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The style of Animal Farm is simple and clear. The novella’s language is concrete, factual and delivered in short sentences. The simplicity of style culminates at the novella’s end, in one-sentence paragraphs: “It was a pig walking on his hind legs.[…] He carried a whip in his trotter” (Chapter 10). The simplicity and clarity of the novella’s style contrasts with the way Animal Farm’s characters use language. Throughout the book, characters use language in deceptive ways for political purposes. Some characters make their language complex in order to deceive, like Squealer when he is explaining Napoleon’s actions. Other characters use simplistic language to distort the truth, like the sheep with their slogan, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
Alongside these examples of deceptive language, Orwell’s own writing style offers a constant reminder that truth can be conveyed in straightforward language anyone can understand. The strong contrast between the plainspoken style of the novel and the manipulative styles adopted by characters who want to seize power illuminates the difference between truthful language and political deception.
A notable feature of Animal Farm’s style is the use of the passive voice. For instance, when Napoleon steals the cows’ milk, we are not told which character or characters notice that the milk is missing. Instead we are told that “it was noticed that the milk had disappeared” (Chapter 2). The use of the passive voice emphasizes the animals’ helplessness: events occur without any particular animal taking action, creating the impression that things happen without the animals’ consent. The passive voice also helps to show the power of rumor and false information in an oppressive society. When no one knows exactly who said, did or “noticed” something, it’s easy to claim that the thing didn’t really happen, or that it happened differently, and this is exactly what the pigs do.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Animal Farm!