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Originally published in 1945, George Orwell’s farm is widely celebrated not only as one of his greatest works but is also considered to be one of the greatest books written in the 20th century. The secret of its success is that it combines the elements of entertainment and education. One can just read it for pleasure and enjoy it, but if you decide to look deeper into it, you will find that it is by far not a piece of mindless entertainment.
The phenomenal success of Animal Farm has been in the center of attention of many scholars ever since the novel’s first publication. So, it is no wonder that high school teachers and college professors always have Animal Farm in the English curriculum, even if the class does not major in English. So, if you have never written even a smallest five-paragraph essay about Animal Farm, you should have no doubt that eventually you will have to face this assignment at least once throughout your studies.
Here are some of the most popular topics, questions, and prompts on George Orwell’s Animal Farm that you can uncover in your essay. For your convenience, we have grouped them up into three categories:
CHARACTERS. A strong and relatable character is what drives a story. If we talk about the genre of a novel, we need a number of such characters. In Orwell’s Animal Farm, each of them symbolizes either a particular historical personality, or a group of people, but generally, it is not necessary for a novel. The main function of a character in a story is to serve a purpose. Here is what you can investigate in an essay:
THEMES. No piece of writing – fiction or non-fiction – can ever attract any notable attention without investigating a topical theme. It seems like George Orwell took pleasure in investigating such themes in his writing. Animal Farm, in particular, has several questions that you can uncover in your essay:
SYMBOLS. Animal Farm is often classified by many scholars as an extended fable. As you know, fables are known to employ the language of symbols quite heavily. Animal Farm is, too, quite heavy on symbols. First of all, there are striking resemblances between the characters in the novel and particular real-life historical figures. Then, there are similarities between the events in the novel and those that took place in actual human history. But most interestingly, the consequences of the novel’s events and the development of fictional characters are vastly similar to those that took place in real-life history. Here are some examples that you are welcome to investigate in your essay:
To give you a clear example, here is a sample essay about Orwell’s Animal Farm:
Animal Farm is a short novel by George Orwell. It was first released in 1945 and, despite its quite small volume, is still widely celebrated as one of his most insightful writings. In this work, Orwell tries himself in the animal fable genre to tell a story of a group of characters who are so fed up with the tyranny of those above them that they eventually rebel. Their rebellion proves successful and seems to create a utopian society, especially at first. Even back when the novel was first published, many critics, as well as ordinary readers, saw this setup as an allegory to the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 that gave rise to the communist Soviet Union, which eventually transformed into a totalitarian state ruled by Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.
Such a line of thought was especially topical in the 1940s when Joseph Stalin was still alive and holding the full amount of power in the Soviet Union. Orwell was – and still is – praised for his in-depth insight into the evolution of the nature of society and politics, as well as for the brilliance of the parallels that help to reveal it. Soon after its release, Animal Farm was translated into Russian and immediately banned in the USSR and its friendly socialist states, which served to prove the correctness of Orwell’s comparison. It would be, however, unfair to limit the actuality of the novel to Stalin’s regime in the USSR only. In fact, Orwell’s metaphors go deeper than that, and the similarities to the events depicted in Animal Farm can be observed all over the world.
The animals in the farm stand for a particular social group. This group of animals found themselves oppressed by their owner, and once they realized it, they organized themselves and revolted. This marked a change in their society and in the way they see themselves. They have defeated their masters in the Battle for the Windmill and evicted (or deported) their now former master Mr. Jones. To replace him, his administrative functions were taken over by the three pigs who were unanimously considered the smartest ones of all the animals on the farm – Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer. Thus, the full amount of power was transitioned from one entity to another; one regime was effectively replaced with another. This bears a strikingly obvious resemblance to events that took place in Russia in 1917 and, consequently, Mr. Jones stands for the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, and the Manor Farm stands for Russia. After Mr. Jones was overthrown, the farm was renamed into the Animal Farm to stress on the fact that it is controlled by the animals now – same as the former Russian Empire eventually adopted the name Soviet Union to show how it is being controlled by the Soviets (councils).
With the old leaders – Mr. Jones or Nicholas II – gone, a need in new leadership arises in the society. The three new leaders of the Animal Farm stand for the three new leaders of the Soviet Union – Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leo Trotsky. Some may deem that Orwell chose pigs to symbolize the Soviet leadership out of disdain. In fact, the choice was much more obvious: the pigs are considered the smartest farm animals, – so, the animals in the Farm have chosen the smartest ones among them to administrate and lead the Farm. Notably, even despite putting some animals in the leading positions over others, it was stressed that all animals were and would remain equal.
Eventually, however, one of the leading pigs of the Farm – Napoleon – adopted a firm opinion that since pigs are the smartest animals in the Farm, they should be the only ones who have a say in the administration of the farm. To demonstrate this, Napolean rules that he and Snowball should receive the highest distinctions. With this, Orwell shows us that unlimited power can corrupt any leader even with the noblest initial intentions.
Snowball, on the other hand, kept true to the idea that all animals should be equal and that they should all have a say in decisions around the Farm. This conflict of opinion was constantly leading to arguments between Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon had wanted to get rid of Snowball’s competition since the very beginning of the rebellion. So, he secretly raised dogs whose help he enlisted to eliminate Snowball when the time came. With Snowball out of the picture, Napoleon canceled the regular Sunday meetings where animals could voice their opinions on governing the farm, claiming that it was all but a waste of time. Now, all the power over the Animal Farm belonged to Snowball exclusively, and only pigs had a say in the decision-making process.
This mirrors the difference in Joseph Stalin’s and Leo Trotsky’s approaches to governing the country. Stalin wanted to concentrate the full amount of power in the Soviet Union in his hands, but Trotsky’s opposition was standing in his way. So, with the significant help from the Soviet secret police, Trotsky was first banished from the country and eventually killed. Only then could Stalin build his centralized command economy where his government was making all the decisions, even at the price of being disconnected from the masses.
Squealer, meanwhile, had the role of Napoleon’s public speaker in the Farm. He knew how to appeal to the masses and convince the rest of the Farm animals that what Napoleon deems right was indeed best for the Farm, whatever it was. In the Soviet Union, the original official leader – Vladimir Lenin – was renowned for his talent of public speaking. He could persuade the masses of virtually anything but seemed to be much more interested in discussions and theoretical work than in practicing the actual power. For instance, Squealer effectively convinced that Napoleon taking away dogs from the owners was for the dogs’ own good, whereas in reality, the dogs were trained to be Napoleon’s personal secret police. Similarly, when secret police were first organized in the Soviet Union, all the public concern was refuted and silenced by Lenin’s rhetoric.
One cannot but be amazed at how many rich allegories there are in this relatively small novel. Their density only adds to their richness. Arguably, the allegory of the most significant importance in Orwell’s Animal Farm is the one that has to do with the concentration of absolute power in the hands (or trotters) of a single individual – Napoleon or Joseph Stalin. With Leo Trotsky and Snowball out of the way, both Stalin and Napoleon could have that in their respective domains. Consequently, they have both revealed aspirations toward total control over others and surrounding themselves with luxury, both aspirations being in diametric opposition with the ideas that they were voicing at the dawn of their leadership. These aspirations eventually led to both leaders abusing their absolute power significantly, especially with all the opposition gone.
This shows us how drastically unhindered absolute power can corrupt. A great illustration of such corruption is the change in the lifestyles of other pigs in the Farm. They were striving for the luxury that only Mr. Jones could enjoy when he had owned the farm, but to make it possible, Napoleon had to bend the rules, which he could only do after Snowball was gone. Similarly, the Soviet leadership abandoned their initial ascetic principles as Stalin concentrated the full amount of power in his hands.
Generally speaking, Animal Farm can be referred to as a fable or even a fairy tale, even though it is somewhat longer than most other examples of these genres. The reader sees clear examples of good and evil that illustrate a valuable moral lesson: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The only notable difference from most known versions of the popular fairy tales is that good does not triumph over evil in the end of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Those standing on good principles do not get rewarded for this, and even if the wrongdoers face their decline eventually, it has nothing to do with their abuse of morality. This is the grand allegory of the entire novel – if we want a significant change to improve the society, we must be ready for the enormous sacrifice that such a revolutionary change may require.