This study aims to determine that George Orwell s Animal Farm is a political satire which was written to criticise totalitarian regimes and particularly Stalin s practices in Russia. In order to provide background information that would reveal causes led Orwell to write Animal Farm, Chapter one is devoted to a brief summary of the progress of author s life and significant events that had impact on his political convictions.
Chapter one also presents background information about Animal Farm. Chapter two is devoted to satire. In this chapter, definition of satire is presented and some important characteristics of satire are discussed. In chapter three, the method of this research is described. Under the light of information presented in the previous chapters, Chapter four discusses Animal Farm and focuses on the book as a political satire. The last chapter presents the conclusion of this study.
I would first like to express my sincere thanks to my thesis supervisor, Assoc.Prof. Dr. Jashua M. Bear for his help and freedom he gave me in this study. Without his understanding this thesis would never have been completed.
I also wish to thank my sister Fidan Korkut for her suggestions in the planning stage of this study and her endurance during my long study days at home.
My special thanks go to +zg r Ceylan, who constantly granted me her moral support. She was always there when I needed her.
This chapter introduces general information about George Orwell s life. It includes chronological progress of his life and his political convictions. Furthermore, important events, such as The Russian Revolution and The Spanish Civil War which had significant influence on his commitment to write Animal Farm will be discussed. Lastly, general information about Animal Farm will be given.
The British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, was born in Motihari, India, June 25, 1903. His father was an important British civil servant in India, which was then part of the British Empire. A few years after Eric was born, he retired on a low pension and moved back to England. Though their income was not much enough, the Blair family sent their son away to boarding school which was an exclusive preparatory school, to prepare him for Eton Collage. Eric then won a scholarship to Eton Collage. During his education from the age of eight to eighteen, as he wrote in his essay about his school experiences titled “Such, Such Were the Joys,” he experienced many things about the “world where the prime necessities were money, titled relatives, athleticism, tailor-made clothes”, inequality, oppression and class distinctions in the schools of England (In Ball,1984).
After the education at Eton College in England, Eric joined the Indian Imperial Police in British-Ruled Burma in 1922. There he witnessed oppression again, but this time he was looking at things from the top. Having served five years in Burma, he resigned in 1927 and turned back to Europe and lived in Paris for more than a year. Though he wrote novels and short stories he found nobody to get them published. He worked as a tutor and even as a dishwasher in Paris. During his poor days in Paris, he once more experienced the problems of the oppressed, the helpless and lower class people.
In 1933, After having many experiences about the life at the bottom of society, he wrote Down and Out in Paris and London and published it under his pen name “George Orwell.” After a year in 1934 he published his novel Burmese Days, which he reflected his experiences there. Then, he published A Clergyman s Daughter in 1935, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying in 1936.
In 1936, his publisher wanted Orwell to go to the English coal-mining country and write about it which was another important experience in his life. He wrote The Road to Wigan Pier to reflect what he saw there, the real poverty of people of the Lancashire Town of Wigan, and published it in 1937 (Ball, 1984).
1937 was the year that Orwell who for some time had been describing himself as “pro-socialist” (BALL, 1984) joined the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. When the Communists attempted to eliminate their allies on the far left, he fought against them and was wounded in the fighting, later was forced to flee for his life. His experience in this war was to have the most significant impact on his political thoughts and his later works.
In 1938, Orwell wrote Homage to Catalonia, which recounts his experiences fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. One of his best-known books reflecting his lifelong distrust of dictatorial government, whether of the left or right, Animal Farm, a modern beast-fable attacking Russian Revolution, Stalinism and totalitarianism, was published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratised state of the future was published in 1949. His first fame was brought by these two novels and they were the only ones which made a profit for him as a writer (Ball,1984).
Orwell died at the early age of forty-seven of a neglected lung ailment in London, Jan. 21, 1950.
His Time: Political Background
In his essay “Why I Write”, Orwell (1947) says:
I do not think one can assess a writer s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own Taking Orwell s his own words into consideration, in order to get a better understanding of his works and particularly of his political satire Animal Farm, we should look at his political convictions, and the historical context which influenced Orwell and inspired him to write. Very few authors develop essays explaining the motivation behind their writing. Orwell was of one them. Therefore in order to understand his motivations, his essay “Why I Write” would be the most appropriate source to be looked at.
Orwell was a political writer and according to him he was forced to be a writer by the circumstances under which he has become aware of his political loyalties. His Burma and Paris days increased his natural hatred of authority and made him aware of the existence of the working classes.(Orwell, 1947)
As mentioned above, he described himself as “pro-Socialist.” What he was longing for was a society in which there would be no class distinctions, and he named his ideal ideology “democratic socialism”. He says “every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism ” (Orwell, 1947)
There are two significant events that have great influence on Orwell s political thoughts: The Russian revolution that took place in the second decade of 20th century and The Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.
The Russian Revolution
Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was the first great revolution which aimed at to overthrow the owners of the means of production, that is Capitalist Bourgeoisie, and to establish a state to be ruled by the working class, the Proletariat. Ideological basis of the revolution was taken from the philosophy of Karl Marx and Frederick Angels who believed that the history of the world was the history of a struggle between classes- between ruling classes and ruled classes (Han erlio lu, 1976). Marx was very critical of industrial capitalist society in which there are many cruel injustices and men are exploited by men.
Out of his analysis of Capitalist system, he attained a vision of ending these injustices and establishing a society in which there would be no social classes and everybody would be equal. To him, in order to achieve this end the only way was a revolution made by the working class or the Proletariat against the Bourgeoisie. After revolution working classes would own the means of production. Marx called the new order that would be set after revolution “dictatorship of the Proletariat” which eventually replaced with a classless society (Han erlio lu, 1976).
In October 1917, V.I. Lenin, led the socialist (Bolshevik) revolution in Russia. After the revolution was a four-year bloody civil war. During this war Red Army of the revolution organised and headed by Leon Trotsky had to fight against both Russians who were loyal to Czar and foreign troops (The Academic American Encyclopaedia, 1995).
After Lenin died in 1924, a struggle between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky started for the leadership of the Communist Party. Stalin gained priority over Trotsky and; in 1925 Trotsky with several other members ousted from Politburo (the chief executive and political committee of the Communist Party); in 1927 Trotsky and his followers expelled from Party; Stalin took the control. Later Trotsky was exiled and in 1929 he was deported. In 1940 he was assassinated. During this period, Stalin always denounced Trotsky as a traitor (Ball, 1929).
In the following years, Russia witnessed that Stalin started to take all power only in his hands. In 1930 s, many people were arrested. After public trials most of the opposing elements were eliminated.
Stalin has been accused of being a very cruel dictator. However, Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled USSR between 1958-1964 and who was very critical of Stalin s crimes and non-human practices said in 1956 that:
Stalin believed that all his practices was necessary in order to defend the benefits of labourers. He looked at these practices from the view point of the benefit of socialism and labourers. Thus, we cannot define his practices as of a giddy cruel despot. Here, it is the all tragedy (Han erlio lu, 1979).
The Spanish Civil War
In 1936, General Francisco Franco led a military coup in Spain, plunging the country into civil war. Franklin Rosemont in his article “Spanish revolution of 1936″ defines the beginning of the revolution as follows:
When Franco s fascist troops invaded Spain in July 1936 with the purpose of overthrowing the young and unstable Republic, the Spanish working class responded by making a revolution that went much further toward realising the classless and stateless ideal of proletarian socialism than any preceding popular revolt. Spontaneously and almost overnight, workers seized factories and other workplaces; land was collectivised; workers militias were formed throughout the country; the church age-old enemy of all working-class radicalism and indeed, openly profascist was dismantled, and its property confiscated; established political institutions disintegrated or were taken over by workers committees (Rosemont, 1988).
Yet, between 1936 and 1939 the military rising originating in Morocco, headed by General Francisco Franco, spreads rapidly all over the country, After a number of bloody battles in which fortunes changed from one side to the other. Finally, Nationalist forces occupied the capital, Madrid, on March 28, 1939, and on April 1, General Franco officially ended the war (The Academic American Encyclopaedia).
Orwell And The Spanish Civil War
David Ball (1984) points out three experiences in the Spanish Civil War that were important for Orwell: atmosphere of Comradeship and respect, what happened to his fellow fighters and what happened when he returned to England and reported what he had seen.
After spending very poor days in Paris, Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. When he arrived Barcelona, he found an elating “atmosphere of Comradeship and respect”. People were friendly and addressing each other “comrade”. To Orwell, relations in the militia group he joined were the same and this made him feel that socialism was in action there.
But later on, he was disappointed by what happened to his arm friends who were imprisoned and killed by their own “comrades” who were of Communist-dominated elements of the Republican government that they were fighting for. Communists believed that the communist ideas were betrayed by the militia group that Orwell belonged to. After he was wounded Orwell went back to England for remedy and was saved from being killed by his “comrades”.
When he returned England he reported what he witnessed in the war, but Socialists strongly resisted to understand what he told about the practices of communists in Spain. The reason was that it was not the right time to publicise all these things while the war was going on and this information would harm Republican s position in the war. After this bad experience, he started to be more critical of British socialists and of communism. He wrote in his article “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood.” (Orwell, 1947)
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