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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Animal Farm is filled with songs, poems, and slogans, including Major’s stirring “Beasts of England,” Minimus’s ode to Napoleon, the sheep’s chants, and Minimus’s revised anthem, “Animal Farm, Animal Farm.” All of these songs serve as propaganda, one of the major conduits of social control. By making the working-class animals speak the same words at the same time, the pigs evoke an atmosphere of grandeur and nobility associated with the recited text’s subject matter. The songs also erode the animals’ sense of individuality and keep them focused on the tasks by which they will purportedly achieve freedom.
Read more about the use of music to communicate in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
As Animal Farm shifts gears from its early revolutionary fervor to a phase of consolidation of power in the hands of the few, national rituals become an ever more common part of the farm’s social life. Military awards, large parades, and new songs all proliferate as the state attempts to reinforce the loyalty of the animals. The increasing frequency of the rituals bespeaks the extent to which the working class in the novella becomes ever more reliant on the ruling class to define their group identity and values.
In Animal Farm, references to food often serve to represent the labor of the working class or the capital of the ruling class. Under the rule of the farmers, food is provided unequally amongst the different species of animals, often depending on how much labor they contribute. After the revolution takes place, Mollie is enticed back to working under human rule with the promise of treats like sugar cubes—a symbol for the trivial comforts that the ruling class provide to the working class to encourage their compliance. After taking over leadership of the farm, the pigs are found eating milk and apples, despite the understanding that no animal should receive special treatment, continuing the theme of unfair and unsustainable consumption of resources by the ruling class. Rather than being treated with respect in his old age, the loyal comrade Boxer is sent to a glue factory, where he will be killed. The money from his sale is spent on whiskey for the pigs, symbolizing how workers in a capitalist or authoritarian system are worked to death to sustain the lifestyles of the rich and powerful. In the final scene of Animal Farm, the pigs can be seen dining with the humans. The decadence of this feast exposes the immense gluttony of the ruling class at the expense of the vast majority of society.
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Ace your assignments with our guide to Animal Farm!