‘Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. All animals are equal.’ (Old Major’s Speech Chapter 1)
Consider the significance of Old Major’s speech. How does Orwell use these ideas as a basis for events throughout the novel?
Old Major’s speech in Chapter 1 is very significant with regards to using the ideas as a basis for events throughout the novel as it highlights many themes and highlights many key points that are eventually recurring motifs in the satirical allegory in its entirety.
Leading on from this, Old Major repeats many of his points to emphasise what he is trying to explain to the other animals. “No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness…” and then shortly after he repeats “No animal in England is free”. I found that it is also quite ironic how he may also be repeating things due to his old age. Other uses of persuasion are rhetorical questions. This causes the animals to think about what Old Major is talking about and is allows them to relate to it easier. “But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it because this land of ours so poor that it cannot afford a decent life to those who dwell upon it?”. In my opinion, this is ethos used by Orwell to reflect how the working class were persuaded to fight against a more significant power in Stalin in communist Russia and this violent tone is a huge factor for events to come in the novel, as he introduced a ruthless mentality into the animals, which they eventually take too far leading to the enhancement of the themes of corruption and greed. For example, ‘Man is the only creature that consumes without producing’ and “Rebellion!” He almost forces them and his excitement fuels the excitement for the rest of the room. He also reassures the animals and continues to cut down the great reputation of man. ” All men are enemies… All animals are equal.” He said this in his speech, to evoke mass emotion and hysteria, but most importantly, for all the animals to react and fight (by uniting together) and to emphasis the scale of their oppression by man. Of course, it is understood to all in Chapter2 that the animals are ‘apathetic’, so they would undoubtedly follow every word said by Old Major, also due to him being old and having experienced human behaviour for years. The significance of this speech to the rest of the novel was very big, because the animals entered the barns as normal animals, but left as an army. This is very important as it shows the evolution and distortion of their mentality of their violence first towards humans, then towards each other, which breaks the 7 commandments, ‘no animal shall kill another animal’. Old Major told the animals to start a ‘Rebellion!’, but the animals distort this ideal into stating in Chapter 2, ‘the only good human, is a dead one’, which is not what Old Major proposed for them to do! This exemplifies how Old Majors initial idea to gain justice on the farm, is made increasingly corrupt throughout the novel with the idea of animalism (‘all animals are equal’) gradually becoming extinct by chapter 10, due to Orwell highlighting the theme of corruption!
Furthermore, in Old Majors speech, he uses many inclusive pronouns like ‘comrades’ and ‘our’ to involve all the animals in his ideas. This links to the fact, that in the rebellion, he wants it to be a collective victory and for all the animals to work harmoniously. However, throughout the Novel, these pronouns are changed into ‘I’, illustrating how the theme of greed increasingly effects the animals, and they wish to do things more for personal gain than for helping each other. This links to the main quote because in Chapter 2, ‘the milk and apples were reserved only for the pigs’, although they did not produce any of it, highlighting how old Major’s speech now applies to the pigs, meaning that they are now like man, who are described in the speech as ‘the enemy’. In addition to this, by Chapter 6, the main quote in this question stated by Old Major, is a full reflection of the pigs’ behaviour, since they force all the other animals to work due to their ‘apathy’ and naivety i.e. ‘I must work harder’- Boxer, however, they produce nothing but wish to consume and reap all the rewards that come from the windmill. This is an example of how ‘all animals are equal’ has been abandoned due to the pigs’ corruption, as well as them resembling man more and more throughout the novella i.e. In Chapter 10, ‘from man to pig and pig to man, it was already impossible to tell which was which’.
This concludes how Old Major’s speech was significant as it successfully encouraged all the animals to start a ‘rebellion’, however, when he died 3 days later, they became lost and the ideals given to them by Old Major, were altered with because their leader was not there to stop their corruption, similar to how Karl Marx died before the revolution. The alterations of Old Major’s speech eventually lead the animals to be like their ‘enemy’, reflecting how the Russian Revolution caused the Working class to be just as bad as their oppressors, due to their actions being almost identical towards each other. This is continuously highlighted in the novel as a whole through the emphasis of the scale of the themes of greed and corruption of the pigs through deals made with humans and by exploiting the animals to carry out hard labour, for their personal gain.