Given insufficient insight into the thoughts and the goal of a political leader, one can blindly appreciate the benefits from their government. While the reverse can also be established that political leaders desired for such perception to be placed within individuals in order to further extend their control. W.H. Auden’s oeuvre, including the poems ‘O what is that sound which so thrills the ear’, ‘ Epitaph of a tyrant’ and ‘Unknown Citizen’ aims to convey the danger of not having a clear interpretation on an individual’s government and illustrates the extent of control a government possesses. The satirical allegory ‘Animal Farm’ written by George Orwell in 1945 also addresses similar issues through the portrayal of animals that recount the history of Soviet Communism. Through both composers’ representation, they aim to promote awareness on the need to seek out the intentions of one’s political leader as opposed to be oblivious and imperceptive.
Without required knowledge or evidence, individuals will find themselves to be manipulated by the oppressing government. Such governments utilize power and fear upon the citizens to expand their authority. In ‘O what is that sound which so thrills the ear’, anaphora is used in the beginning of each stanza “O what is that sound…” “O what is that light…” to imply the sense of desperation and also the fear towards unknown that resides in the citizens. Here, Auden alludes to the people in post WWI period and evokes the terrors felt in that age of political persecutions. A similar concept is explored in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, where the government uses fear as a tool for control. An appalling imagery is used in “…the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess…” to illustrate the dread atmosphere established by Napoleon as he exhibits his power, the animals were terrified and could only submit to his authority. Therefore through both representations, Auden and Orwell instigate the awareness towards such governments and the danger they possess.
Governments often aim to establish conformity within the citizens as the stepping stone for total control. In ‘Unknown Citizen’, symbolism is used in “JS/07 M 378” to convey the loss of individuality to be identified as numbers and also acts as a component of a larger system. With no sense of individuality, the population is united as a mass to be manipulated by the government. Auden warns the audience to not fall into such category as he alludes to the mindless mass that followed Hitler’s dictations. Likewise in ‘Animal Farm’, the government sets out false hope as a mean to unite the citizens while manipulating them. Antithesis is used in ‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’ to clearly establish the hatred towards two legs, of which united the animals under a common believe. It is then Napoleon seized such opportunity and manipulated the animals to conform his own desires. Thus, both Auden and Orwell presents a sorrowful society built upon the lies provided by a government and they strongly emphasize the importance of one’s individuality.
An individual’s vision for ideal world are often clouded with own selfish desires such that in another’s perspective, it is viewed as tyranny. In ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’, simile is used in “He knew human folly like the back of his hand,” to indicate how the tyrant understands fully about human behavior and motives of which gave him the ability to manipulate and control people around, perhaps acknowledging his own flaw at the same time. In ‘Animal Farm’, Orwell conveys how a tyrant can be born from ordinary citizens. Repetition is used in ‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’ to deliver the message that in the end, there is no difference between the true nature of pigs and men. As shown throughout the text, the pigs were led by their unjust desires while slowly resembling features of a human. Evidently both composers convey that a tyrant’s intention is the same as everyone but they were led astray by their own desires to achieve their goal, which is then perceived differently from another’s view.
In conclusion a political leader’s intention can be viewed differently from various perspectives, however once granted in a position of immense power, such leader will only pursue ultimate control. Such concept is thoroughly explored in Auden’s selected oeuvre and Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.