“All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is echoed throughout the texts ‘Animal Farm’ (George Orwell, 1945) and Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014). Both texts demonstrate that the struggle for power is deep rooted in corruption and prove this by portraying that power cannot be attained without it. Furthermore, once a taste of power occurs, the individual/institution craves more and that power is bound up in intellectual superiority and mental manipulation is utilised for power to be grasped. These ideas inherently prove that all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely because for power to be clutched, corrupt means must be employed.
Firstly, Animal Farm and Divergent both exhibit that power cannot be attained without corruption. The intentions of ambitious and power hungry characters in both texts are reflected through their use of corrupt means to elevate their status.
In Animal Farm we perceive this through “Snowball’s eloquence had carried them away. In glowing sentences…there was no doubt as to which way the vote would go…Napoleon stood up…nine enormous dogs …dashed straight for Snowball…”. Through this use of vivid imagery, we see that Napoleon is securing power by eliminating his competition through violent means rather than actually proving himself as the more appropriate candidate. Snowball is the superior orator and persuades the animals with his inspiring speech, so Napoleon resorts to violence to assert his dominance, proving that power cannot be attained without corruption.
In Divergent, when Four is under the effect of a simulation, Jeanine says “…conformity to a faction removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will”. The dramatic non-diegetic music and close up shots of Jeanine’s intimidating countenance indicate that her power is reliant on oppressing freedom of thought and speech, preventing any opposition. Through her use of the serum and plot to destroy Abnegation she demonstrates that power cannot be attained without corruption, which she does by manipulating and controlling the Dauntless.
The necessity of corruption to attain power in Animal Farm is also seen through “The creatures outside looked from pigs to man, and from man to pig…but already it was impossible to say which was which”. Through the repetition we see that when it comes to attaining power, the pigs are equally tyrannical as the humans and that corruption is a common factor between all power figures, including humans and pigs. Therefore, Animal Farm and Divergent demonstrate that power cannot be attained without corruption so all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Secondly, both texts manifest verification that once a taste of power occurs, the individual or institution craves more. Power cannot be attained without corruption, so to acquire more power would require heightened corruption. Since they continue to crave more, corruption would increase until they successfully reach absolute power and absolute corruption.
In Animal Farm, “…it was laid down as a rule that when a pig and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand aside: and also that all pigs, of whatever degree, were to have the privilege of wearing green ribbons on their tails on Sundays”. Orwell illustrates that as their power over the animals has increased, the pigs are becoming increasingly selfish and creating rules and exemptions from other rules for their personal benefit because they crave more power and a higher status. This can also be seen through “more suited to the dignity of the leader…to live in a house than a mere sty”. This use of irony emphasises that with the apotheosis of their power on Animal Farm, corruption also reaches its acme as the pigs see the sty as ‘mere’, even though they have spent their whole lives there.
In Divergent, once a taste of power occurs, the entity craves more is expressed through the character of Eric. One instance of this is when he is taunting Four during the Abnegation raid. “The legendary Four, a mindless drone”. The close up shot of his baleful physiognomy accentuates how Eric is exploiting the power of his role to gain more, by gloating about his current superiority to Four. We also see a high angle shot of Eric dangling Christina off the bridge at Dauntless and a close up of her shaking and slipping hands and diegetic sound of her grunts and pleads. This demonstrates Eric’s dominance and how his influence in Dauntless is expanding because he is establishing himself as dominating through violence. Consequently, we see that in Animal Farm and Divergent, once a taste of power occurs, the entity craves more.
Thirdly, Orwell and Burger convey that power is bound up in intellectual superiority and leaders psychologically manipulate others. Corruption is quintessential to expanding power, and strategically manoeuvring the perception of others is essential to create a gateway for corruption to flourish and power to be expanded.
This form of corruption is perspicuously illustrated in Animal Farm, including “The pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse…the brains of the farm should have a quiet place to work in”. Through this personification, we discern that the pigs are using their intellectual prowess to differentiate their needs from the others and make themselves and their own comfort the priority of the farm. The other animals cannot express any objections because the pigs psychologically contort them into believing that their increasing demands are necessary, rather than selfish. Also, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” effectively summarises the result of Animal Farm through irony. The animals are being told that they are equal, but the pigs have carved out a distinctive stance for themselves. The ability of the pigs to manipulate the animals allows their corruption to function, and empowers them.
In Divergent, power being bound up in intellectual superiority is most significantly denoted through the implementation of the serum on Dauntless. The overhead shot of the Dauntless marching into Abnegation portrays how they have become belittled and demeaned by the intellectually superior Erudite, who are literally controlling their minds because they concocted the serum. This forces them to conform to Jeanine’s plan and inhibits introspection. Jeanine also says “…Amazing isn’t it, everything that makes up a person: thoughts, emotions, history, all wiped away by chemistry”. The sterility of the mise en scene and portentous tone of Jeanine’s voice emphasises how she is using Erudite’s superior knowledge of chemistry to mentally alter others, to use them to her personal advantage. Hence proving that power is bound up in intellectual superiority and leaders manipulate others psychologically. This allows them to use corrupt means without obstruction and gain more power. Therefore, both texts evince that all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupt absolutely.
In conclusion, “all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a crucial message of Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1954) and Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014). They both exhibit this through proving that power has its foundation established in corruption and cannot be attained without it. It also shows that once a taste of power occurs, the entity craves more, creating more corruption until they reach absolute power which coincides with absolute corruption and that power is bound up in intellectual superiority, and corrupting through psychological manipulation enhances power.