George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a story of pure propaganda. Propaganda is a recurring theme and technique seen and used by characters in the book, as well as the author. Animal Farm is an allegory that focuses on the communist revolution in Russia. Being an allegory, events in the book accurately depict actual events in history that actually relate to propaganda.
Propaganda is a central element to the plot of Animal Farm. Propaganda is used by various methods in the book. These methods vary depending on who uses them. Characters in the book use them because of who they are. Orwell also uses propaganda, simply by writing this book. This book clearly shows his views on communism and events that took place in history.
Orwell uses political propaganda the most in his novel. As previously stated, the entire book represents his political views on historic events. For example, Comrade Napoleon, once in power, slowly makes them work harder and stray away from that perfect paradise that they were promised once rebelling from Jones. This reflects the betrayal employed by the Russian government. Another example is when the animals on the farm work harder, but the windmill is destroyed several times. Each time this happens, the animals are told to work harder to repair it. These were the same techniques used by the Russian government. Also, the class distinction that is created on the farm is an example of political propaganda. Towards the end of the novel, the pigs, dogs, and Napoleon get much more food and other privileges than the rest of the animals. This class distinction comes to exist contrary to their original reform ideas. All three of these previous examples are examples of political propaganda. They are political comments that are implied by Orwell. By using this story, Orwell successfully transmits his political views to the reader.
In Animal Farm, Orwell mostly employs the element of patriotism. Being an Englishman, Orwell is criticizing the communist regime in Russia. Also, since it was published in a time of war, World War 2, his work is most definitely going to have an impact on people’s patriotism.
As far as the novel is concerned, Orwell also uses patriotism among the animals. There are numerous examples of this in the book. Comrade Napoleon employs these methods of propaganda, just to remain popular and in power. For example, the saying “Four legs good, two legs bad!” that is said many times over the course of the book, is pure propaganda. It is not surprising that Comrade Napoleon made this saying so popular. This saying, is the “plain folks” technique to propaganda. Using that saying, Comrade Napoleon is relating to the rest of the animals. As far as they can tell, Napoleon has four legs, so he must be a friend, which is also written in their Commandments. This is all to gain popularity among the animals, which is a device popularly used among politics in real life.
Another example is the use of “transfer” in the novel. It is no coincidence that all the animals listen to the pigs. This is because they are smarter than the rest of the animals. Because the pigs hold prestige over the other animals, the other animals are almost forced to follow them. Also, whenever something bad happens in the book, Squealer is sent to deliver a speech to the animals. Why is it that he ends every speech about a bad incident with “Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?” That line is propaganda at its ugliest. Finishing a speech with a line like that will leave people speechless, which is exactly why it is said. No animal on the farm would dare question that. No matter what bad event happens on the farm, whether its Napoleons fault or not, if Squealer says that line, nobody will question in it. That can be seen as using the “name calling” technique.
Orwell incorporates many symbols along the course of the book. Some of these include Jones as a symbol. Every time that Squealer mentions “Jones”, it is a symbol of distaste, slavery, and hard work. Just the mention of the name reminds the animals of what they rebelled against to put Napoleon in power, which is why it is used. Another symbol used is the windmill. The windmill is a symbol of accomplishment, and then ruin. The creation of the windmill was the primary goal of the animals under Napoleons rule. Every time it was destroyed, it brought about question of Napoleons rule and depression among the animals. Of course, the obvious symbol that Orwell uses is the book itself. Since it is an allegory, almost every character and event symbolizes a real event that really occurred. This is used as propaganda to enforce his views. He represents the people of Russia as animals, which is propaganda nonetheless.
During a time of war, there are many forms of propaganda that become evident in every day life. Recently, on FOX News, there was a poll that showed a very high Bush-approval-rating throughout the country. This is propaganda with fear. I felt that since Bush had a very high approval rating, that I should support him fully. To a certain extent, this is a lot like what happened in the novel. At a time of, what seemed to be, war between the farms, the animals felt that they needed a leader. Napoleon was surprisingly “elected” the leader of the farm, with no other candidates running against him. Both in the novel, and in my experience, fear was a factor. Fear of being with the minority or fear from really taking action against somebody. These two circumstances parallel each other.
Another element of propaganda I have been exposed to is patriotism. During this time of war, there are many pro-war and anti-war protests, especially in New York. Groups from both sides of the issue create slogans and ideas that question ones patriotism. Pro-war protestors would protest with symbols such as flags, or military uniforms. Anti-war protestors would protest with big signs or posters expressing their views. Each use propaganda to question ones patriotism at a time of war, just to try to persuade someone to support their side. In Animal Farm, the animals come up with numerous sayings, such as “Long live Comrade Napoleon!” and “Napoleon is always right”, to support Comrade Napoleon and show their patriotism to his leadership. My experience and these actions taken by the animals in the novel are similar because they show how the use of slogans as symbols can be used as propaganda for patriotism.
Thirdly, an element that also relates to my other experiences, is wartime propaganda. Shortly before and during the war with Iraq, almost every speech that President Bush makes includes the words “weapons of mass destruction”. Simply, it means bombs, but to call it that term, is propaganda. Technically that is a glittering generality. It is a term that means something, but is called differently to enforce the idea of the speaker. In Animal Farm, whenever an animal refers to “Jones”, it means slavery. The term “Jones” and the term “weapons of mass destruction” are used repeatedly to enforce the idea of what it really is.
Orwell’s use of propaganda in the novel is to propose his view of communism to others. His overall political commentary is that totalitarian governments are faulty systems. This is evident by seeing the turmoil of the animals during and after Napoleons reign as leader of the farm. Although started out meaning to be good, it turns out to be faulty in the end.
Personally, I do agree with Orwell’s view of totalitarian governments. I, like Orwell, think there are too many faults and nobody really gains anything in the end. This can be seen in many nations such as Cuba, Russia, and China, when they were under totalitarian governments. Orwell’s plot of how communism basically failed on the farm proves his view against communism and its faults. James Freeman from USA Today claims that in there is “no freedom of speech or assembly, no right to a fair trial, no right to vote ” in a country such as Cuba. On the other side of the story, some people claim that “The primary purpose of The Communist Manifesto was to outline the theory of Class Struggle and incite the Proletarian to revolt. Furthermore, it was to define a more ideal form of government, whose economic policy would do away with the Bourgeoisie class” which sounds like a great idea. The problem is, ideal communism is almost impossible to implement in a country, and when tried to, it fails at meeting its goals. That issue is the heart of Orwell’s argument and reason for creating Animal Farm.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Harcourt, Brace And Company, Inc: New York, 1946.
“Why communism is bad.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnists/freeman/ncjf71.htm