This masterpiece is more relevant today then ever before
When I first read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (hence-forth referred to as 1984) I was in school, and it didn’t really hit me as anything brilliant. I found it a little dull and dreary, and the undertones didn’t mean much to me.
Now though Orwell’s dystopian vision of our future really hits home, and it scarily feels a little familiar. We live in a world where Big Brother exists and is always listening and watching, shout out to the NSA, MI6 and the CIA, also let’s not forget to say hi to your Alexa.
Orwell gave us a dark world of never ending wars, where xenophobia is the main weapon of the government, a world where refugees being shot at sea is used for movie inspirations and is cheered in cinemas across the nation. A world where the truth doesn’t truly exist, it is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but instead it’s, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”
Our books hero though see’s it all a little bit differently than he should. Early on Winston Smith promises to reject the party line and instead promises to defend “the obvious” and “the true”. As he tells himself “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” even though his party will insist that “two and two make five”.
Within this novel Orwell gives us a dark dystopia called Oceania, a place where the government controls everything, even its own reality. Propaganda is ever present within people lives, where ridiculous tabloids and sex-filled movies are made to control them and keep their interests away from politics and history.
Books and news articles are regularly and routinely rewritten so that the past becomes a blurry mess where the truth is hidden and twisted into the parties version of reality.
Unsurprisingly 1984 hits harder in this modern world of fake news and ‘post-truths’, a world where nationalism is on the rise and where ‘alternative facts’ are just as relevant to people than the objective truth.
This is a world not unlike Orwell’s hellish vision of 1984.
Perhaps we should all take after Winston a little more, take a look around ourselves and rebel a bit.
It is scary to see how easily our world could fall under the control of a twisted and cruel overlord, where the truth is not what we see but what we are told. A world where an ever present and omnipotent power can see and control our every waking thought and movement. A world where our very lives are in their hands.
That I think is the most frightening but power notion that Orwell presented to us in 1984. He gave a stark warning for the entirety of the human race, a warning to resist mass control and oppression, and not blindly allow it to take control.
Rating: 10 out of 10.
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An exploration of the methods used to assert control by the pigs in George Orwell’s political allegory, Animal Farm.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm explores the Machiavellian way in which politicians are able to abuse their power to dissolve a democracy and create a totalitarian regime in its place.
But just how are the pigs able to maintain their power?
From the outset of the rebellion it was violence, or at least the threat of it, that the pigs used to further their own agenda. However, while the attack dogs keep the other animals obedient this physical intimidation doesn’t prevent silent dissent, or the whispered questions about Napoleon’s actions and motives.
To neutralise this threat to his and the other pigs power Napoleon relies on something more subtle than violence. He uses rousing slogans, phrases, and songs to instil a sense of patriotism and camaraderie amongst the animals.
On Animal Farm it is language and rhetoric that are the most effective tools at the pigs disposal for social control.
Crucially the pigs realise that the songs and slogans must be simple to memorise and easy to repeat so the other animals are able to internalise their principles.
When written commandments prove difficult for some of the animals the pigs transform them into one brief catchphrase that they repeat everywhere: “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
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Animal Farm is an allegorical tale about intelligent animals that overthrow their ruling farmers and set about creating a society of equals. Yet this co-operative doesn’t quite work out as well as it did on paper. You see some of the animals recieve a bigger share of the spoils than others do and some of…
This slogan inspires loyalty and commitment towards the pigs, and fear against the humans. This blind commitment and loyalty to the pigs is most strongly emphasised in Boxer, the cart-horse. Boxer constantly reaffirms his loyalty with the slogans “Napoleon is always right,” and “I will work harder.”
These slogans become increasingly effective to the point that they are used by the animals as a means of self-policing. During a protest against Napoleons decision to sell farm products to humans it is not the “tremendous growling from the dogs,” that calms the angry voices, what breaks the tension is when the sheep begin to recite the mantra “Four legs good, two legs bad!”
During this key scene Orwell explicitly contrasts the strength of brute force with the power of language, demonstrating that while violence may work in the short term, it is only language that can create lasting affects.
The importance of language within the pigs regime is shown with the powerful role given to Squealer, the spokespig of the authorities, and the presence of Minimus, the government poet pig.
Alongside the songs, poems, and commandments, Napoleon and the rest of the pigs also use language in the form of oral and written histories of the Farm to maintain their authority.
As soon as Napoleon violently seizes power he uses language to justify his actions and secure his own position. He denounces his former ally and fellow revolutionary, Snowball, calling him a human sympathiser and an enemy of the animals.
This story of Snowball’s betrayal is told again and again until Snowball’s role in the revolution and founding of Animal Farm is erased from history.
Somehow even though many of the animals remember Snowball being given a medal for his bravery in the Battle of the Cowshed, Squealer convinces them he actually fought alongside Mr Jones against the animals.
The ever loyal Boxer struggles to believe this lie when first told, though he is convinced with the intervention of Squealer who tells him that Napoleon knows it to be true. “Ah, that is different,” exclaims Boxer. “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”
When the pigs eventually move into the farmhouse Squealer makes some revisions to the commandments to better benefit the pigs and their new found luxuries. The commandment “No animal shall sleep in a bed” to “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,” while the rule about drinking becomes “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”
Even the mantra that had so effectively created loyalty is changed, becoming the wildly different “Four legs good, two legs better,” until it ultimately becomes the famous quote, “All animal are equal, except some are more equal than others.”
Even when Squealer is caught changing these commandments the animals don’t suspect anything, the power of the pigs rhetoric and language has made them blind to the obvious truths.
The other animals have been brainwashed by the pigs use and implementation of language, so much so that even when the pigs have their dogs slaughter dozens of animals for colluding with Snowball their actions aren’t questioned, especially once the sheep begin their bleating of “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
Yet language is not always used in a negative way in Animal Farm. Old Major’s rousing use of “The Beats of England,” initially leads to the overthrow of the tyrant Farmer Jones and the creation of their own government.
Yet as Orwell shows language can be used for insidious purposes. Napoleon seizes control and uses language for the purposes of social manipulation and control.
The most important lesson he leaves us with is that rhetoric is often more powerful than state-sanctioned violence or the threat thereof.
Animal Farm is an allegorical tale about intelligent animals that overthrow their ruling farmers and set about creating a society of equals.
Yet this co-operative doesn’t quite work out as well as it did on paper. You see some of the animals recieve a bigger share of the spoils than others do and some of the animals begin to question this supposed utopia.
It doesn’t take long before the rules of this society begin to change to give the pigs more and more power. The new found freedom the other animals had hoped for does not seem to be as forthcoming as had been promised.
Animal Farm is easily the most famous political allegory ever written. Its depiction of power hungry pigs taking advantage of the other animals is a brilliant description of what happens when a social revolution goes wrong.
Allegory is not an easy thing to achieve successfully and yet Orwell manages it with exceptional skill. While you need at least something of an understanding of the Russian revolution to fully appreciate Animal Farm you’ll still get the point without knowing anything about it. It can even be enjoyed as a straight up animal story with no political message, I know that’s how I first enjoyed it when I was a child.
The story shows humankind at its worst but also its best, it is a simple yet moving look at the demons within every human, the demons of greed, jealousy, cruelty, and a lust for power.
The way the novel slowly twists the original Commandments put forth to keep order and unity within Animal Farm into a means of control shows how easily political dogma is poisoned into propaganda.
The greatest example of this corruption of the original premise of the revolution is given by the new commandments, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, and “Four legs good, two legs better!”
The pigs change from hating the former ruling farmers to wanting to be just like them.
Animal Farm is a moving and bitter warning from history. Except we’ll ignore it all of course, we humans excel at repeating all our errors and mistakes.