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How Animal Farm Parallels the Russian Revolution

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  • 0:04 Animal Farm
  • 0:36 Leadership
  • 2:14 Battle of Cowshed
  • 2:34 Battle of Windmill
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

''Animal Farm'' by George Orwell paints a picture of the political events of the Russian Revolution in this allegorical tale of how power and greed among leadership lead to suffering among the working class.

Animal Farm

Why would George Orwell, a political journalist, write a story about animals? Animal Farm is a novel about anthropomorphic farm animals that start a revolution. Anthropomorphic means to ascribe human characteristics to nonhuman things. Animal Farm is, however, much more than your typical animal tale. The parallels that the author draws between the plot and the Russian Revolution make this story an example of an allegory. An allegory is a metaphorical representation. Let's look at some of the relationships found among the characters in the story and real, historical events.

Leadership

Old Major, is a well-respected pig who inspires the animals of Manor Farm to consider revolting in the hopes of a new and better life. He outlines what it would take to create a fair government that benefits all, but he dies before his dream is ever realized. Old Major represents Karl Marx, who in 1848 inspired an uprising against the ruling class with his book The Communist Manifesto and Vladimir Lenin, who helped lead the Russian Revolution of 1917 using Marxist principles. Like Old Major, both Marx and Lenin didn't live to see people triumph.

After Old Major's death, three pigs emerge as leaders. Snowball wants to carry out the dreams of Old Major and improve the economy through industry (the windmill); however, he loses the battle for power and ends up being chased off the farm. His role is similar to the one of Leon Trotsky, a close associate of Lenin's who was exiled from the Soviet Union after he became a threat to its leader, Joseph Stalin.

Napoleon took power by force and used it to improve conditions for himself and his supporters at the expense of the working class. Public executions ensured that no one would cross him. Napoleon represents Stalin, who was not considered part of the Russian Revolution per se, but instead a transitional figure to a bureaucratic dictatorship, whose economic ideas resulted in a famine that killed millions of people. Further, during Stalin's purges, several more million people were executed for opposing him.

Squealer never sought power for himself but worked with Napoleon to keep the masses calm. Squealer doesn't represent a specific historical figure, but rather a tactic. During that time period, the government used the press to spread propaganda to sell Stalin to the people.

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