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Propaganda in Animal Farm

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Animal Farm is certainly among George Orwell’s most famous works. It is an allegory of totalitarian regimes and how they functioned. A very important tool used at the farm is propaganda. Propaganda is the key source from which the pigs gain their power. Although propaganda can be a broad term and there are a lot of different ways of spreading it, the main way of spreading propaganda in the Animal Farm is through language.

Squealer is the main character when it comes to propaganda. He manipulates other characters with his explanations and thus, it can be said that life on the farm is being shaped by the ruling party- the pigs. Within the character of Squealer, Orwell demonstrates how easy it is to convince the animals on the farm by using powerful words and powerful speech. This depicts how people, in general, can easily become victims and how they start to believe in lies due to very powerful and persuasive language. The ironic thing is, most of them do not understand the real meaning of the words, so they brainlessly eat up all the propaganda they are being fed. Right at the beginning, we can see a prime example of powerful use of language in the song „Beasts of England“. The purpose of this song is to create a unification of animals: „Soon or late the day is coming,/Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown/And the fruitful fields of England/Shall be trod by beasts alone./Rings shall vanish from our noses,/And the harness from our back,/Bit and spur shall rust forever,/Cruel whips no more shall crack.“ (Orwell 32) They are completely magnetized to the song and its words since it gives them an enemy- the human being. Because of this common enemy, the animals feel like they are all united and all „under one banner“, even though they did not get on well before. These lyrics make them think that things would be better if there were no humans around. Naming humans evil tyrants, while paroling that the world would be a brighter place without them, is most definitely going to affect the way of thinking of the animals singing the song. Old Major’s speech also depicts how words can be used in a powerful way: “Old Major uses a Hobbesian figure when he declares: ‘Let us face it, our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.’(Robb) And he also speaks in Marxist terms when he declares that Man is the problem. “Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labor would be our own. Almost overnight we could be rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades. Rebellion!“(Robb) Another usage of propaganda is shown when the Old Major is trying to influence the other animals into thinking that humans are the enemy. This is called „pinpointing the enemy“ (Roland) and is often the most used type of propaganda. „Pinpointing the enemy“ is by far one the most favoured types of propaganda used during wartime and it had a major impact during Adolf Hitler’s reign during the Second World War. 

The reason why this is very popular during wartime is that it is very easy to execute. A normally very complex problem is being marginalised to a simple solution- blaming a specific person or a group for everything and portraying them as the ultimate enemy. Another way the animals are persuaded by words are the commandments and their changes. The Commandments are a strong tool of manipulation. Just like the song „Beasts of England“ they were made in order to unify all animals while portraying humans as the ultimate enemy. These rules were made so that animals would feel as if they are a part of something new, a new world, a so-called utopia where they are free and have no masters. However, this soon turned out to be completely false. Squealer is a pig on Animal Farm. He is constantly propagandizing stories in order to show how wonderful Napoleon is and to prove how he is always right, or that Napoleon’s main concern is the greater good of the farm when in reality, the only thing he is interested in is his personal gain. A prime example of this would be when Squealer comments on the war between the three farms: ”…Russia entered the European war on the side of the Allies, increasing attempts [have been] made by Stalin to achieve some level of … agreement, with the other Allied nations. A series of meetings were held between the leaders of the various nations, and one particular conference resulted in the protracted Cold War. Th[e] conference is [shown] in the novel by [a] meeting between the pigs and humans in the end, during which a quarrel breaks out over cheating at cards.“ (Fitzpatrick) Squealer lies to the animals that they have won the war. Truth is, there is no winner and they have not gained anything. He made them believe that they have won a war which was unhelpful and useless. The most notable example of Squealer’s lying would be how he depicted Boxer’s death: „It was the most affecting sight I have ever seen!’ said Squealer, lifting his trotter and wiping away a tear. ‘I was at his bedside at the very last. And at the end, almost too weak to speak, he whispered in my ear that his sole sorrow was to have passed on before the windmill was finished. ‘Forward, comrades!’ he whispered. ‘Forward in the name of the Rebellion. Long live Animal Farm! Long live Comrade Napoleon! Napoleon is always right.’ Those were his very last words, comrades.” (Orwell 117) Squealer successfully persuades the other animals that Boxer’s death was justified and there was nothing wrong with it. 

This is by far if not even the best example of how propaganda is being used in the Animal Farm. Boxer was in fact sent to a slaughterhouse since he was deemed useless after his injury (due to overworking). A very important character in the novel is ,of course, Napoleon himself and the way how he manages to make his propaganda work. He does this with the help of many different methods. At the beginning he makes the other animals march past Old Major’s skull. He does this in order to reinforce his position as a leader and perhaps to become similar to the Old Major so that the other animals admire him as much as they admired Old Major. In his speeches, he often uses words such as “sacrifice“ and “own contribution“ to manipulate the other animals into thinking that they are working towards a greater cause than themselves. Napoleon uses Squealer as his right hand and gives him the position of a “propaganda minister“, just like Hitler had Goebbels as his propaganda minister. Squealer uses complicated words and phrases which are too hard to understand for the other animals. When the animals started a protest, Squealer discouraged them by threatening them with violence. Sheep are used to ease the mood by yelling their slogan. During the novel, dogs are more often seen in the public and with their help, as his personal militia, Napoleon reinforces his position as a leader even more. To sum Napoleon up, he is truly a very intelligent and “masterful“ dictator.

All in all, words are a very powerful tool of manipulation in the Animal Farm. This is mostly because of the song “Beasts of England”, Squealer’s persuasive skills and the constant changing of the commandments. This only proves how dangerous and powerful words can be when they are used by the “right“ people. The reason why Orwell decided to make words a weapon in his novel is that he criticised the “sheep mentality“ of the general public and he wanted to promote the idea of critical and free thinking. It is almost daunting how much Orwell and his way of thinking were ahead of his generation. The novel Animal Farm could perfectly be applied to the modern world even though it was written over 70 years ago. 

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