Animal Farm, first published in 1945, is a classic satirical novella by George Orwell. It portrays a revolution by the farm animals to bring about the downfall of the cruel owner, however ends up paving the way for the pigs to establish themselves as the ruling echelons in the new society. In this animal fable, the events clearly evoke particular unpalatable truths in reality, specifically, the emergence of the totalitarian regime by Joseph Stalin since the 1920s. Although the vast majority of Animal Farm’s readers are familiar with the context in which Animal Farm was created and Orwell’s motive, some may not. This raises a question whether the exposure of social injustice during Russia in the 19th century reflected within this story can be seen by readers without prior comprehension in regards to such humanitarian crisis.
Background knowledge is a requisite but not indispensable skill for enabling critical thinking on a particular subject. Therefore it is feasible that readers of Animal Farm can draw his or her own conclusions about the symbolism and subtle expressions within this allegory. Nonetheless, the level of education, ethnicity, cultural background as well as former exposure to history all exert influence on the audience’s ability to engage with reflective scepticism.
Power, betrayal and greed have always been universal themes since the start of civilisation. While Animal Farm is written as a condemnation of the Soviet communism, the ideas which Orwell puts forth in Animal Farm also apply to other communities around the world in which people were oppressed by brutal means. This has helped establish a connection between global readers who lived in countries that also suffered under the rule of dictatorial leadership, making it easier for a larger population to comprehend the concepts that George Orwell intended to deliver. Pertinent illustrations of totalitarian states are Germany, China, and North Korea. Consequently, it is clear that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for everyone to sympathetically, if not knowledgeably, discern the injustice and corruption presented within this fable.
In addition to the popular themes, another technique which Orwell has used in order to reach a wider audience is third-person narration. As the omniscient point of view obstructs moralisation and reflection, readers are given an opportunity to observe the significant details without interfering. Conclusions can sequentially be drawn concerning the conformity to historical events. This technique has helped remove any impediments in forming a judgement of the story from an unbiased perspective.
Thirdly, by presenting the historical events in form of an allegory, Orwell has universalised his message. With descriptive, non-elaborate language containing elements of fiction, readers can follow the plot easily from a more theoretical, symbolic point of view. Moreover, despite the fact that the animals and objects portrayed in Animal Farm perspicuously correspond to certain occurrences in the outside world, their influence as symbols goes beyond the specificity of Europe and Russia.
Given the influential elements in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it is quite predictable that the plot of the story can be easily understood by its readers. However, as mentioned, there are many factors that contribute to one’s thinking process and the understanding of ideas and concepts. For instance, a person who has a higher capability to provide critical analysis is more likely to understand the nuances conveyed aside from written events within a literary work. Due to these differences, it is inevitable that a number of readers may not perceive the message to its fullest extent.
As characterisation – a key attribute of novels – enhances the element of sympathy especially towards the righteous and hard-working animals such as Boxer and Clover, different types of readers might put conflicting interpretations on the idea of who is guilty of the inhumane actions, and they generally have a tendency to frame it solely as the ruler’s fault. Similar to Hitler who led the Nazi regime in Germany, although Joseph Stalin gained power through massive political repression and violence, he maintained it by heading a nation supported by popular acclaims from not just the government. In the case of Animal Farm, the animals’ ignorance and passivity also contribute significantly to the consolidation of power of Napoleon. Therefore, without any background knowledge, it is proven to be challenging for readers to have an in-depth look at Animal Farm.
Animal Farm is a didactic novel shedding light on the brutality and socio-political inequalities that occurred in the past. Having said that totalitarian dictators’ control is generally built on numerous complex mechanisms including the working-class, the idea of considering the leaders as the mere reason for the crisis might not be delivered effectively to all readers. Regardless, George Orwell has left us with a valuable and critical first-hand narrative that provides profound insights about totalitarian Russia under Joseph Stalin.