How does Orwell use imagery relating to war, conflict and revolution in his allegorical novel “Animal Farm”?
Orwell presents an interesting political allegory in Animal Farm by suggesting that animals are in a war against the humans. Events are described as violent, quick and inspiring.
In the first chapter, ‘Old Major’ is presented as a wise and inspiring character. He tells all the other animals will be equal. He uses repetition of “comrades” and “rebellion” to inspire the other animals to feel a sense of comradery with him, as it implies they are all ‘in it together’. His use of comrades suggests they are friends, a group and united in their cause, which is to wage war on the humans and rise up against the inequality that they face on a daily basis. “Rebellion” has connotations linked to rising up against a regime, rebelling and taking back your independence. Furthermore, in Chapter one we see Orwell using Old Major as a representation or symbolically as Lenin/Marx, when he constantly uses “Man” in the proper noun form, as a negative point against humanity and against the way the farm is run. The animals are being incited to rise up and “get rid of Man” because they appear in the novel to be the root of all evil, which is Orwell’s ironic intention as he is disillusioned by the real Spanish war that he took part in and sees that politics leads to corruption, even when the original intent was morally sound. In the final lines of the chapter the rousing song “Beasts of England” is sung and very quickly learnt by all the animals, which is important as they represent the proletariat and become responsible, upon Old Major’s death, for keeping the flames of revolution alive. As such, perhaps Orwell is suggesting that the current capitalist society they live in is corrupt and change is really needed to allow for a more equal society. Or, it could be Orwell hinting that there is no ideal society, thus foreshadowing the behaviour of the pigs as totalitarian rulers.
Furthermore, Orwell shows the links to war, conflict and revolution when the animals are completely successful in their ability to overthrow Mr Jones and chase him, his wife and all the human farmhands off Manor Farm in Chapter 2. By doing this, the animals show how well they have collaborated in order to create their utopian dream. Mr Jones, who was a drunk, embodied all the negative traits of humanity and this could be linked to the seven deadly sins. He is guilty of forgetting to feed the animals and shows gluttony in his drinking habits, which causes this oversight, furthermore this leads to them taking action as they “broke into the store-shed” starting the revolution. Hunger strike was a tool used in Russia to suppress the proletariat and we see this motif and tool of torture being cleverly embedded in the story to scare the animals, but also to show when conditions are terrible, people (or symbolically the animals) will rise up. War imagery and violence is also shown when Mr Jones and the farmhands retaliate using “whips. Lashing out in all directions” which implies that they are not used to their rules being broken and will fight against the uprising, which was similar to the takeover from the Tsar in Russia. However, the animals chase him from the farm, are victorious in their rebellion, win the revolution and “slam the five bar gate” which has a symbolic relevance as they shut the door on a capitalist society. This means they are now free to create a society where “all animals are equal” and they celebrate with a rousing rendition of “Beast of England” as well as destroying all examples of “Man’s” cruelty in order to have their utopia that was persuaded to them originally by Old Major. Secrecy is also key to the shutting and barring of the gate as this implies that they are now a regime that will have no detractors, as no-one will be able to come in and see what is happening, but they will send “pigeons” out with messages to spread their propaganda. This is another tactic employed by Russia and Stalin in the war against the people during his fascist regime.
Finally, in Chapter Four of the novel Animal Farm, we see war and an uprising against the hostile takeover that took place in Chapter Two. Even the enemies of Mr. Jones join in, as they are horrified that the animals are coping with the farm on their own without humans to help and worry that this may be a fate that will overcome their “neighbouring” farms. However, the plan is foiled due to the reading, by Snowball of a tactical warfare book “Julius Caesar”, so the animals foreshadow the revolt against them and once more come together against the humans. Snowball shows great courage and leadership in what becomes known as “The Battle of the Cowshed” storming in and taking shots of ‘pellets’ across his back, in order to try to get the men out of the farm. However, interestingly the great dictator Napoleon is nowhere to be seen, which again could foreshadow his totalitarian regime and the way that he uses intimidation and fear and shock tactics to keep the other animals under control. In the “|Cowshed” scene the battle is won very quickly due to the ingenuity of getting the large animals to “hide (ing) in the Cowshed” and then stampede on the men after the other animals looked to be defeated. The poignancy of war and the emotional cost is shown at the end of the battle in the way that Boxer reacts and the juxtaposing response from Snowball. Snowball acts like a commanding leader, who feels the means justifies the end, stating “No sentimentality, comrade” in response to Boxer exclamatory and emotional question “I forgot I was wearing iron shoes” which suggests that he feels compassionate towards the “stable boy” that he accidently “reared up” at and “knocked unconscious”. Snowball, is very pragmatic in his response and shows no such emotion, perhaps indicating that with power perhaps you have to have a callous streak as well. Boxer is forlorn and upset and shows that he has a conscience and is a good moral character, whereas Napoleon (through his notable absence) and Snowball (through his rejection of any emotion) show traits relating to unkindness and being unfeeling in the face of adversity. Throughout Russian history there were many attempts to revolt against Stalin’s totalitarian regime and this often resulted in more suffering for the proletariat, and perhaps this is Orwell’s intention to show that the suffering for the animals is only going to worsen as a result of them holding onto power.
It is evident from the vast array of examples in the start of the novella that war, conflict and revolution are key aspects of the plot in Animal Farm. The idea that “All animals are equal” and that they can create and maintain a utopian society by ruling themselves and collaborating is idealistic and Orwell seems to be hinting at this throughout the initial chapters as they all promote some kind of conflict, focus on battle or war and link to the way revolution is used by the animals to try to hold onto Old Major’s original ‘dream’.