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George orwell s animal farm an allegory

Cycle 7, Abstract: It has become a cultural touchstone around which misinformation has dominated. The novel has grown far past its original context to take on new meanings and interpretations. Animal Farm, a political allegory by George Orwell, 1 remains one of the most widely read and influential books in our culture, in part because it is a staple of the high-school English class.

Animal Farm was written for a specific time and place: And yet, the novel has captured our cultural imagination far beyond that pocket of history. References to Animal Farm can be found across decades and mediums of art, from comics to Pink Floyd. This narrative around Animal Farm has extended to its use in the political arena. It has been misused by many political movements, but I will examine three of particular interest: Finally, after examining these three movements in relationship to Animal Farm, I will posit that Animal Farm is vulnerable to this kind of appropriation because it is an allegory, a form that is predisposed to misinterpretation, and because it only provides negative political commentary.

By this I mean that it does not offer any solutions or constructive insight. This is a peculiarity of the book, not necessarily a flaw. Sure enough, English communists attacked Animal Farm as anti-Soviet, while a conservative chided Orwell for forgetting that private property is a prerequisite for personal freedom.

Kirschner Kirschner goes into interpretations even beyond the limitations of this article that illustrate the many confusions surrounding the book. As Kirschner discusses, Animal Farm has been read as both advocating for and cautioning against revolution.

There is a case for both it being specific to the Soviet Union and it condemning all governing classes. Animal Farm exists in a cloud of contradiction and ambiguity, but I will explore which form of government and economy these different political groups have read Animal Farm as supporting. The first political group to make a positive reading of Animal Farm george orwell s animal farm an allegory advocating for a particular form of government are the western propagandists Kirschner mentions, who projected onto Animal Farm their own capitalist agendas.

Inaround the beginning of the Cold War, George Orwell died of tuberculosis, and almost immediately after, intelligence agencies became interested in the novel because of its seemingly anti-communist stance.

Some Interpretations are More Equal Than Others: Misinterpreting George Orwell's Animal Farm

It is difficult to assess the success of the dissemination of Animal Farm abroad, but it was an effective rallying point for anti-communist sentiment in the west. During this period, the American government and anti-communist political thinkers held up this book as a bastion of free speech while at the same time distributing it as capitalist propaganda.

The still prominent perception of Animal Farm as wholly anti-communist was george orwell s animal farm an allegory manufactured by Cold War propagandists. The neoconservative interpretation of Animal Farm followed logically from the misinformation spread by the intelligence agencies, but is more specific to U.

Furthermore, instead of being used as a weapon against the Russians, neoconservatives deployed Animal Farm against American liberalism. Neoconservatism as a political ideology formed from left-leaning politicians in the s whose strong anti-communist views precipitated an evolution toward modern conservatism. They were typified by a glorification of democracy and have become the new face of the right, peaking during the Bush administration.

Animal Farm is often used in conservative political cartoons and rhetoric Senn. According to Podhoretz and his contemporaries, Animal Farm was a condemnation of socialism and socialist revolutions. The final political interpretation seems to be closer to what Orwell may have intended.

Socialists and liberals have also had an affinity for Orwell for decades.

Orwell has always called himself a socialist, and these interpreters tend to draw on his own words. Admittedly, the writer could be quite critical of his allies.

In the same vein, Orwell touches on what he hopes for his novel in the preface of the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm: Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods.

It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there… But since I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism… And so for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement.

Some Interpretations are More Equal Than Others: Misinterpreting George Orwell's Animal Farm

He was concerned that by holding up the Soviets as a model of communism, British socialists would be led astray. It was pure irony that only a few years later, western sympathies toward the soviets would entirely reverse. This quote illustrates two points: Modern readers who interpret Animal Farm as supporting a more socialist political paradigm abound. In other words, Ball believes that the events in the novel are analogous to corporate America.

This comment applies Animal Farm to a new social context without taking into account its historically understood meaning, which is not dissimilar from what Podhoretz did when he applied Animal Farm to liberalism and what the CIA did when it applied Animal Farm to fostering anti-communist sentiment during the Cold War. Simply put, all of these examples, both liberal and conservative, have one thing in common: These interpretations demonstrate that, out of context, Animal Farm can stand for just about any ideology.

Now it is time to discuss why Animal Farm is so easy to appropriate. There are many possible ways of thinking about this question. For example, thinking about the particular time and place in which each interpretation occurred might provide insight into why the interpretations are so different.

  1. This narrative around Animal Farm has extended to its use in the political arena. Many readers, specifically Cold War propagandists, neoconservatives, and socialists, misinterpreted the novel based on its confusing and ambiguous form.
  2. Animal Farm seeks to criticize political systems and processes as a whole. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there… But since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism… And so for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement.
  3. In this case, the language of equality being abused is Animal Farm itself. Animal Farm is limited to criticism, and this has allowed readers to imagine their own version of a solution.

But I believe that line of thinking will only get one so far. After all, neoconservatives and liberals with socialist leanings read Animal Farm in the same political climate and came up with two diametrically opposed interpretations.

Instead, I want to discuss what elements of the text make it so strangely mutable. Animal Farm is primed for appropriation because of its allegorical form and tendency toward negation. Animal Farm is often taught in schools as an example of allegory. Allegories in general are inclined toward ambiguity. They are revealing and yet they conceal. They are ambivalent yet highly structured Tambling.

No wonder this form has led to such confusion. The allegory of Animal Farm has made the book what it is—powerful, persuasive, uniquely creative—and yet has also contributed to its misinterpretation. There are two aspects of allegory in particular that incline them toward ambiguity: Both these aspects are at work in Animal Farm. Allegories are relatable, easy to understand stories that boil down complex realities to their essentials.

For example, the book reduces the complexities of Soviet policies to commandments painted on a barnyard wall. Animal Farm is elemental, allegorical, and figurative. The comparisons in the novel have a universal appeal. Anyone can relate the simple setting of a farm; there is no need to be informed of the Soviet Union to process the book. Because of this, the basic allegory of Animal Farm can be applied to many different political issues, as long as they have some element of authoritarianism.

A book about Stalin will always be a book about Stalin, but a novel about rebellious pigs is endlessly applicable.

Some Interpretations are More Equal Than Others: Misinterpreting George Orwell's Animal Farm

The reductive metaphors on which the allegory is based seem to be endlessly renewable. The other problematic trait of allegory is the expectation of a moral. These two aspects of allegory, an elemental nature and an association with morality tales, have led to misinterpretation.

But the problems are not just simply caused by the allegorical form. Eliot once discussed just this element of the novel in a letter to Orwell. Eliot, argued that the book was untimely and further said in his rejection letter: It ought to excite some sympathy with what the author wants, as well as sympathy with his objections to something: It shows what not to be. It offers no concrete solutions. It lends itself to such language. In the novel, Orwell critiques and deconstructs the Russian Revolution, but he does not reconstruct anything in its place.

A few years later, Cold War warriors filled that blank with capitalism and western ideals. These interpretations could not be more george orwell s animal farm an allegory opposition with each other. Animal Farm is limited to criticism, and this has allowed readers to imagine their own version of a solution.

This limitation has come back to haunt the novel again and again. Many readers, specifically Cold War propagandists, neoconservatives, and socialists, misinterpreted the novel based on its confusing and ambiguous form. But if all these people were off the mark, and Animal Farm was not advocating for any particular governmental system, then the book must have another purpose.

Perhaps interpreters missed the full significance of the end of the novel, when finally, the pigs become indistinguishable from the humans. This ending illustrates the circular nature of political processes and the corruption inherent in every political system. No system, even one as idealistic as communism or animalism, as it is referred to in the bookcan escape. Animal Farm seeks to criticize political systems and processes as a whole. It is a disservice to the novel to claim it supports any particular governmental system or to use it as political propaganda.

Recall a revelatory moment in Animal Farm during the initial rebellion, when the animals painted seven commandments on the barn wall, the most important of which was this: It is the kind of thing most people, regardless of their political ideology, would agree on. But the pigs corrupt the egalitarian ideal and use it to confuse and manipulate the people.

Pippa Hudson

By misconstruing the book in the ways discussed, these ideologues are doing the same thing as the pigs. They are abusing the language of equality. In this case, the language of equality being abused is Animal Farm itself. His given name was Eric Blair.

Works Cited Dickstein, Morris. Animal Farm is about the Excesses of Capitalism. National Review, 30 Apr. The Invention of George Orwell.