The Political allegory of George Orwell’s
In 1984, by George Orwell, the reader sees a primary theme of political allegory and satire. Orwell is presenting the world of 1984 as a satiric statement of what might come to pass, though of course its exact form could never be predicted, if the world did not become aware of the terrible problems facing it, not in 1984, but here and now. Orwell wrote the novel not as a prediction, but as a warning. He believed that in many ways society was regressing back in the direction of barbarism, and that in the fight against fascism and other totalitarian and terroristic systems of government, even Western liberal society was being corrupted and was adopting the techniques used by its enemies. “Orwell’s purpose in writing was not only to record what was happening in the world and to project ahead in order to make men realize what was happening and likely to happen. It was as much or more his purpose to change the world”(Ranald).
George Orwell wrote an article on Arthur Koestler in 1944, which expresses the various aspects of his conflict about the question of social revolution. At one point he wrote, “It is quite possible that man’s major problems will never be solved. But it is also unthinkable! Who is there who dares to look at the world of today and say to himself, It will always be like this:’…..” Niyazov 2
That is Orwell’s confession of his passionate inability to live without commitment to the idea of change. 1984 is the kind of book in which a writer finally explores the limits of his obsessions and the darkest aspects of themes he has been concerned with for years. Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm, and 1984 are all concerned with political evil, the misuse of language, the destruction of history and the objective Koestler as “the impossibility of combining power with righteousness.” Homage to Catalonia is documentary and journalism. Animal Farm is a fable. Orwell rewrote it with human beings as the personae in 1984. All three books express his unique assumption that evil is primarily political. The two best-known works of Orwell, the beast fable and the anti-Utopian fiction seem to have more universal satirical meanings. Both books deal with what Orwell called “the central question-how to prevent power from being abused.” Furthermore, both deal with the corruption of an originally revolutionary ideal into just another dictatorial regime. As if Orwell is saying, men will always allow themselves to be tricked and to behave, in the terms of Animal Farm, like Boxer and sheep. There are many similarities between the two works. In both, there is an originally idealistic Revolution which has become corrupt. There is an all-powerful Leader who has maintained power by force, trickery, and terrorism. In both, Orwell shows the perversion of a noble idea. Human equality into a sinister myth bearing no relation to the actual situation, and indulged by a propaganda agency (the Ministry of Truth in 1984 and Squealer in Animal Farm) which has in each case the task of deceiving the general population.
Animal Farm is a satire that uses its characters to symbolize leaders of the Russian Revolution. The animals of “Manor Farm,” the setting of this novel, which symbolizes Russia,
overthrow their human master after years of mistreatment. Led by the pigs, the farm animals continue to do their work, only with more pride, knowing that they are working for themselves, as opposed to working for their human master.Slowly over time the pigs gain power and take advantage of the other animals. They gain so much power that they become just as power hungry and corrupt as their human master. The theme in the novel being that in every society there are leaders who will, if given the chance, likely abuse their position. Old Major is a prize white boar who helps point out to the animals that no animal in England is free. He continues to
tell the animals that the their labor is stolen by man, who benefits alone. The animals in return get near nothing Old Major gave many speeches to the farm animals about hope and the future. He is the main animal who got the rebellion started even though he died before it actually began. Old Major’s role compares to Lenin and Marx whose ideas would spark the communist revolution. Lenin became the leader and teacher of the working class in Russia, and their determination to struggle against capitalism. Like Old Major, Lenin and Marx wrote essays and gave speeches to the working class and the poor. The working class in Russia, as compared with the barnyard animals in Animal Farm, were a laboring class of people that received low wages for their work. Old major tells the animals that the source of the problem is man. They must overthrow man to abolish tyranny and hunger. Soon Old Major does die, but his words still echo in the hearts of all the animals. With the leadership of the pigs, the smartest animals, they rebel against the human and gain complete control of the farm. This would symbolize the Russian Revolution. Another parallel represented in the book is Farmer Jones. His character is similar to the politician Czar Nicholas who treated his people similar to how Farmer Jones treated his animals. The animal rebellion on the farm was started because Farmer Jones was a drunk who
never took care of the animals. This made them very angry, fed by the words of Old Major the animals decided to rebel like the Russians. Czar Nicholas was a very weak man who treated his people similar to how Farmer Jones treated his animals. The Czar made his working class people very uneasy with the way he used his authority and preached all the time, and the people suffered and finally demanded reform by rebelling. The animal Napoleon can be compared as a character representing Stalin in Russia. Both were very mean looking, didn’t talk very much but always got what they wanted through force. In one part of the book Napoleon had the dogs charge Snowball, another animal, as soon as he thought that the pigs were becoming corrupt. Stalin became the Soviet Leader after the death of Lenin. He was underestimated by his opponents who always became his victims, and he had one of the most ruthless, regimes in history. In was not until many years later that the world found out about the many deaths that Stalin created in Russia during the Revolution.Another strong parallel is the character of Snowball with the Russian leader Trotsky. Snowball was very enthusiastic and was a leader who organized the defense of the farm. He gave speeches and instructions but was not very beneficial. All the other animals liked him, but he was outsmarted by Napoleon. Trotsky and Stalin’s relationship was very much like Snowball’s and Napoleons. Trotsky organized the Red Army and gave speeches and everyone in Russia thought he would win power over Stalin. After Lenin’s death Trotsky lost all his power to Stalin and was expelled from the communist party.
The story of 1984 takes place in a projected London of the future, in a country called Oceania. Political and military power in the world is divided between three superpowers, Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. Oceania is both a socialist and anarchist nation. One of the
fears Orwell had, is that in the absence of laws social pressure could operate with more coercive force than outright legal prohibition would. Oceania was created partly as an example of this thesis. Here there are no laws, nothing is illegal. But everything that could make life tolerable is condemned by social pressure. The government of Oceania is controlled by four ministries: Truth, Peace, Love and Plenty. None of these ministries has anything to do with the meanings of these words. In 1984 the reality of a thing is the reverse of the language used to designate it. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania. In order to keep the people of Oceania in conformity with the desires of the governing Inner Party, the Inner Party controls several aspects of the people’s lives. Communication, for one, is controlled for the benefit of the nation. Newspeak is a modified version of language that is enforced upon the people in order to limit their expression. Syme and Winston, two middle-class workers in Oceania, discuss the concept of Newspeak. Syme reveals that he supports the system, demonstrating how he has been brainwashed by the Inner Party who enforces the system. “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words… You haven’t a real appreciation for Newspeak, Winston… Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thougtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. (Orwell 46)”
The Newspeak word that describes thinking in such self contradictory terms is “doublethink.” Orwell defined doublethink as “a vast system of mental cheating,” where “the lie is always one step ahead of the truth.” In other words, when one says one thing and means another. It is therefore possible, in a country in which such a mental process is common to its citizens, to have a situation in which there is both a war and not a war.
In Orwell’s world an accommodation had been made with the existence of nuclear weapons. In our own world, we begin as children to make a psychological adjustment to those weapons’ existence. Thermonuclear bombs, capable of eradicating all life from the face of the planet, continue to be produced, their existence justified because they are required for the maintenance of peace. More nuclear bombs are needed in order to maintain more peace. Nuclear war cannot come, governments announce, so long as the assurance of destruction is shared by the adversaries. Mutually assured destruction is intended as a comforting phrase. Language thus used soon ceases to have any real meaning: it becomes one more tool of control (Farrell 161).
Further more, a situation in which no action is prohibited by law but a person can be imprisoned or put to death for an action that has never been designated as a crime. The Ministry of Truth is actually the maker of lies for the history books, the Ministry of Love discourages love, and the Ministry of Peace is actually quite violent. For Orwell the misuse of language led to his “greatest epistemological speculation”(Robert Lee 26). In the misuse of language Orwell perceived the everlasting conflict between appearance and reality. This perception was usually expressed as the co-occurrence of the political condition. For example, on the face of the building of the Ministry of Truth are engraved the following slogans: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY’ breathes insecurity into the individualist. It implies that as an individual you will sink, as a group you are immortal. WAR IS PEACE’ leads people to believe that war is a good thing when in reality it is only good for the government that they should believe this. Ironically, it is almost true, at lest in 1984. Because the
states are at war, they are locked in perpetual deadlock”(Erich Fromm). In a state of constant, or chronic war, a certain stability is assured. Three ruling classes of each of the three great super states have decided that war can only go so far, without admitting these things to themselves or else everything will be destroyed. War, then, can exist as an instrument for stabilizing and unifying a society internally, but without any real purpose of victory”(Ranald 112).
1984 is both a satire on the intellectual and a defense of intellectual freedom. The aggression of the government of Oceania is directed primarily toward ideas or persons who possess ideas. This is another reason why the proles escape the party’s scrutiny: “they can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect…. A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police.” Oceania is a just portrait of the aggression and dynamics of orthodoxy, any type of fanatic orthodoxy. O’Brien explains to Winston that Oceania is interested not in his death, but in his conversion. “When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him…Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation”(Orwell 117).
In conclusion, the primary theme of political allegory and satire is seen throughout Orwell’s works. Animal Farm Orwell’s masterpiece which is excellent if it is read without any prior knowledge to the situation in Russia. However, the added element does wonders for this novel. Through writing 1984, Orwell effectively warns society of the destruction that may come
if they do not take the proper precautions. Orwell is a genius and he has cleverly hidden the satire in Animal Farm and 1984 in such an excellent way that everything fits into the picture like a jigsaw puzzle.
Orwell, George. 1984. Signet Books: the New American Library of World Literature, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1950.
Koestler, Arthur. Critical Essay. Secker and Warburg, London, 1946.
Kaleckofsky, Roberta. George Orwell. Fredrick Ungar Publishing Co. New York, N.Y., 1973
Ranald, Ralph. Monarch Notes. Simon ; Schuster division of Gulf ; Western Co. Simon ; Schuster Building. New York, N.Y., 1965
Borman, Gilbert. Cliffs Notes. Cliffs Notes, Inc., U.S.A., 1998
Ferrell, Keith. George Orwell The Political Pen. M. Evans and Company, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1985
Rosenfeld, Isaac. An Age of Enormity. World Publishing Co., New York, 1962
I.A primary theme of political allegory and satire in Orwell’s works
A. 1984 not as a prediction but as a warning
B. His attempt to reveal how barbaric the government may come to be through his works
IIEvil is primarily political
A. Similarities in Orwell’s works
B. Corruption of an originally revolutionary ideal into another dictatorial regime
III. Animal Farm as a satiric allegory of the Russian Revolution
A. Leaders are most likely to abuse power given to them
B. Comparison of characters in Animal farm to Russian leaders
1. Old Major compared to Lenin and Marx
2. Farmer Jones compared to Czar Nicholas
3. The animal Napoleon compared to Stalin
4. Snowball compared to Trotsky
A. Laws social pressure could operate with more coercive force than outright legalprohibition
B. Misuse of language
2. Reality is reverse of the language used to designate it
V.1984 as a satire on the intellectual and a defense of intellectual freedom
A. aggression of the government of Oceania directed toward people who have ideas