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Orwell’s stint in a Trotskyist battalion in the Spanish
Civil War—during which he first began plans for a critique of totalitarian
communism—influenced his relatively positive portrayal of Snowball. As
a parallel for Leon Trotsky, Snowball emerges as a fervent ideologue
who throws himself heart and soul into the attempt to spread Animalism
worldwide and to improve Animal Farm’s infrastructure. His idealism,
however, leads to his downfall. Relying only on the force of his
own logic and rhetorical skill to gain his influence, he proves
no match for Napoleon’s show of brute force.
Although Orwell depicts Snowball in a relatively appealing
light, he refrains from idealizing his character, making sure to
endow him with certain moral flaws. For example, Snowball basically
accepts the superiority of the pigs over the rest of the animals.
Moreover, his fervent, single-minded enthusiasm for grand projects
such as the windmill might have erupted into full-blown megalomaniac
despotism had he not been chased from Animal Farm. Indeed, Orwell
suggests that we cannot eliminate government corruption by electing principled
individuals to roles of power; he reminds us throughout the novella
that it is power itself that corrupts.
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