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Animal Farm is told from a collective limited third-person point of view sometimes known as “village voice.” The narrator knows everything the animals see, say, know and do as a group. The narrator does not know what the pigs say and do when they are apart from the other animals, and we rarely see the action through the eyes of individual animals. Occasionally, the reader is granted brief glimpses of an animal’s individual point of view, most often Clover’s, because Clover and Boxer are the heart of the animal group.
The collective point of view focuses our sympathy on the hopes and fears the animals share as a political unit or class, rather than individual characters. The collective point of view also shows how easily collective memory can be manipulated. Individual animals might remember what really happened at the Battle of the Cowshed, but because readers don’t have access to individual points of view, they can’t know for certain. Instead, readers only know what the animals say they remember. When the pigs make it dangerous to tell the truth, then the false version of the Battle is accepted, even by the narrator, as the “true” collective memory, and it no longer matters whether individual animals remember something different.
The collective point of view also creates deep ironies in Animal Farm. While the story is told from the simple, trusting point of view of the animals, the reader is consistently reminded that their perspective is very limited. The effect can be comic, chilling, or sad, and sometimes all three at once. For instance, when Napoleon takes the cows’ milk for the pigs, all the readers are told is that when the animals “came back in the evening it was noticed that the milk had disappeared” (Chapter 2). The irony here comes from the gap between what the animals see—that the milk is missing—and what the reader sees: that Napoleon has taken it.
The animals’ trust is heartbreaking, because we see how easily they will be betrayed. Their trust is also chilling—the reader can see that the pigs’ treachery is going to deepen. Animal Farm’s irony serves a direct political purpose. By emphasizing the gap between what the Farm’s inhabitants see going on and what the readers see as outsiders, the book invites readers to look at their own society with outsiders’ eyes.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Animal Farm!