Characters, items, and events found in George Orwells book, Animal Farm,
can be compared to similar characters, items, and events found in Marxism and
the 1917 Russian Revolution. This comparison will be shown by using the
symbolism that is in the book with similarities found in the Russian Revolution.
Old Major was a prized-boar that belonged to Farmer Jones. The fact
that Old Major is himself a boar was to signify that radical change and
revolution are, themselves, boring in the eyes of the proletariat (represented
by the other barnyard animals), who are more prone to worrying about work and
survival in their everyday life. 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 were to lead to the communist revolution.
Animal Farm is a criticism of Karl Marx, as well as a novel perpetuating his
convictions of democratic Socialism. (Zwerdling, 20). Lenin became 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 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. Like the animals in the farm yard, the
people is Russia thought there would be no oppression in a new society because
the working class people (or animals) would own all the riches and hold all the
power. (Golubeva and Gellerstein 168).
Another character represented in the book is Farmer Jones. He
represents the symbol of the Czar Nicholas in Russia who treated his people
like 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 and
who came home one night, left the gate open and the animals rebelled. 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 mad with the
way he wielded his authority and preached all the time, and the people suffered
and finally demanded reform by rebelling. The Czar said The law will
henceforward be respected and obeyed not only by the nation but also the
authority that rules it – and that the law would stand above the changing views
of the individual instruments of the supreme power. (Pares 420).
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 charged the
dogs on Snowball, another animal. 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
till very many years later that the world found out about the many deaths that
Stalin created in Russia during the Revolution. For almost 50 years the world
thought that the Nazis had done the killing in Russia, when in fact it was
Stalin. (Imse 2).
The last characters that are symbolic of each other are the animal
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. He was at one time considered the second most powerful man in Russia.
(Trotsky Comptons 290).
Besides characters there are many items that can be compared as symbols
in the book and in Russia. The whip that Napoleon used in the farmyard to
wield power can be compared to the power that Stalin used on the Russians.
Napoleon carried a whip in his trotter. Stalin used his power to starve the
Russian people and to have Lenin arrested. Stalin’s main goal was to maximize
his personal power. (Stalin, Britannia 576). Stalin whipped his people into
shape by collectivizing agriculture, by police terror, and by destroying
remnants of individual prosperity. He also led the Soviet Union into the
nuclear age (Clarkson 442).
Propaganda is another item that was used in the Russian revolution. It
can be compared to Squealer in Animal Farm. Squealer brainwashed (a form of
propaganda) the barnyard animals into believing that they did not like apples
and milk, while he and Napoleon were stealing the food for themselves. In
Russia, the Bolsheviks carried out propaganda on the people by passing out
leaflets and putting stories in the newspapers that were not true. They told
workers, soldiers, and peasants to not trust their own hands and to take away
land from the landowners. (Golubeva and Gellerstein 80).
Another item that is similar in both Animal Farm and Russia are the dogs
and the secret police. Napoleon trained his dogs when they were puppies to
guard him and to obey his every command. They chased Snowball away. Stalin
trained his secret police to do his bidding whenever he issued an order.
Stalin had his secret police kill between 60,000 to 70,000 people. These
police were called the Checka and the graves filled with bodies stacked upon
each other with bullets in each skull were found many years later. (Imse, C2).
Another symbolism that exists in the book and in Russia is a similarity
to events that took place. The windmill that is present in Animal Farm can be
compared with the growth of industry in Russia or the Industrial Revolution.
Snowball first introduced the windmill concept to the farm but Napoleon
disagreed with him and had the dogs chase him away. Napoleon then presented the
windmill as a good idea and the animals were presented with hope that things
would get better on the farm. When it blew down, Napoleon blamed it on
Snowball. Napoleon thought that if he could keep the barnyard animals busy all
the time replacing the windmill that they would not realize how bad their
living conditions were, and he could blame the destruction all the time on
Snowball. The windmill is the only thing that was holding the animals together
as a unit. In Russia the growth of factory and industry was very depressing
but depended on the obligatory labor of serfs. Russia hoped that by keeping
the serfs working all the time and promising them a better world that they
would not realize how bad their living conditions were. The Industrialists
were pressing their own constitutional demands. (Clarkson 352). None of the
social classes were fighting each other because there were no classes left.
What Russia got working was to make the people think that the prospect of loss
of potential improvements in conditions of life of the here and now, could only
be attained by stimulating labor to unprecedented efforts.
The last event that was similar in the book and in Russia was the animal
rebellion on the farm and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Farmer Jones was
drunk a lot and would forget to feed the animals on the farm. The withholding
of this food is what finally forced the animals on the farm to rebel against
Farmer Jones. In Russia, there were many food shortages which caused the
people to demonstrate and then the Russian soldiers refused to suppress them and
the leaders demanded that Nicholas transfer his power to parliamentary
government because everything was getting out of control. Soviet workers and
soldiers formed a special committee and established a government. The same day
the emperor abdicated. (Russian Revolution, Grolier npa). This actually
backfired in Russia and the war continued and the people still starved.
Many lessons can be learned by reading Animal Farm that can help
countries and governments around the world from making mistakes in wielding
their power against their people. If a population is suppressed and not
allowed to accumulate things for themselves then an overthrow of the government
that is suppressing them will be the result.
Clarkson, Jesse. A History of Russia. New York: Random House, 1969.
Golubeva, T. and L. Gellerstein. Early Russia – The Russie. Moscos, Press
Agency Publishing House, 1976.
Imse, Ann. Mass Grave Seen as Evidence of Massecure by Stalins Police.
Hunstsville Times, 13, August. 1990.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet 50th Anniversary Edition, Harcourt Brace &
Pares, Sir Bernard. The Fall of the Russian Monarchy. New York: A division of
Random House, 1939.
Russian Revolution of 1917. Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc. 1992 ed.
Stalin, Joseph. Encyclopedia Britannica. 1917 ed.
Zwerdling, Alex. Orwell and The Left. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1974.
Thesis: Characters, items, and events found in George Orwells book, Animal Farm,
can be compared to similar characters, items, and events found in Marxism and
the 1917 Russian Revolution.
I. Leader Comparisons
A.Old Major compared with Lenin and Marx
B.Farmer Jones compared with Czar Nicholas II
C.Napoleon compared with Stalin
D.Snowball compared with Trotsky
II. Item Comparisons
B. Whip compared with power
C. Squealer compared with propaganda
D. Dogs compared with the secret police
I. Event Comparisons
C. Windmill compared with industry growth
D. Rebellion compared with revolution