The first president of the United States, George Washington, famously stated, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter” (Washington). Often an uneducated working class is exploited for labour by the higher intellectual class. This type of exploitation is evident in the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell. While Animal Farm is intended to be an allegory for the Russian Revolution, Orwell demonstrates somewhat more broadly how an uneducated working class is easily manipulated by the smarter population. After all the animals cooperate to overthrow the owner of the farm, Jones, they quickly agree to establish specific rules to ensure every animal is equal. Napoleon, a pig who symbolizes Joseph Stalin, creates seven commandments that the animals devotedly follow. However, only pigs are capable of actually reading and remembering what the commandments are. The consequence of the pig’s higher intelligence results in them reaping the rewards and luxuries provided by the hard work of the other animals, who do not have the mental capacity to understand they are being taken advantage of. The ignorant working class in Orwell’s novel Animal Farm illustrates how class stratification and exploitation is the result of an uneducated naive population. First, the animal’s inability to critically think and question authority allows the pigs to make decisions without challenge. Next, the incapacity of the animal’s memory enables Napoleon’s partner Squealer to advertise false propaganda and history that the animals foolishly believe. Finally, the incompetence of the animal’s literacy level grants the pigs power to deceive the population with written words or laws. As a result, disputing and opposing authority is essential to bringing change in a society.
One problem is the refusal to question authority or analyze information. This is presented multiple times throughout the novel in many characters. Boxer, a hardworking loyal horse, gullibly believes that Napoleon is working for the interest of all animals, and refuses to inquire about the choices made by Napoleon. When Napoleon blatantly lies and states that another pig is no better than a criminal, Boxer initially disagrees, but is unable to protest as he cannot find the right arguments (Orwell 36). Rather than attempt to dispute Napoleon’s claim, he justifies the action by believing his slogan: “Napoleon is always right, this seemed to him a sufficient answer to all problems” (41). Boxer’s denial to investigate and scrutinize Napoleon’s commands causes him to mindlessly labour for Napoleon for no compensation. Another example of the animals not challenging sovereignty is seen when the pigs reveal how they are distributing food. While the entire working class population struggled to feed themselves, the “brainworkers” or pigs, lived in luxury and comfort. When confronted about this inequality, Squealer brazenly declares, “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? [. . .] Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples” (23). After this implausible explanation, the animals still trust that this is in the best interests of everyone, and there is no further dispute. This ignorant stubborn belief that Napoleon’s leadership is representing equality coerces them to believe propaganda that results in the robbery of the product of their hard work. Finally, Clover is another horse who recognizes that their original vision of animal equality has gone awry. Despite this realization, she does not challenge Napoleon’s regime. She would continue to “remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to her, and accept the leadership of Napoleon. But still, it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled” (59). Clover failing to speak out and debate against Napoleon gives the pigs the opportunity to continue their oppression of the working class without any opposition. Without Clover prompting the other animals, they are completely oblivious to their situation. The animal’s presumption of the naive ideal that the governing animals are only working towards the benefit of the entire populace leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.
The animals’ inferior memory facilitates Napoleon’s deceit as he creates a false history that the animals must believe because they cannot remember. For example, as the animals begin to perceive that living conditions are deteriorating, their doubts are eliminated by Squealer who provides fabricated statistics. When complaining about starvation, Squealer states, “production of every class of food stuff had increased by two hundred percent, three hundred percent, or five hundred percent” (61). Despite this obvious lie, the animals “saw no reason to disbelieve him, especially as they could no longer remember clearly what conditions had been like before”(61-62). The incapability to recall past living conditions compels the animals to assume Squealer’s falsifications correct, allowing the imbalance of resources to continue in favour of the pigs. Later, Squealer attempts to slander Snowball’s (another pig) reputation. The animals faintly recollect that Snowball fought valiantly against Farmer Jones and was praised for his actions. Squealer immediately eradicates those thoughts, proclaiming how, “he attempted to get us defeated at the Battle of the Cowshed” (53). He then explains his fictional version of the battle which glorifies Napoleon’s efforts so well that “when Squealer described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the animals that they did remember it” (54). Once again, the ineptitude to record history or accurately reminisce the past yields Squealer the opportunity to misinform the population for obedience. Lastly, the pigs are able to alter the fundamental seven commandments to their advantage, as the animals cannot remember what they originally said. When the pigs begin to sleep in beds, clearly in violation of the commandment: “No animal shall sleep in a bed”, Clover recalls this ruling against beds (15). Yet when Squealer informs her that the commandment has always been written as “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets”, Clover thinks, “she had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so” (45). Due to the impaired memories of the animals, the pigs can modify the law unimpeded to improve only their own lifestyle. The revision of multiple laws give the pigs freedom to do things that were originally outlawed, such as drink alcohol or wear clothing. Subsequently, without being able to correctly remember or document history, the animals fall victim to the pig’s propaganda and counterfeit history.
Moreover, the inadequacy of the animals’ literacy skills allows the pigs to beguile the population using the ambiguity of language that the animals cannot comprehend. This is first displayed when the pigs twist the meaning of the rudimentary commandments for their benefit. Using their superior literary skills, the pigs adjust the original commandment “All animals are equal” into “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” (90). This phrase is glaringly flawed and contradictory, yet the pigs are still able to continue their exploitation. The animals fail to detect how the term “equal” no longer has a meaning, or discern the hypocrisy of stating equality for all, but a select elite group. Without any literacy skills, the pigs freely distort the meaning of written language to justify their actions and establish an aristocracy for themselves. Shortly after Boxer is injured, Napoleon makes the arrangements to sell Boxer to be slaughtered in exchange for alcohol. When the vehicle used to transport Boxer arrives, the animal’s illiteracy prevented them from reading the words on the truck: “Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler, Willingdon. Dealer in Hides and Bone-Meal” (82). When rumors begin to spread about what the truck actually read, Squealer simply informs them that the truck belonged to a veterinary surgeon. Since the animals cannot identify the words themselves, they cannot validly vindicate the pigs of any dishonesty. Later, the pigs prove that Snowball is a criminal by producing counterfeit documents incriminating him. Once more, the animals are incapable of deciphering the letters and therefore must believe the word of the pigs. At first, the animals are incredulous of this accusation, but after Squealer argues how Snowball had it all “written down in the secret documents that we have found [. . .] I could show you this in his own writing, if you were able to read it” (54). Without the ability to verify this declaration, the pigs can effortlessly generate evidence to justify anything with no dispute from the illiterate animals. The pigs efficiently exploit and deceive all other animals through written propaganda as a result of the incompetence of the animal’s literacy skills.
In Animal Farm, the story suggests that class stratification is the consequence of an ignorant working class that is susceptible to exploitation. Throughout the story, the animals fail to criticize or oppose any decisions made, allowing the inequitable distribution of resources for the pigs. In addition, the deficient memory of the working class enables the pigs to misinform animals with propaganda to secure compliance. Lastly, the substandard literacy level of the animals results in the inability to contest against written articles or laws. Equality, as Orwell indicates, can only be established with an educated society.