Animal Farm draws on a rich tradition of political allegory. Political allegories are stories that use imaginary characters and situations to satirize real-life political events. George Orwell was a great admirer of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Irish writer Jonathan Swift. In his most famous novel, Gulliver’s Travels,, Swift satirized the rulers of his own day by re-imagining them as “Lilliputians,” the physically tiny inhabitants of a fictional island. While Swift’s satire moves English events to an imaginary overseas country in order to criticize English government more freely, Orwell’s novella reverses this process, bringing events in the Soviet Union to the heart of the English countryside.
Read more about the power of political allegory in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
This reversal allows Orwell to argue that the events of the Soviet Revolution are “closer to home” than his English readers realize. Animal Farm has in turn influenced many political allegories. Perhaps the most famous of these is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which allegorizes the failings of European rulers by imagining them as English schoolboys fighting over a tropical island.