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The Downfall of Animalism through Capitalism, Totalitarianism, and one Hierarchy

It is not uncommon for the ordinary 21st century individual to find himself or herself lost in the vast sea of hierarchical systems of our world. Such hierarchies are based on countless different factors such as political power, military rank, or social status. However, what happens when the top of a hierarchy becomes too dominant, and completely overpowers its lower ranks? George Orwell’s Animal Farm artfully illustrates this eventuality through the downfall of Animalism, a set of ideals revolving around the concepts of equality, freedom, and justice. One can see that immediately after the revolution on Manor Farm, a capitalistic effect takes place wherein the pigs, who are intelligent, articulate, and natural leaders, seize their newly founded opportunity to prosper; this new achievement creates a new hierarchy. This newly formed power allows the pigs to utilize their oratorial capabilities in order to manipulate the working class, to be deceitful yet seemingly logical to the common animal, and to gradually mold the precepts of Animalism as expressed through the “Seven Commandments.” Finally, other factors such as ill-founded trust and imposed violence contribute to the previously stated developments, creating a final state of totalitarianism. In essence, it is the initial formation of a hierarchy, manifested as a capitalistic effect, that leads to the subsequent chain of events resembling totalitarian actions; furthermore, this is what constitutes the downfall and detriment of Animalism in Animal Farm.

As seen in the Russian revolution of 1917, the abolition of one hierarchy (the tsarist monarchy) can easily lead to the formation of another (Soviet Russia), which is often inferior to the first. In a similar fashion, the abolition of the oppressive two-sided hierarchy under Jones leads to the formation of less evident hierarchy, also two-sided, of which the pigs are at the top. Immediately after the revolution on Manor Farm, a modern capitalistic effect occurs: members of a society achieve success based on skill and merit in order to produce individual profit or prosperity. In other words, opportunity suddenly existed to all animals, but the pigs, being the most intellectually capable animals, seized this chance and prospered on the basis of intelligence and leadership. “The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership” (Orwell, 2008, p. 17). As the narrator indicates, most of the animals were completely ignorant that a hierarchy had already been created – it was “only natural” that the pigs should assume the leadership. In truth, this is a blatant disregard of the core precepts of Animalism (a philosophy on which the rebellion lay its foundations): the seventh and arguably most important “commandment” explicitly states that all animals are equal. Equality, however, is impossible when a leader governs the population from a position of power rather than a position of shared responsibility. Essentially, the creation of a hierarchy manifested through a capitalistic effect was the single most decisive element in the subsequent downfall of Animalism, as it was the subtle beginning of impending totalitarianism.

Now that the pigs are at the top of the hierarchy and possess considerable power over the farm, they also have the ability to exert this power to suit their purpose. This purpose could have a been a noble one – to maintain equality and prosperity for all, for example. Alas, the pigs give in to their evidently selfish nature by pairing their artful rhetoric with their manipulative intent. Their primary tool to come by this means is Squealer the pig, who parallels the general concept of Russian communist propaganda. “He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white” (Orwell, 2008, p. 9). Here, the narrator explicitly states this ridiculously persuasive pig could turn questionable (black) deeds or claims into ones that seem normal or even in accordance with the common good (white). The power of persuasion and rhetoric proves itself to be superior to thought, logic, and deliberation, which is also the objective of historical propaganda. The reason why the propaganda in Animal Farm is so effective is the intelligence-based hierarchy previously discussed: the pigs take advantage of the enormous difference in average intelligence between them and the working-class animals, knowing that they are less likely to be met by resistance if they create seemingly valid arguments. An aspect of the pigs’ rhetoric that is especially powerful is the misdirection and shift of focus they create, whether this is scapegoating Snowball or reminding of Jones’ possible yet surely undesirable return. Finally, the pigs manipulate the masses not only orally, but through numerous subtle changes to the “Seven Commandments.” All in all, the pigs take advantage of their power, in a totalitarian fashion, through the use of their intelligence and rhetoric in order to gradually mold and manipulate the animals to their will.

During the trying times of the Nazi and Communist regimes, many individuals shifted their opinions and ideals to the shape of the general attitude and encouraged ideology, and out of fear of what consequences may arise from disagreement, a subconscious act of compliance and submission occurred. Similarly, the concept of misplaced trust in Animal Farm spreads and propagates through a sort of influential game. Most of the animals (the working class) simply lack the intelligence to formulate an opinion concerning the reliability of their leadership, and so they merely look toward the general attitude of their fellow “working class commoners” for some indication. For example, Boxer creates his guiding motto this way: “Boxer, who now had the time to think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: ‘If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.’ And from then on he adopted the maxim, ‘Napoleon is always right,’…” (Orwell, 2008, p. 37). Additionally, the farm’s authority began employing violent and forceful measures (i.e. the nine dogs, the execution of the wrongdoers) to eliminate any source of opposition. One can only wonder how this outright manifestation of totalitarianism did not stir up the animals or incite some form of disagreement. Rather, they set aside such initial thoughts to the reassurance of trust in higher power – Napoleon must have a just reason for doing what he did. In other words, the element of ill-founded and spreading trust exists out of the influences of other animals and out of subconscious fear of consequence, allowing the pigs to perform even villainous acts, and accelerating the general rise of totalitarianism.

The deterioration of Animalism can be explained through three major events: firstly, and most importantly, a hierarchy is created on the basis of intelligence; secondly, this hierarchy creates power which the pigs use to manipulate the animals mainly through their rhetoric; and thirdly, ill-founded trust spreads within the animals and they feel no need to oppose their leadership, especially since they fear the violent end they could meet. A capitalist influence creates the hierarchy (individual prosperity through individual merit), and a totalitarian development ensues as a result of the pigs’ selfish and crude intentions. George Orwell’s moral of the story, through all these events and occurrences, is certainly not a conventional one. Perhaps what he is attempting to convey is the danger of an imbalanced hierarchy, and how regardless of the initial objective (i.e. Animalism), a disproportionate and limited class system will invariably lead to an excess of power on the leading side. Consider the events of Animal Farm as not only a dramatized version of the Russian communist regime, but also as a timeless warning to the world. We never know when the next Animal Farm may occur, fictionally or non-fictionally.

Orwell, G. (2008). Animal Farm. London: Penguin Books.

Toronto ON

Victor Andrei Lambert
15 ani, clasa X-a

by Andrei Lambert    4/22/2019


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