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Animal Farm: Chapter II - Analysis

Old Major’s death represents Lenin’s death in 1924, which left Stalin (Napoleon) and Trotsky (Snowball) to vie for the leadership position. Major’s meeting changes the animals’ outlook on life, but Orwell is careful to mention that not all the animals quite grasp Major’s idea of a utopian society. All the animals can learn "Beasts of England," but only those smart enough can truly assume the revolutionary spirit and the task of preparing for the Rebellion. The pigs become the organizers very quickly. It is important to note two things about their rise to power. First, the pigs have not always been in charge of the other animals, though later in the book when the pigs are so thoroughly demonetized, Orwell makes it hard for the animals and the reader to remember that. But they are superior by nature or at least by tradition when it comes to intelligence. Second, the pigs’ intentions are not necessarily bad at first. They take on the task of organization because of their reputed superiority rather than a desire to take control for themselves. Just as Boxer is best suited for hard manual labor, the pigs take their place for organizational work in the animals’ division of labor.

Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer organize Major’s ideas into the theory of Animalism, which can stand for any “complete system of thought” but is meant to evoke Soviet Communism. If Snowball and Napoleon represent the organizers of Communism, then the other pigs represent those of the Russian intelligentsia who became involved in the revolutionary cause. The Seven Commandments represent Communism in its theoretical, idealized form. In writing, the Seven Commandments look fair and hold true to Major’s stipulation that the animals not emulate humans. Though the animals intend to live by the Seven Commandments “for ever after,” we will learn quickly that the tenets of Animalism do not translate perfectly into reality, especially not with the seeds of elitism already planted among the pigs.

Like any new theory, Animalism is met with doubt and opposition. The most notable objection comes from Mollie, the fickle mare that represents Russia’s elite. Although the common animals also doubt Animalism, Mollie is spoiled by the special treatment she received under Jones’s rule (mirroring the czar’s rule). She also, despite being superficial and fickle, has the intelligence and the resources to get herself out of Animal Farm, which the “peasant” animals lack. Historically, many of the Russian elite were unwilling to give up their privileges, just as Mollie is loath to give up ribbons, sugar, or being petted. Like Mollie, they became expatriates in capitalist societies where they could retain their advantages (this was a particularly wise move, considering what had happened to the nobility during the French Revolution). Moses also presents a challenge to Animalism, just as religion presented a challenge to Communism. Historically, Stalin used intimidation and force to crush religion and promote atheism in the Soviet Union. However, despite their efforts to promote their ideas over those of Moses, the leadership of Animal Farm allows Moses to come and go as he pleases. The struggles and inconsistencies of Animalism as practiced can be made softer by belief in an animal heaven to be enjoyed later.

Mr. Jones’s monetary troubles mirror the Russian throne’s ineffectiveness and dwindling power on the eve of the Revolution. The air is ripe for revolution, and the animals seize the opportunity to run Jones off his own land. The animals are kinder to Jones than the revolutionaries were to Czar Nicholas II, who was executed on Lenin’s orders along with his family.

With Jones gone, the animals begin to realize Major’s vision of a utopian, animal-run society that operates under its own ideology. The Rebellion could represent the February Revolution (though it happens on Midsummer's Eve) or the Russian Revolution as a whole. The February Revolution did result in Czar Nicholas II's abdication, which Jones's expulsion mirrors neatly. The story, however, does not need a one-to-one correspondence with history, and Orwell can make his points more crisply by adapting the history to his carefully crafted allegory.

Although the animals live happily for a while, it is important to note that the pigs have begun their clandestine and elitist activities already. For example, they order that all artifacts of the animals’ oppression be burned. The pigs thus burn a children’s book they used to teach themselves to read and write, but the resource is no longer available after the book-burning. Throughout the novel, Orwell emphasizes the other animals’ lack of intelligence, but we can never be sure that the animals’ ignorance and illiteracy is due to lack of intelligence rather than an oppressive environment, generation after generation, that has made their lower status and ability seem natural. When the pigs take the milk for themselves, the reader knows that this is the beginning of a new round of subjugation and oppression by an elite.

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