Characters, items, and events found in George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, can be compared to similar characters, items, and events found in Marxism and the 1917 Russian Revolution. This comparison will be shown by using the symbolism that is in the book with similarities found in the Russian Revolution. Old Major was a prized-boar that belonged to Farmer Jones.
The fact that Old Major is himself a boar was to signify that radical change and revolution are, themselves, boring in the eyes of the proletariat (represented by the other barnyard animals), who are more prone to worrying about work and survival in their everyday life. Old Major gave many speeches to the farm animals about hope and the future. He is the main animal who got the rebellion started even though he died before it actually began.
Old Major’s role compares to Lenin and Marx whose ideas were to lead to the communist revolution. Animal Farm is a criticism of Karl Marx, as well as a novel perpetuating his convictions of democratic Socialism. (Zwerdling, 20). Lenin became the leader and teacher of the working class in Russia, and their determination to struggle against capitalism.
Like Old Major, Lenin and Marx wrote essays and gave speeches to the working-class poor. The working class in Russia, as compared with the barnyard animals in Animal Farm, was a laboring class of people that received low wages for their work.
Like the animals in the farmyard, the people in Russia thought there would be no oppression in a new society because the working class people (or animals) would own all the riches and hold all the power. (Golubeva and Gellerstein 168).
Another character represented in the book is Farmer Jones. He represents the symbol of Tsar Nicholas in Russia who treated his people like Farmer Jones treated his animals. The animal rebellion on the farm was started because Farmer Jones was a drunk who never took care of the animals and who came home one night, left the gate open and the animals rebelled.
Tsar Nicholas was a very weak man who treated his people similarly to how Farmer Jones treated his animals. The Tsar made his working-class people very mad with the way he wielded his authority and preached all the time, and the people suffered and finally demanded reform by rebelling.
The Tsar said, “The law will henceforward be respected and obeyed not only by the nation but also the authority that rules it – and that the law would stand above the changing views of the individual instruments of the supreme power.” (Pares 420). The animal Napoleon can be compared as a character representing Stalin in Russia. Both were very mean-looking, didn’t talk very much but always got what they wanted through force. In one part of the book, Napoleon charged the dogs on Snowball, another animal.
Stalin became the Soviet Leader after the death of Lenin. He was underestimated by his opponents who always became his victims, and he had one of the most ruthless, regimes in history. It was not till very many years later that the world found out about the many deaths that Stalin created in Russia during the Revolution. For almost 50 years the world thought that the Nazis had done the killing in Russia, when in fact it was Stalin. (Imse 2).
The last characters that are symbolic of each other are the animal Snowball with the Russian leader Trotsky. Snowball was very enthusiastic and was a leader who organized the defense of the farm. He gave speeches and instructions but was not very beneficial. All the other animals liked him, but he was outsmarted by Napoleon. Trotsky and Stalin’s relationship was very much like Snowball’s and Napoleon’s. Trotsky organized the Red Army and gave speeches and everyone in Russia thought he would win power over Stalin.
After Lenin’s death, Trotsky lost all his power to Stalin and was expelled from the communist party. He was at one time considered the second most powerful man in Russia. (Trotsky” Comptons 290). Besides characters, there are many items that can be compared as symbols in the book and in Russia. The whip that Napoleon used in the farmyard to wield power can be compared to the power that Stalin used on the Russians. Napoleon carried a whip in his trotter.
Stalin used his power to starve the Russian people and to have Lenin arrested. Stalin’s main goal was to maximize his personal power. (“Stalin,” Britannia 576). Stalin “whipped” his people into shape by collectivizing agriculture, by police terror, and by destroying remnants of individual prosperity. He also led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age (Clarkson 442). Propaganda is another item that was used in the Russian revolution. It can be compared to Squealer in Animal Farm. Squealer brainwashed (a form of propaganda) the barnyard animals into believing that they did not like apples and milk, while he and Napoleon were stealing the food for themselves.
In Russia, the Bolsheviks carried out propaganda on the people by passing out leaflets and putting stories in the newspapers that were not true. They told workers, soldiers, and peasants to not trust their own hands and to take away land from the landowners. (Golubeva and Gellerstein 80). Another item that is similar in both Animal Farm and Russia are the dogs and the secret police. Napoleon trained his dogs when they were puppies to guard him and to obey his every command. They chased Snowball away.
Stalin trained his secret police to do his bidding whenever he issued an order. Stalin had his secret police kill between 60,000 to 70,000 people. This police group was called the Checka and the graves filled with bodies stacked upon each other with bullets in each skull were found many years later. (Imse, C2). Another symbolism that exists in the book and in Russia is a similarity to events that took place. The windmill that is present in Animal Farm can be compared with the growth of the industry in Russia or the Industrial Revolution.
Snowball first introduced the windmill concept to the farm but Napoleon disagreed with him and had the dogs chase him away. Napoleon then presented the windmill as a good idea and the animals were presented with the hope that things would get better on the farm.
When it blew down, Napoleon blamed it on Snowball. Napoleon thought that if he could keep the barnyard animals busy all the time replacing the windmill that they would not realize how bad their living conditions were, and he could blame the destruction all the time on Snowball. The windmill is the only thing that was holding the animals together as a unit. In Russia, the growth of factories and industry was very depressing but depended on the obligatory labor of serfs.
Russia hoped that by keeping the serfs working all the time and promising them a better world that they would not realize how bad their living conditions were. The Industrialists were pressing their own constitutional demands. (Clarkson 352). None of the social classes were fighting each other because there were no classes left. What Russia got working was to make the people think that the prospect of the loss of potential improvements in conditions of life of the here and now, could only be attained by stimulating labor to unprecedented efforts. The last event that was similar in the book and in Russia was the animal rebellion on the farm and the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Farmer Jones was drunk a lot and would forget to feed the animals on the farm. The withholding of this food is what finally forced the animals on the farm to rebel against Farmer Jones. In Russia, there were many food shortages which caused the people to demonstrate and then the Russian soldiers refused to suppress them and the leaders demanded that Nicholas transfer his power to the parliamentary government because everything was getting out of control. Soviet workers and soldiers formed a special committee and established a government.
The same day the emperor abdicated. (“Russian Revolution,” Grolier npa). This actually backfired in Russia and the war continued and the people still starved. Many lessons can be learned by reading Animal Farm that can help countries and governments around the world from making mistakes in wielding their power against their people. If a population is suppressed and not allowed to accumulate things for themselves then an overthrow of the government that is suppressing them will be the result.
Clarkson, Jesse. A History of Russia. New York: Random House, 1969. Golubeva, T. and L. Gellerstein. Early Russia – The Russie. Moscos, Press Agency Publishing House, 1976.
Imse, Ann. Mass Grave Seen as Evidence of Massecure by Stalins Police. “Hunstsville Times, 13, August. 1990.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet 50th Anniversary Edition, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996.
Pares, Sir Bernard. The Fall of the Russian Monarchy. New York: A division of Random House, 1939. “Russian Revolution of 1917.” Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc. 1992 ed. “Stalin, Joseph.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 1917 ed.
Zwerdling, Alex. Orwell and The Left. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1974.