that he had bought from a knacker and didn’t get the time to get it repainted. The fickle-minded animals believed him and forgot about Boxer till further news. Two days after this incident came the news of Boxer’s death and, information that how Boxer was taken care of in a nice manner and the entire expenditure was borne by Napoleon. The animals received the news with great pain but nobody bothered to question anything including Clover and Benjamin who were Boxer’s constant companions. This basically shows that fear is above compassion and friendship.

Napoleon also addressed the animals and gave a speech in honour of Boxer. He reminded animals of Boxer’s maxims and told them that Boxer’s dying wish was that animals should work hard. He in a way was trying to assert that the exploitation that animals were subjected to was something that was approved of and supported by one of their fellow beings so, they should also follow in his footsteps without thinking of raising any questions. To give the animals a feeling of belongingness, he announced that there would be a feast in honour of Boxer, which did take place but only for pigs not for other animals. This left the animals someone disillusioned once again, but they didn’t protest as usual.

On the day appointed for the banquet, a grocer’s van drove up from Willingdon and delivered a large wooden crate at the farmhouse. That night there was the sound of uproarious singing, which was followed by what sounded like a violent quarrel and ended at about eleven o’clock with a tremendous crash of glass. No one stirred in the farmhouse before noon on the following day, and the word went round that from somewhere or other the pigs had acquired the money to buy themselves another case of whisky. (ch.9, pg.84)

Eventually the hard work of animals paid and the windmill was completed but this was not an end to the exploitation of the lower class infact it was just the beginning. Napoleon named the mill after himself. With passage of time many of the old animals of the farm like Muriel etc had died and many new like the two horses had been brought on the farm. The old ones remembered the old days, days of revolution, picture of which was fading in their mind because of the manipulations of the pigs. New ones and the young ones of the old animals lived on the tales told by the old ones. Luxuries of pigs had increased. New changes came where they started walking on their hind legs and altered the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad” to “Four legs good, two legs better” and also they started wearing clothes like men. Animals saw all these changes without uttering a word about it.

One day a delegation of men led by Mr.Pilkington came to inspect the farm. They felt happy to see how well the pigs had managed their lower animals and told the pigs if they had their lower animals they (humans) too had their lower beings to do their work. Still they praised Napoleon for the control that he had on his lower class. After this they all gathered inside the farm house and rejoiced. All the animals gathered outside the farm and saw the pigs and the men playing cards and drinking. In between Mr.Pilkington raised a toast for Napoleon and the pigs for the way they had managed the farm. At this time only Napoleon made some announcements that broke the disillusioned animals completely.

He did not believe, he said, that any of the old suspicions still lingered, but certain changes had been made recently in the routine of the farm …Hitherto the animals on the farm had had a rather foolish custom of addressing one another as “Comrade.” This was to be suppressed…the green flag which flew from the masthead. If so, they would perhaps have noted that the white hoof and horn with which it had previously been marked had now been removed. It would be a plain green flag from now onwards.

…Napoleon, was only now for the first time announcing it—that the name “Animal Farm” had been abolished. Henceforward the farm was to be known as “The Manor Farm”—which, he believed, was its correct and original name.

“Gentlemen,” concluded Napoleon, “I will give you the same toast as before, but in a different form. Fill your glasses to the brim. Gentlemen, here is my toast: To the prosperity of The Manor Farm!” (ch.10, pg.93-94)

Seeing the rejoicing pigs and men, suddenly the animals realized that there’s was no difference between the two. Both were supressing their lower class and were using them for their own benefit. Once that was attained then the lower class lost its importance for them and was just useless for them.

The novel is basically a satire on the political situation of the world. If we look at the character of old Major in the novel, it is similar to that of Karl Marx. Just like Marx, old Major also believed in the equality of all the animals. He, just like Marx wanted the working class to stand against the capitalists, wanted the animals to produce for themselves and not for men. He wanted the animals to understand that MAN was their greatest enemy. As both leaders wanted radical changes made to their current state of life, Old Major introduced the idea of Animalism and a utopian state where

“All animals are equal”(pg 4) , which is based on the Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx ““From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” (Communist

Manifesto) (Jacobson, 2002)

Both the leaders believed in addressing their respective companions/ followers as “Comrades” irrespective of the differences between them so as to incite a sense of unity and equality among them. However, Orwell manifested the shortcomings in old Major’s vision using ironic phrases that reemphasised the ideas that no matter how desirable the ideal, man’s instinct for power makes the classless society impossible. (Opalinska, 1997) In his speech, Old Major mentioned “the more intelligent animal” (pg 13) and that the pigs “immediately sat in front of the platform” (pg 3). This in a way foreshadowed the success of old Major’s revolution, because its power was once again granted to a few.

Orwell made old Major die at the beginning of the ch.2 only which means that Major’s high ideals were lifeless and died with him only. Also like Marx, old Major’s body was buried after his death.

From the beginning, Animal Farm had been a struggle for one’s identity. First, it was the struggle of animals to safeguard their identity from humans like the rebellion of commoners against Czar Nicholas and the result was that they drove Mr.Jones and his men out of the farm. To erase all signs of their slavery and supremacy of man even the name of the farm was changed to Manor Farm.

Secondly, it was a struggle of pigs to prove their supremacy over animals. In doing so the pigs befooled the animals at every level. They had their way by hook or by crook. Whether it was stealing the milk and the apples from other animals or having luxuries of life, the animals always betrayed the other animals in the name of Mr.Jones.

References:

Orwell, George, Animal Farm, Penguin Books, England, 2008

http://cherrywu102.weebly.com/animal-farm-and-karl-marx.html

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