• Peter T. Clarke, Jr.

Book Report: Animal Farm - Totalitarianism: “A Mirage of Freedom”

It reads like a tragic play. The pigs from the outset elect themselves the leaders and engage in manipulative behavior. Though it is true that they are the smartest of all the animals on the farm, they take advantage. Their first bad behavior is the listing of commandments which, at its core, teaches the more humble animals to hate something (humans) that is different from themselves (a classic case of the abused becoming the abuser, as the animals deem their human master, Mr. Jones, the first abuser). The second, a subtle act of cruelty, is when one of the leader pigs, Napoleon, takes the dogs’ puppies away so that he can teach them how to read, which he conveniently justifies by saying it is important to teach them while they are still young (a classic case of brain-washing; teaching them corrupt, biased ideas as soon as possible). Noteworthy further as evidence of brain-washing is in the opening paragraph of chapter 6: “...well aware that everything that they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings.” This line is something to watch play out throughout the book, and throughout life. Nothing is more cliché about brain-washing than making the people think it’s all for “them.” Third, and most astounding, is the pigs’ hoarding of the milk and apples. This is the most obvious move to convince the reader that a totalitarian government has been established. The pigs, communicated through one of their own, named Squealer, lie and tell the other animals that they need the milk and apples because they are foods that are tailored specifically for a pig’s health, and a pig’s health alone (a classic case of propaganda; altering facts to fit an agenda). If the pigs don’t eat the milk and apples, they will not be strong enough to ward off the humans, like their former master, Mr. Jones, to which the pigs know the other animals are afraid (a classic case of fear-mongering; they use a threat to control the humbler animals by scaring them with the return of something that they know receives unanimous fear, distaste, and hatred — perfect emotional ingredients to keep the flames of obedience burning).

I read somewhere that the two main pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, are supposed to be Napoleon Bonaparte and Josef Stalin, but are better fitted, in my opinion, to be Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, or Fascism and Communism, respectively. You ask me, they are two sides of the same coin. In their own specific teachings, they differ, but each demonstrate themselves similarly. They both use the same practices of authoritarian/totalitarian governments as mentioned above: brain-washing, propaganda, and fear-mongering, and once in place, their efforts become transparent in how they rule their countries; it becomes very clear who is in charge and who is not. These governments are setup merely to force the people to work for the country so that the leaders can enjoy the benefits, using the charade of the people working for a “greater good,” or working for a perceived “unity,” which is a farce. Where totalitarianism really succeeds is in its fruition. I’m not a PhD in history, though I can see that totalitarianism has a strong trend of coming about during a pivotal national crisis. The country is heavily divided and the people are angry and crave change. Enter totalitarianism. It shows up like the devil: seductively. It greets you with a smile and a perfect sales pitch, so perfect that it amazes you how perfectly it takes the words right out of your mouth. It says things like: “Countrymen, time has come”…“Comrades, our country is being torn apart by an invisible enemy” (“invisible” makes it scarier)…“only this country’s people know what’s good for this country.” Some well-timed words of healing for a nation’s crying public and the seed is planted for a new, manipulative government; a blunt force of authority to fester, fueled by the passion of an angry mob who irrationally and irrevocably wanted change. (The above quotes weren’t from any specific place, I just made them up to mimic typical pablum one might hear in a moment like that.)

As a result of hating what kept them enslaved, the animals over-admire, so to speak, their own attributes to, ironically enough, become enslaved by themselves. Once they are “free,” and their former human-run world is forgotten, the commandments they live by, which started out as beacons of pride in their own self-image, become new shackles that tell them what to do and how to think. It is a story of irony that progresses in a corrupting fashion; a tale of a totalitarian government that places the more intelligent animals above the rest. The last thing most of the animals on Animal Farm are is free or equal. If you haven’t read the book, and ever do, you’ll notice how whenever the animals (besides the pigs) begin to grow smarter, and try to think for themselves, in walks Squealer, the Goebbells of the pigs, with impeccable timing. He walks in and acts as the proverbial mouthpiece of oppression; the voice of propaganda that resets the morale among the humbler animals to be quiet, dumb, and afraid.

I have very little sympathy for a stupid being's predicament. It’s sad, yes, and also hopeless. The humbler animals don’t know any better. My only plea throughout the book was for the animals to pair their suspicion with courage so that they could hopefully expose the pigs for what they were: traitors, and not leaders. The humbler animals either couldn’t remember what they were upset about or failed to communicate it when they did, albeit vaguely. After the pigs move into their former human master’s farmhouse — which was vehemently opposed to in the beginning of the book as something the animals should never touch as it was a symbol of oppressive humanity — it was all over. The farmhouse begins to reek of Versailles with the pigs’ abuses. The pigs go on to violate the remaining commandments that they hadn’t already violated (without giving too much away) like: drink alcohol (Fifth Commandment ), sleep in human beds (Fourth Commandment), walk on their hind legs (First Commandment), and dress in their former human masters’ clothes (Third Commandment). At the very end, the pigs are seen by the rest of Animal Farm (now ‘Manor Farm,’ changed to its original, human name by Napoleon), partying around the dinner table with human beings. While they looked through the window, beautifully, yet disgustingly poetic was the humbler animals’ inability to decipher between who was human and who was a pig. In a draconian fashion, and angered by how the book had ended, I found myself coming to a violent conclusion: All the pigs MUST DIE! Who doesn’t love bacon?

#AnimalFarm #totalitarianism #book #reading


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