Quote of the week:

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
- William Shakespeare.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Animal Farm´s Symbolism.


This is a follow up from the previous post and a summarizing approach to the symbolism lying beneath the characters in this allegorical masterpiece.


We have already mentioned that the novel itself symbolizes the rise and development of the Russian revolution and, at the same time, it epitomizes how a revolutionary movement that starts with lofty and wholesome ideals, can become defiled and corrupted to the point of falling back and turning into the same regime that once struggled to overthrow.


Nevertheless, behind each particular character there lies an allusion to either an influential political persona of the Russian revolution or to the specific roles of the people involved in both the subduing of the population and the subjected themselves:


a) Napoleon: At the beginning of the uprising there are two main leaders of the movement, one of them, a circumspect, morose and yet extremely cunning pig named Napoleon that manages to efface all his rivals and potential enemies, to impose his own distorted vision of the world and to blamelessly commit the most heinous atrocities and still be acclaimed and worshiped by the rest of the animals. Napoleon symbolizes Iósif Stalin, his role in the revolution and how he ruled Russia afterward.  At the end of the novel (SPOILER ALERT), when Napoleon and his minions manage to walk only on their hind legs, fully dressed as humans and already defiled with their most common vices, it symbolizes not only how the oppressed can easily become the oppressors when the right circumstances reign, but also how Stalin eventually embodied the tyranny of the tsarist Russia that the very revolution tried to vanquish.


b) Snowball: The other political leader of the farm is a highly persuasive pig called Snowball, whose ideals of equality and highly effective orator skills lead him to become the sworn enemy of Napoleon´s and eventually got him exiled and stigmatized as the Farm´s eternal foe. Snowball is meant to symbolize León Trotsky and his failure to maintain himself as a prominent figure in the establishment of the new order in the post-revolutionary Russia.


c) The dogs: Napoleon´s knockout method to obtain obedience, power and respect is through a pack of vicious dogs, whose loyalty lies solely in Napoleon´s wishes and commands. The dogs symbolize the military by means of which the ruthless ruler murders, intimidates and exploits the rest of the animals.


d) The sheep: Probably the biggest hindrance for the dissatisfied animals are the sheep, symbolizing the mindless and drone-like partisans, whose lack of self-thinking, easy manipulative nature and inane babble eventually blots out any other utterances from the animals, holds in check any possible demonstrations and insidiously plays part in the propaganda of the ruling pigs. It is through the ceaseless chanting of the sheep that more often than not, the pigs get away with the most awful abuses.


e) Moses the tame raven: There are some moments in which a raven alights in the farm and sooths the animals´ weary souls with words of a promised land- “Sugarcandy Mountain”- a place in which labor no longer exists and the animals dwell in everlasting happiness and peace. Moses is meant to represent the Russian Orthodox Church, whose opium-like influence was employed to abate any possible dissension in the population.


f) The horses: In the characters of Boxer and Clover we find a somewhat sympathetic and at the same time brutal portrayal of the working class, the proletariat. In them we find indefatigable workers, distinguished by an unshakable loyalty to Napoleon and a desire to materialize the ideals of the movement. Yet their ignorance, their poor instruction and extreme naiveté leads them directly into the path of being just another tool for the ruling stratum to reach their private agenda. They are exploited, manipulated and eventually disposed of when they start suspecting that the pigs might actually not be looking out for the welfare of all the animals of the farm or their backs simply give out from the unbearable workload.


And these are just a few of the myriad meanings hidden in every nook and cranny of Animal Farm. Other characters that give you something to think about are Benjamin the donkey, Mollie the shallow mare, the cat, the hens, Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington and I could even make a case for Mr. Whymper, hired by Napoleon to represent the farm in human society.


And so we could go on and on, gloating in the richness of this great novel, that keeps reminding us one of the most important things in life: to keep thinking by ourselves.


  1. I really want to give Animal Farm a go. Some kids say I have to read it for high school, but it's sounds too interesting not to pick before requirement. Besides, requirements just make you not like the book as much right?

    I love all the points you put down and how you numbered. You are fabulous at explaining! I can never do such thing! And what you got out of Animal Farm intrigues me more to read it.

    Thanks for the follow! ^^

    1. You´re absolutely right! There´s nothing like choosing for yourself what and when to read a book =D
      Thank you! Well, since it´s such a passion of mine I tend to get carried away whenever I discuss such topics.
      Hope you give it a chance pretty soon.

      Happy reading!