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A Comparison Between 1984 and Animal Farm with Regards to Totalitarianism

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A Comparison between 1984 and Animal Farm with regards to Totalitarianism

George Orwell: The Callous Nature of Totalitarianism

The establishment of an elite power in a society produces feelings of hopelessness and fear. George Orwell, a world-renowned poet and author is known for his politically influenced works regarding socialism. In Animal Farm, Orwell creates a satire based on the communist regime in Russia from 1917-1943. The animals seeking freedom under their liberators the Pigs', revolt against their oppressive owner, Farmer Jones. Ironically, after the revolution the Pigs', lead by Napoleon become the oppressors. Orwell's most influential novel Nineteen Eighty-Four describes a society under totalitarian control. The dictatorship of Big Brother and his Party in Oceania rule over the population with rigid laws and a distinct hierarchy of social position. Winston Smith, a blue-collar Outer Party member is secretly discontent with his life. When he begins to rebel against the Party he is found out, brutally forced to rehabilitate and required to conform to their ideals. In both novels, the authorities use their power to gain their own prestige at the expense of others; the government control of the population, poor treatment of the working class and the disallowance of basic needs illustrate the destructiveness of totalitarian government.

The government control of the population on Animal Farm is manipulative and brutal. For instance, the Pigs' use songs to control the thoughts of the other animals. The Pigs' teach, "all the humbler animals...the maxim FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD...the sheep developed a great liking for the maxim and would start bleating...for hours on end" (Orwell a 22). Initially, the Pigs' lead all the animals to believe that anything on four legs is a friend and anything on two, namely humans are the enemy. However, later on when the Pigs' gain more power, they inform the animals that they will start trading with humans and change the song to, "Four legs good, two legs better...by the time the sheep had quieted down the chance to utter any protest had passed" (Orwell a 89). The animals are angry that the Pigs' want to start trading with the supposed enemy but the Pigs' take advantage of the stupidity of the sheep and use their over whelming singing and bleating to drown out any opposition. The Pigs' use songs to negatively influence the thoughts of the other animals. Moreover, the Pigs' establish basic slogans that are the basis of the original rebellion against Farmer Jones. These seven commandments serve as a reminder of what the animals fought for; they also serve to enforce morals and values amongst the community. Sadly, the Pigs' begin to change the commandments as they acquire further dominance. Northrop Frye comments,

At each stage of this receding revolution, one of the seven principles of the original rebellion becomes corrupted, so that 'no animal shall kill any other animal' has added to it the words 'without cause'...Eventually there is only one principle left, modified to 'all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,' as Animal Farm, its name has changed back to Manor Farm, and is welcomed into the community of human farms again after its neighbors have realized that it makes its 'lower' animals work harder on less food than any other farm, so that the model workers' republic becomes a model of exploited labor. (Bloom 9)

Frye imparts the degradation of the once promising revolution. The principles that once distinguish the animals on Animal Farm from those on neighboring farms have been tainted. The Pigs' change the commandments according to their needs and when the animals realize this, it is too late and the Pigs' join the domineering humans, further enslaving the animals. Furthermore, when keeping order on Animal Farm became increasingly difficult, the leader of the Pigs', Napoleon trained young dogs to become a vicious disciplinary force. At a meeting where Napoleon abolishes the animal anthem 'Beasts of England', four young porkers begin to protests and, "suddenly the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and then the Pigs' fell silent and sat down again" (Orwell a 36). Napoleon uses the dogs to intimidate those with opinions contrary to his own. Eventually, the four young Pigs' are mangled by the dogs because Napoleon declares them traitors. Napoleon uses the dogs to instill his laws and if the other animals do not agree, they are executed. The animals eventually disregard the idea of gaining freedom as they become further restrained by the Pigs' lies and abuses.

Likewise, the government control of the population in Oceania is heavily influenced by propaganda and ill treatment. Similarly, instead of songs, the government introduces a new language called Newspeak to influence the thoughts of its population. Roy Harris notes, "The Newspeak of Nineteen Eighty-Four is a deliberately distorted language, designed to ensure the political enslavement of its speakers. Its aim, as Orwell describes it, is that thoughts not approved by the Party 'should be literally unthinkable'" (Bloom 114). Harris communicates Orwell's central message of Newspeak, which is to ultimately control the thoughts of the population. By controlling language, Newspeak limits the usage of many words in the English language. In essence purging a persons choice of words eliminates an individuals thoughts and feelings. The government of Oceania uses newspeak to eliminate any thoughts of rebellion amongst its population. In contrast, the slogans of the Party are already corrupt. The slogan of the government's Ministry of Truth, where all government and public documents are modified is, "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" (Orwell b 29). Unlike the Pigs' who alter their principles to suit their wishes, the fundamentally corrupt principles of the Party remain unchanged. The government masks their corruption as the norm and the population accepts it as the truth because they have no other basis of comparison. Similarly, the disciplinary force also controls the behavior of the population right down to their thoughts. The Thought Police keeps the citizens in a constant state of fear. Winston Smith holds a great fear of the Thought Police,

Only the thought Police mattered...there was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody

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