Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 13, 2022
October 6, 2022
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
contrast Napoleon and Snowball. What techniques do they use in their
struggle for power? Does Snowball represent a morally legitimate
political alternative to the corrupt leadership of Napoleon?
As Joseph Stalin did, Napoleon prefers to
work behind the scenes to build his power through manipulation and
deal-making, while Snowball devotes himself, as Leon Trotsky did,
to winning popular support through his ideas, passionate speeches,
and success in debates with his opponent. Snowball seems to work
within the political system, while Napoleon willingly circumvents
it. Napoleon, for instance, understands the role of force in political
control, as is made clear by his use of the attack dogs to expel
Snowball from the farm.
Despite Napoleon’s clearly bullying tactics, Orwell’s
text doesn’t allow us to perceive Snowball as a preferable alternative.
Snowball does nothing to prevent the consolidation of power in the
hands of the pigs, nor does he stop the unequal distribution of
goods in the pigs’ favor—he may even, in fact, be complicit in it
early on. Furthermore, the ideals of Animal Farm—like Orwell’s ideal
version of socialism—are rooted in democracy, with all of the animals
deciding how their collective action should be undertaken. For any
one animal to rise to greater power than any other would violate
that ideal and essentially render Animal Farm indistinguishable
from a human farm—an unavoidable eventuality by the end of the novella. Though
their motives for power may be quite different—Napoleon seems to
have a powerful, egocentric lust for control, while Snowball seems
to think himself a genius who should be the one to guide the farm
toward success—each represents a potential dictator. Neither pig
has the other animals’ interests at heart, and thus neither represents
the socialist ideals of Animal Farm.
Why do you
think Orwell chose to use a fable in his condemnation of Soviet
communism and totalitarianism? Fiction would seem a rather indirect method
of political commentary; if Orwell had written an academic essay,
he could have named names, pointed to details, and proven his case
more systematically. What different opportunities of expression
does a fable offer its author?
Historically, fables or parables have allowed writers to criticize individuals or institutions without endangering themselves: an author could always claim that he or she had aimed simply to write a fairy tale—a hypothetical, meaningless children’s story. Even now, when many nations protect freedom of speech, fables still come across as less accusatory, less threatening. Orwell never condemns Stalin outright, a move that might have alienated certain readers, since Stalin proved an ally against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces. Moreover, the language of a fable comes across as gentle, inviting, and unassuming: the reader feels drawn into the story and can follow the plot easily, rather than having to wade through a self-righteous polemic. In writing a fable, Orwell expands his potential audience and warms it to his argument before he even begins.
Because fables allow for the development of various characters, Orwell can use characterization to add an element of sympathy to his arguments. Especially by telling the story from the point of view of the animals, Orwell draws us in and allows us to identify with the working class that he portrays. Thus, a fable allows him to appeal more intensely to emotion than a political essay might enable him to do.
Additionally, in the case of Animal Farm, the lighthearted, pastoral, innocent atmosphere of the story stands in stark contrast to the dark, corrupt, malignant tendencies that it attempts to expose. This contrast adds to the story’s force of irony: just as the idyllic setting and presentation of the story belies its wretched subject matter, so too do we see the utopian ideals of socialism give way to a totalitarian regime in which the lower classes suffer.
Finally, by writing in the form of a fable, Orwell universalizes his message. Although the specific animals and events that he portrays clearly evoke particular parallels in the real world, their status as symbols allows them to signify beyond specific times and places. Orwell himself encourages this breadth of interpretation: while the character of Napoleon, for example, refers most directly to Stalin in deed and circumstance, his name evokes his resemblance to the French general-turned-autocrat Napoleon.
From whose perspective is Animal Farm told? Why would Orwell have chosen such a perspective?
Animal Farm is not told from any particular animal’s perspective; properly speaking, it doesn’t have a protagonist. Rather, it is told from the perspective of the common animals as a group: we read, for example, that “[t]he animals were stupefied. . . . It was some minutes before they could take it all in.” This technique enables Orwell to paint a large portrait of the average people who suffer under communism. Through this choice of narrative perspective, he shows the loyalty, naïveté, gullibility, and work ethic of the whole class of common animals. In this way, he can effectively explore the question of why large numbers of people would continue to accept and support the Russian communist government, for example, even while it kept them hungry and afraid and even after its stated goals had clearly and decisively failed.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Animal Farm!