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Dissertation, Les faux Monnayeurs, André Gide

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Littérature Anglaise: Animal Farm

L’écrivain dans son siècle

Pb: How can a writer denounce the flaws of a system without namely pointing them?

George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, born in 1903 in India, during the time of the British colonial rule.

Unlike many British socialists in the 1930s and 1940s, Orwell was not enamoured of the Soviet Union and its policies, because he didn’t consider the Soviet Union a positive representation of the possibilities of socialist society. He could not turn a blind eye to the cruelties and hypocrisies of Soviet Communist Party, which had replaced the semi feudal system of the tsars with the dictatorial reign of Joseph Stalin. Orwell became a sharp critic of both capitalism and communism, and is remembered as an advocate of freedom and a committed opponent of communist oppression. His two greatest anti-totalitarian novels are Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell died in 1950, only a year after completing 1984, which many consider his masterpiece.

Orwell's writing career spanned nearly seventeen years. Ironically, although Orwell didn't consider himself a novelist, he wrote two of the most important literary masterpieces of the 20th century.

Animal farm, despite it’s fairy tales appearance, is actually an essay denouncing the totalitarism of Joseph Stalin.

Animal Farm is an allegoric retelling of the 1917 Russian Revolution and it's aftermath.

Every character symbolizes an actor of this rebellion: Mr Jones represents Tsar Nicholas ll, he’s irresponsible and cruel with his animals: he lets them starve and beats them with a whip, just like the Tsar who was a bad leader, brutal with his opponents.

Old Major can be compared to Karl Marx, founder of communism who died before the revolution. Old Major is the one who truly believed that animals should be equal, and that since they are the workers they should be the ones who profit of its benefits. He also can be compared to Lenin. He’s the character linked to my personal document, which is a depiction of what would be a communist country if the essence of communism was respected.

Orwell opposed Napoleon and Snowball just like Stalin and Trotsky were. Napoleon uses military forces (his nine trained dogs, representing the secret police) to intimidate other animals and consolidate his power, whereas Snowball is intelligent, eloquent and less devious than his counterpart.

Squealer is depicted as being a “big mouth”, which changes and manipulates the commandments. He convinces animals to follow and believe Napoleon, just as Molotov used any lie to convince people to follow Stalin. He is the proof that language is a weapon to manipulate the population.

The list goes on, Mollie the precious horse portrays the bourgeoisie, building the windmill refers to the five year plans, animals other than pigs and dogs are the proletariat, finally the easy going gentleman farmer Mr Pilkington represents USA and UK, with whom Stalin came to agreement on join military strategy , and planned the post-war order. The repeated violations of the seven commandments are the perfect illustrations of the violation of Marx’s vision of communism.

Why did Orwell use allegory? What is the impact of this choice on readers? What makes it a modern myth?

Historically, fables have allowed writers to criticize individuals or institutions without endangering themselves: an author could always claim that he had simply written a fairy tale (a hypothetical, meaningless children’s story). Even now, when many nations protect freedom of speech, fables still are less accusatory, less threatening.  By using animals as characters, he was following the path of many other fable writers such as Jean de La Fontaine.

Since the book was written during WW2, at which time England was an ally of the Soviet Union against Germany, writing a book openly condemning this system would have been really controversial. By writing a fable rather than a political essay, he expanded his potential audience.

Rather than a political essay, the fable uses a simple language, encouraging the readers to feel drawn into the story, to follow the plot easily. There is a unity of place, which makes it easier to follow. The animals all have characteristics that add elements of sympathy to his characters.  The characterization makes the characters easily identifiable. For example, moses the raven is the hope in a hopeless world, and the sheep, as in the universal mind, are a gullible mass, easily manipulated. The light-hearted atmosphere of a fairy-tale such as animal farm contrast with the reality and the not so hidden message, which might let the readers speechless. It also adds an ironic and humoristic dimension to Orwell’s masterpiece.


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