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Propaganda in Animal Farm: Role & Examples

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  • 0:04 A Study in Propaganda
  • 0:53 Role & Examples
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Burke

Erin has taught college level english courses and has a master's degree in english.

This lesson examines the role of propaganda in George Orwell's famous novel 'Animal Farm.' We'll look at several examples of propaganda throughout the book.

A Study in Propaganda

George Orwell's Animal Farm tells the story of some well-intentioned animals who overthrow their human masters and attempt to construct a socialist (or as they would call it, 'Animalist') utopia in which all animals are equal and live in harmony. What could go wrong?

A lot, as it turns out. Orwell's novel exhibits just how an idea can get twisted and manipulated into something different, into something horrifying. The main tool of the Animalism movement is propaganda, which is a set of techniques appealing to the emotions of the animals and shaping their perception of the movement. As we will see, the role of propaganda changes as the novel goes on. Examples of its use are everywhere, as George Orwell pretty much provides a master class on the subject.

Roles & Examples

Propaganda plays an important part in shaping the Animalism movement. Let's look at a few examples from the beginning of the novel.

Slogans and Songs

The original propagandist in the novel is Old Major, the stately elderly pig who inspires the animals to rise up against their human oppressor, Mr. Jones. Major has genuinely good intentions - he wants a better life for the animals. However noble his ideas, though, he still has to rely on propaganda to get them across. For example, he introduces slogans such as 'All men are enemies. All animals are comrades' and 'All animals are equal.' These slogans are simple and easy to remember and inspiring to the listening audience. Old Major goes further at the end of his speech by teaching the animals a song, 'Beasts of England.' The song is very moving, and when he finishes singing it, the animals are fired up and convinced that Major is right. Major dies soon after his speech, but he has succeeded in planting the seed for rebellion.

Symbols

After the successful rebellion against Jones, the animals adopt a few symbols which help spread their propaganda. They have a flag with a hoof and horn to represent their movement. They turn Jones' house into a museum as a symbol of their unity and solidarity. After the Battle of the Cowshed, when the animals defend the farm against the human's attempt to take it back, the animals create military decorations. These are: 'Animal Hero: First Class' and 'Animal Hero: Second Class.' Another important symbol is Old Major's skull, which they keep on display and file past with reverence. All of these symbols are propaganda to help unify the animals in their common cause.

A Dark Turn

As time goes on, Old Major's ideals start to get lost in the reality of life on Animal Farm. Slowly, the ruthless pig Napoleon begins to amass power. Napoleon and his mouthpiece Squealer take propaganda in a new, and far darker, direction.

Rewriting History

Napoleon and Squealer's propaganda machine replaces history with fiction. For example, the two make Snowball a scapegoat and blame him for the destruction of the windmill, which was really done by a storm. Snowball was originally a comrade of Napoleon's, but once Napoleon establishes his power and runs Snowball out, his contributions to Animal Farm are rewritten. Suddenly, Squealer is telling everyone that Snowball's heroism in the Battle of the Cowshed was 'greatly exaggerated' and that the idea for the windmill was Napoleon's, not Snowball's. Furthermore, Squealer paints Napoleon as a martyr who is making a sacrifice by taking the leadership role. In this warped reality, history is a modifiable thing.

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