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Literature: George Orwell

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The main purpose of satire is to attack, and intensely criticise the target
subject. This is superbly carried out in the classic piece of satire, Animal
Farm. The main targets at the brunt of this political satire are the society
that was created in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the
leaders involved in it. George Orwell successfully condemns these targets
through satirical techniques such as irony, fable, and allegory. The immediate
object of attack in Orwell's political satire is the society that was created in
Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The events narrated in Animal
Farm obviously and continuously refer to events in another story, the history of
the Russian Revolution. In other words, Animal Farm is not only a charming fable
("A Fairy Story," as Orwell playfully subtitles it) and a bitter
political satire; it is also an allegory. The main target of this allegory is
Stalin, represented by Napoleon the pig. He represents the human frailties of
any revolution. Orwell believed that although socialism is a good ideal, it
could never be successfully adopted due to uncontrollable sins of human nature.
For example, although Napoleon seems at first to be a good leader, he is
eventually overcome by greed and soon becomes power-hungry. Of course Stalin did
too in Russia, leaving the original equality of socialism behind, giving him all
the power and living in luxury while the common pheasant suffered. Orwell
explains: “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without
making the animals themselves any richer - except of course for the pigs and the
dogs.” The perennial topic of satire is to point out the frailties of the
human condition, and this is one of Orwell’s central themes in Animal Farm .
That it’s not necessarily the system that is corrupt or faulty, but the
individuals in power. Old Major, with all his good intentions, took no note of
the crucial fact: whilst his ideals were sound and moral, corrupt individuals
found ways and opportunities to exploit those ideals to suit their own purposes.
So Orwell successfully points out the frailties of his satirical targets by
using the satirical technique of the allegory. Another main satirical technique
used to condemn these targets is the use of fable, or storytelling. A fable is a
story, usually having a moral – in which beasts talk and act like men and
women. Orwell’s characters are both animal and human. The pigs, for example
eat mash – real pig food – but with milk in it that they have grabbed and
persuaded the other animals to let them keep (a human action). The dogs growl
and bite the way real dogs do--but to support Napoleon's drive for political
power. Orwell never forgets this delicate balance between how real animals
actually behave and what human qualities his animals are supposed to represent.
Let’s just say Orwell hadn’t used the technique of storytelling, and had
painted an objective picture of the evils he describes. The real picture would
probably be very depressing and extremely boring. So instead, he offers us a
travesty of the situation. The primary reason for this abstraction was to move
readers from the concrete reality. So whilst entertaining us through a fantastic
setting, he provides us reader with a critical vision towards his targets. It is
written for entertainment, but contains sharp and telling comments on the
Russian revolution and it’s leaders, offering `imaginary gardens with real
toads in them'. Part of the fable's humorous charm lies in the simplicity with
which the characters are drawn. Each animal character is a type, with one human
trait, or two at most--traits usually associated with that particular kind of
animal. Using animals as types is also Orwell's way of keeping his hatred and
anger against exploiters under control. Instead of crying, "All political
bosses are vicious pigs!" he keeps his sense of humour by reporting calmly:
"In future, all questions relating to the working of the farm would be
settled by a special committee of pigs." The story of Animal Farm is told
in a simple, straightforward style. The sentences are often short and spare:
"Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing." "It was a
bitter winter." The story follows a single line of action, calmly told,
with no digressions. Orwell's style, said one critic, has "relentless
simplicity" and "pathetic doggedness" of the animals themselves.
There is a kind of tension in Animal Farm between the sad story the author has
to tell and the lucid, almost light way he tells it. This is very ironic,
because the content of the story is so very different from the style. You are
expecting the story to be like every other fable you’ve read. Complete with
cute characters, predictable plotline, and happy ending. But because of the
nature of the content in Animal farm, the content is completely incongruent to
the style. Another irony that occurs in Animal Farm is when pig becomes man. In
that Old Major at the beginning assumes that man is the only enemy of the
animals. He emphasises that animals must never imitate man, especially his
vices. Gradually in their life-style and their indifference to the animals, the
pigs exploit the animals much more than Jones ever did. This irony particularly
depicts how low the pigs had actually become, and how Stalin had made things
much worse than it had originally been under the Czar’s rule. This further
enhances the satirical aim of condemning the target. Through satirical
techniques such as irony, fable, and allegory, George Orwell paints a vivid
picture of the evils in Stalinist Russia in his book Animal Farm. He is very
effective in doing so and condemns his targets through every thread of his book
including the characters, the themes, and even the style. He does so simply, yet
poignantly, and is very successful in achieving the satirical aim of condemning
his targets.
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