When I was done reading the book Animal Farm by George Orwell, the question I was left with was whether equality is really achievable? Is the fight for equality and socialism a futile one? I can confidently say that there has never been a point in history where humanity has experienced equality on all levels of race, social class, and genders. I honestly don’t think it’s possible!
Revolutions come and go but do the core values of what began the uprising stand the test of time? I feel that all that happens after a revolution is that the scales are tipped in favor of the oppressed but how quickly has history shown us that the oppressed can swiftly turn into the oppressors of even their own people. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the core ideologies of socialism and equality but once you add the human factor the outcome becomes more uncontrollable because of the iniquitous nature of humanity. I believe this makes every human susceptible to corruption no matter how pure their intentions, even without knowing they have been poisoned.
“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions”
No truer words have been said. No one really knows the origins of the above-mentioned proverb but it has shown to be a core part of the human experience and this book as well. I’m sure that this has applied to me too, though I hate thinking about it, I know that somewhere along the lines I have said or done something to someone with what I thought was good intention only to have hurt that person more. Sh*t happens! same throughout history and I’m pretty sure the future as well, however, I will come full circle with this quote later on in the conclusion. So let’s dive into the overall undertones of this book.
The story begins on an English farm called the Manor Farm owned by Mr. Jones and his wife. The third-party narrator informs the reader of the situation on the farm and brings to light the inadequacy of Mr. Jone’s leadership in running the farm and taking care of the farm animals efficiently, however, it is important to note that Mr. Jones wasn’t always this way and there was a time when he did truly care for his animals.
The story then cuts to Old Major a stout pig who one night gathers the animals in a barn to explain to them a dream he had of a revolution where animals would take control over humans who have far too long suppressed and abused them. Old Major proceeds to leave them with a revolutionary song “Beasts of England“, that speaks of condemning human selfishness and cruelty as well as a time where through bitter sacrifice and courage, animals in England and beyond can rule and be free.
It’s important that I mention that the premise of the whole book is a satire to reflect everything that led to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent reign of Stalin and the Soviet Union. That said, Mr. Jones is supposed to represent Czar Nicholas II or an old government/upper class that has lost its way and empathy for the people who’s hard work makes the economy. It’s weird because so many governments today are run in the same way, where the working class, like mules, are pushed to contribute to the growing economy but don’t fully benefit from it. The majority goes in the pockets of those that rule and after many years of doing this, people become disillusioned to the growing pains of the lower class and in a naive manner can’t fathom their possible downfall.
Old Major I believe is supposed to represent Karl Marx, one the creators of communism and Vladimir Lenin who also drew upon the same communist principles in leading the early Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union. To me, Old Major represents an array of leaders that over history have emerged in defense of the downtrodden. These are the early leaders who sow the first seeds of rebellion and especially when they die, cement their idealistic somewhat utopian views of how the world should be, sparking ideas for change in the oppressed.
When Old Major dies, the farm animals led by two pigs Snowball and Napolean, holding strong onto his vision go to war against Mr. Jones, run him out of the farm and subsequently take over and rename it the Animal Farm, a symbol of their victory. Using Old Major’s vision as a canvas they set up the Seven Commandments of Animalism as a value system for their new territory of which the most important commandment is that “All Animals are Equal”. Dare I say that this is how all revolutions are started but how quickly can utopian views be perverted for the benefit of the few. How funny is it that a revolution can birth change but how quickly that can switch back to either how things were before or even worse.
On the farm the pigs are regarded as being the smartest of all the animals and since they are the only ones who can fully read they naturally take the led, with Snowball and Napolean “co-governing” the farm. It’s made clear that Snowball and Napoleon have a lot of opposing views on how the farm should be run but they both agree on the fact that due to their intellectual input in the revolution, pigs should have a higher ranking in the farm with special food items set aside for themselves thus starting the first divide within the new system. Snowball, in this case, represents Leo Trotsky while Napoleon represents Stalin. Since there can’t be two leaders, Napolean cunningly chases out Snowball and places himself as the new leader of the Animal Farm and through his reign out of fear continues his smear campaign against Snowball. Again, fiction imitates history. How quickly comrades can turn to foes all from being drunk on the taste of power.
As Napoleon continues to rule over the farm in a way that soon becomes synonymous with a dictatorship, the pigs become the upper class and rule over the rest of the working class animals. The dream of Old Major has been perverted into a new form of capitalism. The old Animalism rules have been abused and abolished and the new rule of Animalism has been set that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, in this case, the pigs. The pigs also mention that they will rename the farm back to “Manor Farm” symbolizing what seems to be a u-turn back to oppression. However did the oppression ever really end or was it just a fleeting moment of victory?
Alas, in a turn of events, the author leaves us with the following final sentence:
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
In other words over time, the very pigs that were so fiercely fighting against the oppression of all animals from humans, became no less different than their previous oppressors after tasting the comforts of being on the top of the totem. Void of empathy while drunk on power and greed they forgot what and whom they had been fighting for to the point of hurting their own comrades even worse than the previous regime.
While the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the completion of that proverb is that the road to heaven is paved with good actions. Therefore, what we can learn from this is, no matter how noble the intentions of a cause whether revolutionary or of your own volition it really has no impact unless the actions that follow match it. While I still believe in the naivety of reaching true equality, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still strive for it and in the process be hyper-aware, ensuring that whatever actions that follow truly match the initial purpose.
There is so much more to unpack from this book but I’ll end it here for now for fear of turning this into a thesis. Feel free to let me know what thoughts you had reading this.
Never forget to Carpe all the Diems.