George Orwell’s Animal Farm – published in 1945 – is a satirical allegory on the Russian Revolution. Orwell explained in his preface that the novel was his method of, “exposing the Soviet myth,” which generated a great amount of controversy at the time. He states this piece was intended to clear all misconceptions of the Soviet ideals of ‘everyone being equal’ and exploited all its flaws. The characters play major roles in retelling the Russian Revolution, with the plot’s events strongly resembling the historical timeline. Animal Farm can also be read as a fable, with only the less obscure morals within being conceived. For such reasons, the novel can be read without background knowledge; however a brief understanding of the Russian Revolution is necessary to unveil the deeper allegorical elements Orwell is portraying to the readers.
Orwell utilises his characters to recreate the Russian Revolution and imitate the prominent figures and classes of society involved. In the opening, Old Major is introduced as the leader of the farm animals, to symbolise the likes of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, who were both significant in establishing the foundations of communism. Old Major organises a gathering for the animals to share knowledge of a dream in which he comes to the realisation that “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing… yet he is lord of all the animals” and they must rebalance the inequalities placed upon them through “work night and day… for the overthrow of the human race”. This speech was heavily based upon Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Old Major was used to captured the same essence of it, essentially exposing the flaws of capitalism and a rebellion must occur of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” to counter this. A hierarchy is created in the animals to symbolise the different ‘classes’ of the time. The animals are categorised in order of significance through a hierarchy as they congregate at Old Major’s meeting. The more influential animals are introduced with more complexity, as “first came the three dogs, Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher, and then the pig” and the level of detail gradually decreases through the progression of the characters until it is merely “last of all came the cat” which does not bother to specify detail, thus drawing more attention toward the aforementioned animal’s influential presence over their peers. The pigs use the dogs to reinforce their reign over the other animals and abuse their power, similar to Stalin’s control of the KGB to do his bidding. Napoleon takes on the responsibility to “wean” the dogs and “make himself responsible for their education,” which ultimately leads to their transformation into “huge dogs… as fierce-looking as wolves”; mindless murderers on Napoleons command, and a representation of Stalin’s abuse of power over the KGB to assassinate and execute anybody who opposed his leadership. Each individual character is a representation in itself to convey messages of their purpose in the society and acts as a summary of the complex, more expansive back story of the Russian Revolution.
Many of the plot elements follow the events of the Russian Revolution to explore the manipulation that occurred. After Snowball is accused of betrayal, Napoleon then places him in exile, akin to the happenings of the Russian Revolution. Napoleon appears to be against Snowball’s ideas of “the pigs… should decide all questions of farm policy,” as long as it were “ratified by a majority vote,” and sends “nine enormous dogs… into the barn” to attack Snowball who “sprang… just in time to escape.” This mirrors Trotsky’s exile as he began to criticise Stalin’s Communist Party, in this case depicted through his straying away and leaning toward democracy, which lead to his removal from the Communist party and exile from Russia. The Battle of the Cowshed represents