In many of Orwells works, we can see some marks from his real life or the events of his era. To understand the influences on his works we should look at his life beginning from his childhood. Orwell says that he was a lonely child and unpopular at school, and knew that he had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, which created a sort of private world where he could get his own back for his failure in everyday life.
After reading Miltons Paradise Lost he decides what kind of books he want to write as he says in his work Why I Write I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound. And in fact my first completed novel, Burmese Days, which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book.
According to Orwell, there are four great motives for writing apart from the need to earn a living, the proportions of which vary from time to time in any writer, according to the circumstances of his time. He lists these motives like this: Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. , etc Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Historical impulse.
Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. Political purpose. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Of these, the first three have a stronger influence than the fourth one, which means he does not write in order to change peoples minds and shape the politics of the world. He writes because he sees some errors and wants to express them, “I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.
Rhodri Williams explains Orwells aim in writing with his political views, which were shaped by his experiences of Socialism, Totalitarianism and Imperialism all over the world. In his essay ‘Why I Write’ (1946) Orwell admits, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly against Totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism, as I understand it”. His experiences of the Spanish Civil War and his realisation of Communisms real face led him to write Homage to Catalonia and Animal Farm, in which he tries to draw attention to the fact that Communism is different from Socialism.
He then went on to write Animal Farm as a way to remind people about the true facts of the Russian Revolution and the nature of Stalin’s rise to power, becoming a totalitarian dictator. Essentially Orwell wanted to save Socialism from Communism. It was the realisation of Orwell’s fears about Stalinist Russia and the rise of Totalitarianism that inspired him to write his final novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ – an Anti-Utopian novel depicting a world where Totalitarianism had taken over. says Williams on this matter.
Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. says George Orwell about his book. He wrote it primarily as an allegory of the Russian Revolution thinly disguised as an animal fable, the major theme of which is the betrayal of the Russian Revolution and the way that good will can fall prey to ambition, selfishness and hypocrisy. ‘Animal Farm’ also addresses the abuse of power.
Although it was not his intention, Orwells Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were used, especially in the United States, as cold-war weapons, purportedly the work of a repentant Communist who saw the light and wanted to warn the world of the inevitable fruits of revolution. He opposed this and argued that, I had not written a book against Stalinism to deny the right of revolt by oppressed people, nor to advance American foreign policy. My books are about the perversions that any centralized economy is liable to.
When Orwell wrote Animal Farm cooperation between Russia and the West was still the order of the day but this was quickly to break down into the Cold War. The assertion that the Russian ruling class (the pigs) were as bad as the Western ruling classes (the humans) was perverted into an attack on the Soviet Union on behalf of the Western Powers, which was not certainly Orwells intention. Orwell was Marxist in nature; he had a great sympathy for the working class, First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure.
This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism says Orwell. His sympathy for the working class can be seen clearly in Animal Farm, by the character of Boxer, who represents the typical loyal, hard working, man in Russia. The example of Boxer is used by Orwell to show to the reader that even the most loyal and honest people suffer under such a brutal regime.
The fact that Napoleon sends Boxer off to his death signals to the reader how corrupt this Stalinesque figure has become. Boxer’s demise illustrates what can happen to those who have blind trust in their rulers. In all expressions of Orwell about Boxer a great sympathy and pity is discerned, Boxer was the admiration of everybody. He had been a hard worker even in Joness time, but now he seemed more like three horses than one; there were days when the entire work of the seemed to rest upon his mighty shoulders. From morning to night he was pushing and pulling, always at the spot where the work was hardest.
He had made an arrangement with one of the cockerels to call him in the mornings half an hour earlier than anyone else, and would put in some volunteer labour at whatever seemed to be most needed, before the regular days work began. His answer to every problem, every setback, was I will work harder! which he had adopted as his personal motto. Even when Napoleon began to terrorize in the farm and things began to get worse Boxer says: I do not understand it . I would have not believed that such things could happen on our farm. It must be due to some fault in ourselves.
The solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings. From these sentences it can be understood that Orwell pities Boxer for his gullibility and unquestioning loyalty to his ruler. His ruler uses his ignorance and begins to change the history slowly by language games, such as instead of no animal shall sleep in bed, no animal shall sleep in bed with sheets. In the same way Orwell shows us the importance of language in narrowing peoples consciousness and changing their memories that is done by Newspeak in 1984.
Nineteen Eighty-Four shows, above all, that the past must be investigated as fully and as objectively as possible. If it is not, and if we are dependent on our feeble memories, autocrats like Big Brother will dictate history to us to justify the current party line and cement their political domination. ‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan in Oceania, ‘controls the future: and who controls the present controls the past’. It follows that history — the real study of the past – safeguards us against totalitarianism. Equally important is the pre-eminence Orwell gave to language.
He teaches that we must all strive for clarity of expression, so that the meaning chooses the word and not the word the meaning, against the debasing standards of the media, the public relations experts and the politicians — indeed of all those who would seek to convince not by logical argument but by appeal to our emotions or our cupidity — and of the academic pundits whose impenetrable verbiage sometimes prevents us from seeing what is in front of our nose. All too often, he insisted, language ‘is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’.
We must therefore accept no authorities, even if, in the process, Orwell himself is dethroned. Orwells main concern is the question of working-class consciousness, which is expressed by John Newsinger, There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Orwell’s sympathies are with the working class (the farm animals) in their revolutionary overthrow of Farmer Jones and establishment of a workers’ state (Animal Farm). What follows is the story of the betrayal of the Russian Revolution and rise of Stalinism, of a new privileged class, told as fable.
The chosen form of the novel inevitably involves simplification but the extent to which this compromises its socialist politics is most debatable. His portrayal of the farm animals as so easily fooled by Napoleon and the pigs is the book’s weakest spot; indeed, in much of Orwell’s writing he stumbles over the question of working-class consciousness. Another way of controlling peoples minds, according to Orwell, is the religion, as he draws attention in Animal Farm, by the character of Moses, a tame raven described as being a spy, a tale bearer but also a clever talker.
At first Moses was loyal to Jones, just as the Russian Church had been to the Czarist Regime. Orwell showed how Moses tales of a heaven called “Sugarcandy Mountain” were useful to Jones as a way of keeping the animals in order – religion gave them hopes of a better life after they died and their belief made them more willing to accept their current harsh lives. Religion was contrary to the beliefs of Socialism and so the Church was heavily opposed after the revolution – hence Moses’ disappearance.
Moses return in Chapter IX represents the way in which Stalin allowed religion to re-establish itself in Russia as he realised that he could use it, just as Nicolas II had, as a way of pacifying the animals. Orwell showed religion to be a both a crutch for the animals to lean on when times were bad (gave them unrealistic hopes for the future), and also as a means of preventing rebellion against authority (whether it be Czarist or Communist). Orwell sees Socialism as an alternative of religions, which promise heaven with eternal happiness, I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness.
Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.
And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue. Orwells Animal Farm is certainly parallel to Russian political history except from one issue, the transformation of the Seven Commandments. There is no parallel to this in Russian political history. But Leo Tolstoy had observed a very similar perversion, in Russian religious history, as Leon recounts in his biography.
What Tolstoy considered the essential precepts of the Sermon on the Mount had become almost their opposites in the mouths of Russian Orthodox clerics. The original ‘Do not be angry’ had become ‘Do not be angry without a cause’. (15) The phrase ‘without a cause’ was, to Tolstoy, the key to an understanding of the perversion of scripture. Of course everyone who is angry justifies himself with a cause, however trivial or unjust, and therefore he guessed, correctly as he soon found, that the words were a later interpolation designed to devalue the original injunction.
Similarly the instructions not to promise anything on oath, not to resist evil by violence, and not to judge or go to law had all been overturned, and had become their opposites, when the church had sought accommodation with the civil power. This is one of the astonishing similarities between George Orwell and Leo Tolstoy. Actually, by changing the Seven Commandments, Orwell wants to give the message that, any society, which has leaders with absolute power, is ultimately doomed to failure due to the inevitability of leaders manipulating power for their own personal benefit.
Orwell believes that people do not want to be equal due to their nature, just as Williams comment on Old Major: Old Major is seen as having good intentions but too much of a naive idealism to realise that not all animals share the same public-spiritedness that he has. As a result of this, early or later, all societies will expose the betrayal of their revolutions just as in Animal Farm, the two crucial elements of the book are its support for the overthrow of Farmer Jones and its indictment of the revolution’s betrayal by the pigs.
Once again it has to be emphasised that as far as Orwell was concerned the pigs had become as bad as, indistinguishable from, not worse than, the humans. The famous last scene where the farm animals look in through the window and can no longer tell them apart was a satire of the Tehran Conference involving Stalin and his Western Allies. The main theme of the book is arguable, as a question appears: Is Orwell advising revolution or not? Katharine Byrne asks the same question: the fable ends with all the brave hopes in ruins. Virtue is crushed and wickedness triumphs.
What went wrong? Orwell lays out the story and asks us to look at it. He does not moralize. This is what happened, but we know it is not right. We are left morally indignant at the injustice suffered. Are we to believe that this is the inevitable fate of rebellion? Or that other political systems are better than Stalinist communism? Williams answer to this question is, Orwell himself believed that revolution was not the answer – he believed that revolution was not a way of changing society: it was in fact merely a way of keeping it the same.
Revolutions often have good intentions and provide new faces with a new rhetoric but soon it is hard to tell the new faces from the old. The answer according to Orwell was reform, not revolution: Reform really changes. Orwell believed that The Left in Russia had been tricked into revolution by its enemies. John Newsinger has a different point of view, he thinks that: As for the notion that Animal Farm suggests that all revolutions are doomed to betrayal, well Orwell argued quite explicitly against that view elsewhere, condemning it as conservative.
He certainly believed that all revolutions ‘fail’ but only because utopia was unobtainable. This did not mean they were not worthwhile and would not improve things, make the world better – though never perfect. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that he would have welcomed the revolutionary overthrow of the communist regimes. Actually, Orwell advises revolution as a last resort, if you dont have any chance except for overthrowing the government by using force. Instead of it, permanent and radical reforms should be done; also the best way in improving a society is education.
If you dont educate the people it is inevitable to see the last scene in Animal Farm, where the new leaders were the same with the old ones. Because the one who will keep the reforms are the new generations and if they are not taught the principles of the revolution they wont be able to keep the new state, which will lead it to be like the old one. The crucial point that we must not ignore is mans desire for power, which never allows a totally equal society All animals are equal but some animals are more equal.. , which is the main theme of both Orwells Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, The corrupting influence of mans desire for power over his fellow man is one of the most major themes in both ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’. In ‘Animal Farm’ the revolution was betrayed by Napoleon in his quest for personal power and material benefit, and in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ Big Brother becomes the figurehead of an organisation whose sole goal is the acquisition and maintenance of political power.