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The Dual Purpose of "Animal Farm"

Author(s): Paul Kirschner

Source: The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 55, No. 222 (Nov., 2004), pp. 759-786
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3661599 .
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Afternearly sixtyyearsdebatecontinues overtheultimate politicalmeaning of

Animal Farm,owingpartly toitsuseas propaganda, butalsotoOrwell's original
purpose, whichwasartistic as wellas political.
Thisarticle concentrates onthe
former purpose.It showshowfictional rhetoricalstrategiesinevitably ledto a
pessimisticconclusioncontradictingOrwell's ownpoliticalactionsandopinions
duringtheperiod1936-46,and attributes thatcontradiction to theeffect of
Orwell'schosenliterary genre,combining elements ofthefableandthefairy
tale.The subtitle, 'A FairyStory',indicates a neglected aspectof Animal
Farm-literary parodyofthe'proletarian' fairytalethatthrived in the1920s
and 1930sin Germany, theUnitedStates,and,tepidly, in England.A rare
exampleofsucha talefrom the1930sis quotedin fullas an archetype ofthe
politicizedchildren'sstoriesOrwellmayhave been parodying: it displays
strikingrhetoricaland structural
parallels withAnimalFarm.The appealing
formofsuchstories, adoptedbyOrwell,interfered withthefullandaccurate
expressionofhispoliticalthought. AnimalFarmowesbothitspowerandits
ambiguity to theforceandautonomy ofliterature todaymenaced
itself, more
thaneverbythe'gramophone mind'Orwelldetested.

Whoeverfeelsthe value of literature, whoeversees the centralpart it plays in the

development of humanhistory, must also see thelifeand deathnecessityof resisting
whetherit is imposedon us fromwithoutor fromwithin.
There is some hope . . . that the liberalhabit of mind, whichthinksof truthas
somethingoutsideyourself, somethingto be discovered,and not somethingthatyou
can makeup as you go along,willsurvive.
(The Collected Essays,Journalismand LettersofGeorgeOrwell)

When,a coupleofyearsago,AnimalFarmwas puton stagein China,thelong

uncertaintyabout its ultimatemeaningshouldhave been dispelled.It dated
back to 1945, when William Empson warnedOrwell that,since allegory
meansmorethanthe authormeans',his book mightmean 'very
differentthingsto different readers'.1Sure enough,English communists
attackedAnimalFarmas anti-Soviet,whilea conservative chidedOrwellfor
that is a of
forgetting privateproperty prerequisite personalfreedom.2 Western
propagandistshijacked the book afterOrwell's death,but twentyyearslater
George Woodcockfoundit showedthe identityof governing-class interests
everywhere,and by 1980BernardCrickhad to cautionagainstreadingit as a

1 LettertoG. Orwell,
QuotedinB. Crick,George
A Life
2 Ibid.489.
The ReviewofEnglishStudies,New Series,Vol. 55, No. 222, C OxfordUniversityPress 2004; all rightsreserved

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caseforrevolution.3 In 1998 criticswerestilldebatingwhetherAnimalFarm

implied'thatrevolution alwaysendsbadlyfortheunderdog,henceto hellwith
itand hailthestatusquo'.4The confusion, as Empsonsaw,camenotonlyfrom
readers'prejudicesbut also fromthestoryitself.
To show why,I shall exploreOrwell'sclaimto have trieddeliberately in
AnimalFarm'to fusepoliticalpurposeand artisticpurposeintoone whole'(i.
to inferOrwell'spurposefromhis
29).s My purposewillbe equallydual: first,
politicalviews;secondly,toexplainthebuilt-inartistic thatmade
AnimalFarmfinemeatforpropagandists, and suggesthowtheymaybe, ifnot
In fusingmyownpurposes,I shallnothesitateto
resolved,at leasttranscended.
evokea socialand intellectualethosthattodaymayseemquaintlyarchaic.

Defininghis 'political'purposeinAnimalFarmto theAmericancriticDwight
Macdonald,Orwellshowedhe was no crusadinganti-communist:
I think
thatiftheUSSR wereconquered bysomeforeign theworking
country classes
everywherewould loseheart... I wouldn't
wanttosee theUSSR destroyed think
itoughttobe defended ifnecessary. aboutit
ButI wantpeopletobecomedisillusioned
and to realizethattheymustbuild theirown Socialistmovement. . . and I wantthe
existence Socialismin theWesttoexerta regenerative
ofdemocratic influence
Orwell's artisticaim was to remedywhat England lacked: 'a literatureof
disillusionment about the Soviet Union' (iii. 272). If we apply Tolstoy's
definitionofart(whichincludesOrwellianhallmarks ofsimplicity, and
as theevocationofa feelingonceexperienced
accessibility) so as tomakeothers
feelit,Orwellhad to evokehis disillusionovertheRussianfailureto achieve
whatto EnglishConservatives was anathema:socialequality.
The disillusionis conveyedby continuousnegationof whatis beingsaid,
throughwit,dramatizedironyand intertextuality. The punningpresentment
ofold Major as a 'prizeMiddle Whiteboar' (p. 1)' makesa poorintroduction
to anyspeaker.His boast,'I havehad muchtimeforthoughtas I layalone in
mystall,and I thinkI maysaythatI understand thenatureoflifeon thisearth
as wellas anyanimalnowliving'(p. 3), notonlybetrayswoolly-minded, pigsty
3 See G. Woodcock,The CrystalSpirit(London, 1967), 158-9; Crick,GeorgeOrwell,490.
4 Dwight Macdonald, quoted in V. C. Letemendia,'Revolutionon AnimalFarm: Orwell's
NeglectedCommentary', in G. Holderness,B. Loughrey,and N. Yousaf (edd.), GeorgeOrwell
(London, 1998),24.
5 Volume and page numbersreferto The CollectedEssays,Journalism and Lettersof George
Orwell,ed. S. Orwelland I. Angus,4 vols. (Harmondsworth,1970).
6 Letterto D. Macdonald,5 Sep. 1944 (Yale). Quoted in M. Shelden,Orwell:TheAuthorised
Biography(London, 1992),405.
toAnimalFarmand to Orwell'sprefacesareto GeorgeOrwell,AnimalFarm:A
7 All references
FairyStory,ed. P. Davison (London, 2000), and theappendicesto thatedition.

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philosophizing;it impugnsanimalwisdomin general.Similarly,his personal

resume,'I am twelve yearsold and havehad overfourhundredchildren.Such
is thenaturallifeof a pig' (p. 5), makesit doubtfulthatsocialrevolutioncan
improveanimalnature,and his optimistic prophecythatEnglishfields'Shall
be trodbybeastsalone'(p. 7) is unsettling. Major's axiomthat'All animalsare
comrades'is quicklyexplodedas thedogs chasetheratsand thenvoteagainst
acceptingthemas comrades,whilethe cat, who hasn'teven listened,hedges
her bets by votingon both sides. And witha blast fromhis shotgun,after
whichthewholefarmis 'asleep in a moment'(p. 8), Jonescompletely deflates
Major's oratory.
Major unwittingly parodiesSaint-Simonand Marxin calling
Man 'the onlycreaturethatconsumeswithoutproducing'(p. 4), sinceMan
does produce,as the animalsfindwhentheyhave to tradewithhim. More
ominously, Major's reference to animallifeas 'miserable,laboriousand short'
(p. 3) echoesthefamousverdicton humanlifeas 'solitary, poor,nasty,brutish,
and short'by Hobbes,8whomOrwellsaw as forecasting and
the name of AnimalFarm's leaderrecallsa Dostoyevskianview thatevery-
wherethereis always
'a firstpersonand a secondperson.The firstactsand thesecondtakes .... In France
therewasa revolution
and everyone wasexecuted.
everything. revolution
is thefirst
person, Napoleonthesecondperson.
and Butit
The Battle of the Cowshed likewiseevokes not only the failed Western
interventions againstthe Sovietsin 1918-20,but also the defeatof Europe
by theFrenchrepublicin 1792-5.The Battleof theWindmillringsa special
bell: the repulseof the duke of Brunswickin 1792, followingthe Prussian
bombardment thatmadethewindmillofValmyfamous.More significantly, in
1802 Napoleon restoredslavery,abolishedby the Conventionin 1794. The
Rebellionand its fateexemplify a historicalparadigm."

8 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan(Chicago, 1952),I. xiii (p. 85).

9 'Jonathan Swift:An ImaginaryInterviewBy GeorgeOrwell',in Orwell:TheLostWritings,
W. J. West (New York, 1985), 113.
10 FyodorDostoyevsky, A Raw Youth,trans.C. Garnett(London, 1916),219.
11 The parallelgainsforcefromtheBolshevists'obsessionwiththeFrenchRevolution.Trotsky
seasons his Historyof theRussianRevolutionand The RevolutionBetrayedwithreferencesto
Danton, Robespierre,and Bonapartism, callingStalin's triumph'The SovietThermidor'.In a
dramaticdebatebetweenLenin and Kerensky,Lenin demanded:'"Then let us haveone oftwo
things:eithera bourgeoisgovernment withitsplansforso-calledsocialreformon paper... or let
us have . . . a Governmentof the proletariat,which had its parallelin 1792 in France."'
Kerensky'sreplywas prophetic:"'We have been referredto 1792 as an exampleof how we
shouldcarryout therevolutionof 1917.But howdid theFrenchrepublicof 1792end?It turned
intoa base Imperialism,whichsetbacktheprogressofdemocracyformanya longyear.. . . You
tell us thatyou fearreaction,"he almostscreamed;"you say thatyou wantto strengthen our
new-wonfreedom, and yetyouproposeto lead us thewayofFrancein 1792.. . . Out of thefiery

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More obviously,theswitchfromMajor's anthem'BeastsofEngland'to the

patriotic 'AnimalFarm'parodiesthatfromLenin'sinternationalism to Stalin's
'Socialismin One Country'.The Rebellion,however,copiestheFebruary,not
theOctober,Revolution.In a pamphlet12Orwellmarked'veryrare'and cited
(iv. 85), Maxim Litvinov,the firstSoviet ambassadorto England,told how
spontaneousprotestsbywomenin foodqueues led to riotsin whichCossacks,
thenGuards,joinedthepeople,so that'beforeanyonewas properly aware,the
capitalwas in thehandsoftheworkers and soldiers'.'"The Rebellion,sparked
byJones'sfailureto feedtheanimals,is similarly unplanned:theywintheday
'almostbeforetheyknewwhatwas happening'(p. 12). With historyas his
guide,Orwelldividesthe feelingsthatstarta revoltfromthe ideologyused
afterwards to pervertit. Similarly,the spontaneouscouragedisplayedin the
Battleof the Cowshed is embalmedin the titles'AnimalHero-First and
Second Class': thefirstofficial nod to class distinction.
Naturalisticdescriptionis at firstwhimsical(Clover, cradlingducklings
maternally withher foreleg,'had neverquite got her figureback afterher
fourthfoal',p. 2), but as the Commandments are chippedawayand the pig-
managersincreasinglyresemblefarmers, the allegoryrequiresbalancing.
Physicaldetails,previouslyanthropomorphic, now remindus thatNapoleon
is a pig,sincemorallyhe beginsto seemall too human.Snowballdrawsplans
forthe windmill('witha piece of chalkgrippedbetweenthe knucklesof his
trotter,he would move rapidlyto and fro. . . utteringlittlewhimpersof
excitement'(p. 33)), and Napoleon urinatesoverthem.He signalshis coup
d'etatby 'a high-pitched whimperof a kindno one had everheardhimutter
before'(p. 35). Animalityis preservedby wordplaywhenNapoleon hiresa
humansolicitornamedWhymper-thesound,we now recognize,made by
a pig.
Disillusionis besttransmitted bynarration fromtheanimals'pointofview.
When Muriel spellsout the alteredcommandment 'No animalshall killany
otheranimalwithout cause'(p. 61), we findthattheanimalshaveforgotten the
last two wordsof the originalcommandment. But are our memoriesbetter?
Ransackingthem,we feelthe animals'fadinghopes. And havingbeen kept,
like them,ignorantof theirleader's manoeuvres,we share theirshock at
learningthatNapoleonhas sold thetimberto Frederickandbeencheatedwith
forgedbanknotes.The aim isn'tjustto mimicthediplomaticminuetofWest
and East,eachhopingHitlerwouldattacktheotherfirst;itis to makeus share
the animals' gradual conversionto Benjamin'sview that theirlot cannot
improve-onlyworsen.Yet the verydevicesvindicating Benjamin'spessim-

chaos thatyou wishto makewillarise,likea Phoenix,a dictator"'(H. Pitcher,Witnesses

RussianRevolution(London, 1994), 112-14).
12 M. Litvinov,TheBolshevikRevolution:ItsRiseandMeaning(London, 1918): 'A Collectionof
Pamphlets,MainlyPolitical,Formedby GeorgeOrwell' (BritishLibrary).
13 Ibid. 27.

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ism bolstersympathy withtherank-and-file animals.When,aftertheirinitial

victory,we are told: 'Some hams hangingin the kitchenweretakenout for
burial' (p. 14), the humorousconceitis endearing;but deepersympathyis
gained by an inside view. Aftera new 'rebellion'is crushed (the word
'revolution',implyinglastingchange,is avoided) and the commandment
againstmurderis broken,a view of the farmon a clear springevening
dissolvesinto the mind of Clover,lyingon the knollwhereshe once fRted
Ifsheherself hadhadanypicture ithadbeenofa society
ofthefuture, ofanimals set
freefrom hunger andthewhip,allequal,eachworking accordingto hiscapacity,the
strongprotecting theweak,as shehadprotectedthelostbroodofducklings withher
forelegon thenightofMajor'sspeech.Instead-shedid notknowwhy-theyhad
cometoa timewhennoonedaredspeakhismind,whenfierce, growling dogsroamed
everywhere, and when youhad towatch comrades
your torntopiecesafter confessing
to shocking crimes.Therewasno thought ofrebellion
ordisobedience in hermind.
She knewthatevenas things weretheywerefarbetter offthantheyhadbeenin the
daysofJones, andthatbeforeallelseitwasneedfultopreventthereturnofthehuman
beings. she
happened, wouldremain work
faithful, hard,carry outtheorders
thatweregiventoher,andaccepttheleadership ofNapoleon. Butstill,itwasnotfor
thisthatshe and all theotheranimalshad hopedand toiled.. . . Such wereher
thoughts, though shelackedthewordstoexpressthem.(pp. 58-9)
The inarticulate,
dupedbythearticulate, havebeenevictednotfromparadise,
but froma dreamof one: now theveryidea of rebellionis dead. Disenchant-
mentis completebeforethe end of the book,as Squealer proclaimsvictory
overFrederick,and theloyalBoxerasks,'Whatvictory?' (p. 71), wideninghis
chinkof doubtover Snowball's'crimes'.Yet to the last,the 'loweranimals',
now unableto remember betterdays,continueto hope. (Memoryforthemis
theenemyofhope.) Literaryform-theirqualityas animals-adds thedeeper
sadnessof losersin thebattleof evolution.

So pessimistican outlookis beliedby Orwell'sown lifeand opinionsduring
the years1936-45. Benjamin'sgloomyscepticismis sometimesattributed to
Orwell's disillusionment with socialismafterStalinisttreacheryin Spain,
coveredup by the'capitalistanti-Fascistpress'(i. 318). The truthis just the
opposite.Orwellhad seen throughthe USSR longbeforeSpain. In 1940 he
wrote:'All people who are morallysound have knownsinceabout 1931 [the
peakofforcedcollectivization]thattheRussianregimestinks'(i. 583). In 1947
he spokeof regardingit 'withplainhorror'for'quite 15 years'(iv. 355). Yet,
two weeks beforeleaving Spain, afterthe Barcelona fightingand being
woundedat the front,he declared:'I . . . at last reallybelievein Socialism,
whichI neverdid before'(i. 301). In TheLion and theUnicorn (1941) Orwell
advocatednationalizationof land,mines,railways,banks,and big industries;

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incomeceilings;classlesseducation;and DominionstatusforIndia.In 1946he

recalled:'The Spanishwar and othereventsin 1936-7 turnedthe scale and
thereafter I knewwhereI stood.Everylineof seriousworkthatI havewritten
since 1936has been written, directlyor indirectly, againsttotalitarianism and
fordemocratic Socialism,as I understand it' (i. 28). 'Socialism'meantequality;
not,as its enemiesclaimed,loss of liberty.On the contrary, 'the onlyregime
which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech is a Socialist
regime'(i. 373). 'Liberty'began with fairer income distribution: 'The glaring
inequality ofwealththatexistedin Englandbeforethewarmustnotbe allowed
to recur'(iii. 51). Whilerejecting'the inherently mechanistic Marxistnotion
of itself'(i. 583), he defendedMarx on novelgroundsclaimingthat:
themostimportant partofMarx'stheory is contained in thesaying:'Whereyour
treasureis,there will yourheartbe also.'[Luke 12: 34] But before Marxdeveloped it,
whatforcehadthatsaying had?Whohadpaidanyattention to it?Whohadinferred
fromit-what it certainly implies-thatlaws,religions and moralcodesare all a
superstructure builtoverexisting property relations? It wasChrist, accordingto the
Gospel, who uttered the but
text, itwas Marx who brought itto life.And eversince he
didso themotives ofpoliticians,
priests,judges, moralists and millionaireshave been
underthedeepestsuspicion-which, ofcourse,is whytheyhatehimso much.(iii.

Althoughby 'Communism'OrwellusuallymeanttheRussianregimeor its

advocacy('the "Communism"oftheEnglishintellectual is ... thepatriotism
of the deracinated'(i. 565)), he also used the wordin an ideal sense:
In mid-nineteenth-centuryAmerica menfeltthemselvesfreeandequal,werefreeand
equal,so faras thatis possibleoutsidea society (i. 547)
Onecanaccept, andmostenlightened peoplewouldaccept,theCommunist thesisthat
purefreedom willonlyexistina classless andthatoneismostnearly
society, freewhen
oneis working tobringsucha society about.(iv.84)
Whathe did notacceptwas 'the quite unfoundedclaimthatthe Communist
Partyis itselfaimingat theestablishmentoftheclasslesssocietyand thatin the
U.S.S.R. thisaim is actuallyon thewayto beingrealized'(iv. 84).
But while recognizingsimilaritiesin practicebetweenNazi and Soviet
regimes,Orwell neverequated fascismor Nazism witheithersocialismor
communism.In 1936 he observedthat,in readingMarxistliterary criticism,
'even a quite intelligentoutsidercan be takenin by the vulgarlie, now so

14 He also gavenewmeaningto Marx's famousdefinition ofreligion:'Marx did notsay,at any

rate in that place, thatreligionis merelya dope handed out fromabove; he said that it is
somethingthepeople createforthemselvesto supplya need thathe recognizedto be a realone.
"Religionis thesighofthesoul in a soullessworld.Religionis theopiumofthepeople." Whatis
he sayingexceptthatman does notlive by breadalone,thathatredis notenough,thata world
worthlivingin cannotbe foundedon "realism"and machine-guns?' (ii. 33). Marxismmeantthat
thequestionofman'splace in theuniverse'cannotbe dealtwithwhiletheaveragehumanbeing's
preoccupationsare necessarilyeconomic. It is all summed up in Marx's sayingthat after
Socialismhas arrived,humanhistorycan begin' (iii. 83).

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popular,that"Communismand Fascismarethesamething"'(i. 291). He saw

Germanfascismas 'a formofcapitalismthatborrowsfromSocialismjustsuch
featuresas willmakeit efficient
forwarpurposes'(ii. 101), and drewa basic
the idea underlyingFascismis irreconcilably
aims,ultimately, offreeandequalhumanbeings.
ata world-state
It takestheequality
ofhumanbeingsforgranted. Nazismassumesjusttheopposite.
The driving forcebehindtheNazi movement is thebeliefin humaninequality,
superiorityofGermans to all other the of
races, right Germany to ruletheworld.
For Orwell,Stalinismwas thebetrayalof an ideal,Nazism the fulfilment of
one. In 1937he warned:'Fascismafterall is onlya development ofcapitalism,
and themildestdemocracy, so-called,is liableto turnintoFascismwhenthe
pinch comes' (i. 318). The next yearhe joinedtheIndependentLabour Party
and gavehisreasons:'It is notpossibleforanythinking personto livein sucha
society as our own without to
wanting change it. ... One has gotto be actively
a Socialist,notmerelysympathetic to Socialism'(i. 374).
The tendencyto equatethescepticalBenjaminwithOrwelltherefore looks
odd, until one notices thatit is Benjamin who untypically comes galloping,
brayingat thetopofhislungs,'Come at once!They'retakingBoxeraway!'and
that,as theanimalsstupidlywavegoodbyeto Boxerin thevan,it is Benjamin
whoshouts:'Fools! Do younotsee whatis written on thesideofthat
Do you not understandwhat that means? They are takingBoxer to the
knacker's!'(pp. 81-2). The scene echoes the GPU's abductionof Trotsky,
relatedbyhiswife:'I shoutedto themenwhowerecarrying Lev D[avidovitch]
down the stairsand demandedthattheylet out mysons,theelderof whom
was to accompanyus intoexile.... On thewaydownthestairs,Lvova rangall
the door-bells,shouting:"They're carryingComrade Trotskyaway!"''"
Internally,however,what mattersis thatBenjamintells the animalswhat
theycannot'read' forthemselves, as theauthor/narrator has beendoingforus.
By usurping authorial function, Benjaminsuddenly becomes the author-not
by prudentlykeepingsilent, but by placing sympathy before safety.He
becomes'Orwell' when,throughhim,the 'author'suddenlyseems to drop
his maskand showwherehis heartlies.
In portraying Stalinistbetrayal,in fact,Orwellimplicitly arraigns capitalism
as well.TimothyCook firstremarked in printthatBoxer'smotto'I willwork
harder'echoes thatof the immigrant 'workhorse' Jurgisin Upton Sinclair's
exposureof the Chicago meatpacking industry TheJungle(1906).16The
echo is probablydeliberate-Orwellonce praisedSinclair'sfactualaccuracy
(i. 262)-but it is too simpleto say, as Cook does, thatAnimalFarm is an

15 Leon Trotsky,My Life(New York, 1930), 541.

16 T. Cook, 'Upton Sinclair'sTheJungleand Orwell'sAnimalFarm:A RelationshipExplored',
ModernFictionStudies,30/4 (Winter1984),696-703.

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'answerto the hopefulmessage'17of Sinclair'sbook,to whichJurgislistens

onlyaftertheworkaccidentthat-analogouslyto Boxer'sphysicaldecline-
puts him on the capitalistscrapheap.Cook skipsSinclair'smostsensational
revelation:theprocessing forsale as lardofworkerswhofellintotherendering
vats-a cannibalistic touchparalleledinAnimalFarmwhenthepigsbuya case
of whiskywiththe moneytheyget forBoxer,who fulfils Major's prediction
thatJoneswillone day sell himto theknacker's.Boxer'sfate,in otherwords,
isn't specificto the USSR. Far fromrefuting socialism,AnimalFarmshows
thattotalitarianism in socialistclothingendsin theveryevilsofcapitalismthat
led Orwellin 1941to considersocialisminevitable:'The inefficiency ofprivate
capitalismhas beenprovedall overEurope.Its injusticehasbeenprovedin the
East End of London' (ii. 117).Afterwriting AnimalFarmhe calledcapitalism
'doomed' and 'not worthsavinganyway'(iii. 266).
WhatOrwelldiscreditedwas notsocialismbut its sham:genuineprogress,
he believed,'can onlyhappenthroughincreasing enlightenment, whichmeans
thecontinuousdestruction of myths'(iv. 56). This has been thewriter'stask
sinceAristophanes, and in the 1940sit was notconfinedto exposingRussian
communism.When, in 1949, ArthurMiller's naive free-enterprise idealist
WillyLoman, sacked afterthirty-four yearsby his formerboss's son,belatedly
discoveredan unmarketable value-'You can't eat an orangeand throwthe
peel away-a manis nota piece of fruit!'-Millereffectively demythologized
his own country'seconomicsystem.Decades laterhe recalledhow Columbia
PicturesfirstweakenedthemovieDeathofa Salesman,thenaskedhimto issue
an anti-communist publicitystatementand prefacethe filmby interviews
praisingselling as a profession.18 On the otherside of the ideologicaldivide
Britishpublishers,kow-towingto left-wingreaders and a wartimeally,
similarlyrejectedAnimalFarm.Orwell'sproposedprefacewas prescient:
ForallI know, bythetimethisbookispublished myviewoftheSovietregime maybe
thegenerally-accepted one.Butwhatuse wouldthatbe in itself? To exchange one
orthodoxy foranother is notnecessarily an advance.The enemyis thegramophone
mind,whether ornotoneagreeswiththerecordthatis beingplayedat themoment.
(p. 106)
At the closingbanquet Soviet tyranny mirrorsits capitalistcounterpart.
Orwell claimed, however,that he meant to end not with a 'complete
reconciliationof the pigs and the humans',but on 'a loud note of discord',
'for I wroteit immediately afterthe Teheran Conferencewhicheverybody
thought had established
the best possiblerelationsbetweentheUSSR and the
West. personallydid not believethatsuch good relationswould last long;
and, as eventshave shown,I wasn'tfarwrong'(p. 113). But if the banquet
parodiesTeheran, the shot that goes home is Pilkington'ssolidaritywith
AnimalFarm's proprietors in extractingmoreworkforless food than any
17 Cook, 'Sinclair'sJungle',697.
18 ArthurMiller, Timebends: A Life(London, 1987), 315.

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otherfarmerin the country:'If you have yourlower animals to contend with ...
we have our lower classes!' (p. 92). Whom 'we' stood for,Orwell made clear in
The war has broughtthe class natureof theirsocietyverysharplyhome to English
people, in two ways. First of all thereis the unmistakablefactthatall real power
dependson class privilege.You can onlygetcertainjobs ifyouhavebeen to one ofthe
rightschools,and ifyoufailand haveto be sacked,thensomebodyelse fromone ofthe
rightschoolstakesover,and so it continues.This maygo unnoticedwhenthingsare
prospering, but becomesobviousin momentsof disaster.(ii. 241)

Asked if he had intended a statementabout revolutionin general,Orwell said

that he had meant that
thatkindof revolution(violentconspiratorial revolution,led by unconsciously
hungrypeople) can only lead to a changeof masters.I meantthe moralto be that
onlyeffect a radicalimprovement whenthemassesarealertandknowhowto
chuckouttheirleadersas soonas thelatterhavedonetheirjob. The turning-point ofthe
storywas supposed to be when the pigs kept the milk and apples for themselves
(Kronstadt).Iftheotheranimalshadhad thesensetoputtheirfootdownthen,itwould
havebeen all right.. . . In thecase of theTrotskyists
... theyfeelresponsibleforthe
eventsin theUSSR up to about 1926 and have to assumethata suddendegeneration
tookplaceaboutthatdate,whereasI thinkthewholeprocesswasforeseeable-andwas
foreseenbya fewpeople,e.g. BertrandRussell-fromtheverynatureoftheBolshevik
WhatI wastrying
party. tosaywas,'You can'thavea revolution
yourself;thereis no suchthingas a benevolentdictatorship.'19
So muchforEliot'sdismissalof the'positivepointofview'inAnimalFarmas
'generallyTrotskyite'.20Yet Orwell'sown exegesisis uneasy,sincetheinitial
revolt,despite indoctrination by the pigs, is not conspiratorial but spon-
taneous.It also begs vitalquestions.How can revolutionbe achieved?How
shouldthe'masses''chuckout' leaderswhohaveseizedpower?Leninhoped-
reckoningwithoutStalin-that education and mass participationwould
naturallyfollowa violentconspiratorial revolution-forhim the only kind
feasible.Similarly,Orwell assumed in 1940 that revolutionwould come
automaticallythroughwinningthewar,but latersaw he had 'underrated the
enormousstrength of the forcesof reaction'(iii. 339). He continuedto back
Russia 'because I thinkthe U.S.S.R. cannotaltogetherescape its past and
retainsenoughoftheoriginalideasoftheRevolutiontomakeita morehopeful
phenomenonthanNazi Germany'(iii. 178), but he nailedthe rootcause of
revolutionary failure:
Throughouthistory,one revolutionafteranother. . . has simplyled to a changeof
masters, effort thepowerinstinct....In
themindsofactiverevolutionaries, thelongingfor

19 Letterto D. Macdonald,5 Dec. 1946 (Yale). Quoted in Letemendia,'Revolutionon Animal

Farm',24 and, in part,in Shelden,Orwell,407.
20 Letterto G. OrwellfromT. S. Eliot,13July1944(copyin OrwellArchive).Quotedin Crick,

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a justsocietyhasalwaysbeenfatally
mixedup withtheintention
In thislight,Eliot's cavil,'afterall, yourpigsare farmoreintelligent
other animals, and thereforethe best qualified to run the farm . . . so that
whatwas needed(someonemightargue)was notmorecommunism but more
public-spirited pigs',21looks cagily facetious.
What was needed (someone
mightreply)was,precisely, realimplementation oftheideal perverted by the
self-servingpigs-somethingEliot,withhis personalinvestment in religious
conservatism, wouldhardlyhaveapproved.Even Empson'sobjectionthatthe
Revolutionappeared foredoomedis redundant:Orwell knew that 'all the
seeds ofevilweretherefromthestart'(iv. 35). The depthofhis disillusionis
nevertheless a measureof his sympathy withthe hopes betrayed.Fearinga
sell-out of socialism by those waving its flag at home, he chose the
IndependentLabour Partybecause it alone provided'the certaintythat I
wouldneverbe led up thegardenpathin thenameof capitalistdemocracy'(i.
375). When Attleetook over in 1945 Orwell was on his guard:'A Labour
government may be said to mean businessif it (a) nationalizesland, coal
mines, railways,public utilitiesand banks, (b) offersIndia immediate
Dominion Status (this is a minimum),and (c) purgesthe bureaucracy, the
army,thediplomaticservice,etc.,so thoroughly as to forestall
theRight'(iii. 448). He facedthedilemma:'Capitalismleads to dole queues,
thescrambleformarkets, and war.Collectivismleadsto concentration camps,
leader worship,and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned
economycan be somehowcombinedwiththefreedomof theintellect, which
can onlyhappeniftheconceptof rightand wrongis restoredto politics'(iii.
144). Yet he scornedthe flattering unctionof 'neo-pessimists': 'Men cannot
be made betterby act of Parliament;therefore I mayas well go on drawing
my dividends' (iii. 82). His answer was to 'dissociate Socialism from
Utopianism'(iii. 83) and seek progressthroughfailureitself:'Perhapssome
degreeof suffering is ineradicablefromhumanlife,perhapsthechoicebefore
man is alwaysa choiceof evils,perhapseven the aim of Socialismis not to
maketheworldperfectbut to makeit better.All revolutions are failures,but
they are not all the same failure'
(iii. 282).

None of this philosophycomes acrossin AnimalFarm. In fact,Eliot's red
herringhighlightsa troublingcorrelation.
'Class' in AnimalFarm-unlike in
England-is determinedby nativeintelligence.It is 'the more intelligent
animals'(p. 9) whoseoutlookis transformedbyMajor's speech.The pigsrule
by brainpower('The otheranimalsunderstoodhow to vote,but could never

21 Quoted in Crick,GeorgeOrwell,458.

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thinkofanyresolutions oftheirown' (p. 19)). Exceptfortheauthor'salterego

Benjamin, pigsalonelearnto readperfectly. On theotherhand,thenoble,
selflessBoxer,whohas 'no wishto takelife,notevenhumanlife'(p. 28), is of
'stupidappearance'and 'not of first-rate intelligence' (p. 2). It is hardnot to
suspect that it is he
because is stupid that he is good; that power-hunger must
accompanyintelligence-unless checked by an instinct of self-preservation
(Benjamin,who can read as well as any pig, wiselyabstainsfromdoingso).
Intelligence-aimingat power,safety,or animalcomforts-itself becomesa
satiricaltarget.The Rebellionis at firstbeneficial(a detailprofessional anti-
communistsnaturallyignored).The faultlies not in the theorybut in the
theorists.In thepassageOrwelldeemedcrucial,thecleverpigs,includingboth
Napoleonand Snowball,privatizethemilkand applesinsteadofsharingthem
out equally,arguingthattheyare brainworkersand thatSciencehas proved
milkand applesnecessaryfortheirwell-being, withoutwhichJoneswillcome
again.A newclasssystemis bornbased on biological inequality, itscommand-
mentsissuednot by the sugar-candy religion of the preachingravenMoses,
but by the intellectual religion of Science (Lenin's 'scientific socialism').As
theirpilferedprivilegescoalesce,thepigslearnto walkon theirhindlegs,and
accordinglyteach the sheep to chant,'Four legs good-two legs better',
therebyhypostatizing managerialfunctioninto ruling-classstatus.The last
altered commandmenton the barn wall-that new English proverb'All
animalsare equal, but some are more equal thanothers'-may come from
ParadiseLost,when Eve decides thathidingher ill-gottenknowledgefrom
Adam will renderher 'moreequal, and perhapsI A thingnot undesirable,
sometimeSuperior'(a professedaim of removing inequalitymasksa desireto
reverseit). Crick cites Orwell's claim to have discovered'the joy of mere
words'22readingParadiseLostat Eton,and theattribution is appositebothto
lost paradisesand to intellectualpower-seeking: it is the cleveranimalswho
This exaltationof brainworkfollowsallegoricallogic ratherthan Soviet
dogma.'Even themoststubbornamongthe'intellectuals', Litvinovpredicted
in 1918,'willsoon learnthat,afterall, thepeopleis a muchbettermasterthan
thecapitalist,and thata Socialistregimeis likelyto renderthemmorehappy
thana bourgeoisregime.'23 AnimalFarm,however,invertsHobbes's apology
forabsolutism:it is notequalityoffacultiesthatfostersdangerous'equalityof
hope'24but equalityof hope thatfounderson unequalfaculties.Empsonsaw
the paradox:
theeffect is tosuggest
racialdifferences, thatthe
Russianscenehadunescapable too-so themetaphor
socialdifferences suggeststhat
wasalwaysa pathetically
theRussianrevolution impossibleattempt. . . . thepigscan

22 Ibid. 123.
23 Litvinov,TheBolshevikRevolution, 54.
24 Hobbes, Leviathan,I. xiii(p. 84).

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is farfrom onefeelthatanyoftheotheranimals
The implication is probablythelastthingOrwellintended:he,ifanyone,knew
thatnothingsuitsa rulingclass betterthana geneticalibi. Rather,he meant
thatanimalkind's dreamofequalityfounders becausetheverybrainsneededto
achieveit demandsuperiorstatus:thepowerofreasonbecomesthereasonof
Stressingthepigs' clevernessmayhavebeena swipeat Britishintellectuals,
who alone acceptedthe 'ruthlessideologiesof the Continent'and formedan
'islandofbigotryamidthegeneralvagueness'(iii. 31). In 1940Orwellnoted,
'The thingthatfrightens me aboutthemodernintelligentsia is theirinability
to see thathumansocietymustbe based on commondecency,whateverthe
politicaland economicformsmay be.' His 'chief hope' was the ordinary
person'smoralcode: 'I haveneverhad theslightest fearofa dictatorship ofthe
proletariat.. . . But admitto havinga perfecthorrorof a dictatorship of
theorists'(i. 582-3). Afterwriting AnimalFarmhe calledBritishintellectuals
'moretotalitarian-minded thanthecommonpeople'(iii. 143)and observed:'In
ourcountry. .. itis theliberalswhofearliberty and theintellectualswhowant
to do dirton theintellect'(p. 107).
The pigs' intellect,however,may also reflecta historicalscruple.Orwell
admittedthathis knowledgeof Russia consisted'onlyof whatcan be learned
by readingbooksand newspapers'(p. 111). One book he mentionsrespect-
fully,JohnReed's Ten Days That Shook the World(p. 170), mirrorsthe
paradoxof AnimalFarm. Reed, also anti-intellectual but on othergrounds,
insiststhattherevolutionwas made by the masses;thattheBolshevikswere
'not richin trainedand educatedmen'.26He identifies 'intellectuals'withthe
provisionalgovernment, citinga youngwoman'ssneerat soldiersand work-
men arrivingat the Congressof Soviets:'See how roughand ignorantthey
look!'27When an anarchistcalls the Bolsheviks'common,rude, ignorant
persons,withoutaestheticsensibilities', Reed snorts:'He was a realspecimen
of the Russian intelligentsia'. he hails 'greatLenin' as 'a
Yet, paradoxically,
leaderpurelyby virtueof intellect;colourless,humourless, uncompromising
and detached,withoutpicturesqueidiosyncrasies-butwith the power of
explainingprofoundideas in simpleterms,of analysinga concretesituation.
And combinedwithshrewdness, thegreatestintellectualaudacity.'28
This kindofthingbaffled Britishjournalists.
E. H. Wilsoncomplainedthat
Lenin frequently introduced'politicaland economicconceptionswhichcan
hardlybe intelligible to untrainedminds'.PhilipsPricerecalledhimunflatter-
inglyas 'a shortmanwitha roundhead,smallpig-likeeyes,and close-cropped

25 Letterto G. Orwell,24 Aug. 1945 (OrwellArchive).Quoted in Crick,GeorgeOrwell,491.

26 J. Reed, TenDays ThatShooktheWorld(1919; New York,1992), 90.
27 Ibid. 26. 28 Ibid. 91-2.

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hair.... One satspellboundat hiscommandoflanguageand thepassionofhis

denunciation. But whenit was all overone feltinclinedto scratchone's head
and wonderwhatit was all about.'29RobertBruceLockhart,in Memoirsofa
British Agent,learnedto respectLenin's 'intellectual capacity',butat firstwas
moreimpressedby 'his tremendous will-power, relentlessdetermination,
and his lack of emotion.He furnished a completeantithesisto Trotsky ...
Trotskywas a greatorganiserand a man of immensephysicalcourage.But,
morally,he was as incapableof standingagainstLenin as a fleawould be
againstan elephant.'30
Orwell'sview of Lenin was hypothetical. In 1944 he generalizedthat'all
effortsto regenerate
societyby violent means lead to thecellarsoftheO.G.P.U.
Lenin leads to Stalin,and would have come to resembleStalin if he had
happenedto survive'(iii. 278). In 1946 he coupled Lenin withCromwellas
'one of those politicianswho win an undeservedreputationby dying
prematurely. Had he lived, it is probablethat he would eitherhave been
thrownout,likeTrotsky,3' or wouldhavekepthimselfin powerbymethodsas
or as
barbarous, nearly barbarous, as thoseofStalin'(iv. 200-1). This doesnot,
nevertheless, make Napoleon a composite.AlthoughLockhart'ssimilefits
Snowball and Napoleon, the latterprevailsnot by intellectualand moral
ascendancy-no pig matches Lenin there-but by self-seekingcunning.
Orwell specifiedhis targetby alteringhis text to Napoleon's advantage
when the windmillis blown up, to be 'fairto J[oseph]S[talin],as he did
stay in Moscow duringthe German advance' (iii. 407). If he bent over
backwardsto be fairto a 'disgustingmurderer'(ii. 461), he mighthave felt
a qualm in parodyingthe Revolutionminusits mastermind. The cleverpigs
would make amends:if 'the symmetry of the story'(p. 113) meantleaving
Lenin out,his distinguishing mark,at least,could be leftin.

In anycase, Orwellwas boundby theformhe used,one responsiblebothfor
ofAnimalFarmand forits permanent
the contradictions appeal. Initially,he
describedit as 'a kind of parable'.32A parable makes a point, not fine
distinctions,and a fable is also limited.33It may be because Orwell felt

29 Quoted in Pitcher,Witnesses
110-11, 112.
30 R. H. B. Lockhart,Memoirsofa BritishAgent(London, 1932), 238.
31 Trotskyquotes Krupskayain 1926: 'If Ilych were alive,he would probablyalreadybe in
prison': TheRevolution
Betrayed(New York, 1995), 93-4.
32 M. Meyer,Not PrinceHamlet:Literaryand Theatrical Memoirs(London, 1989), 68.
33 For example,evenifOrwellhad notstressedthepigs' clevernesstheywouldstillhavehad to
dominate by intelligence,not education. Letemendia ('Revolution on Animal Farm', 17),
however,breachesthe metaphorin blamingthe passivityof the animalson theirbrieflifespan
and 'consequentshortnessof theirmemory',and a class structurefixedby 'theirimmutable

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constrictedbytheparableformthathe redefined hisbookas 'a littlefairystory

... witha and
politicalmeaning'34 finally subtitled it 'A FairyStory'.
The misnomermeritsattention.AnimalFarm has none of the fairies,
princes,witches,spells,magictransformations, or happyendingsassociated
withthe'fairystory'.35 Once themetaphoris established, therestis history. In
fact,Animal Farm has been called a defined
'fable', as a 'brief,singleepisode'in
whichspeakinganimals,plants,objects,and humansmetaphorically illustrate
and satirizehumanconduct,although'in practiceitis occasionally renderedin
termsof othergenericforms:forinstanceas mirchen[folktales](e.g. "Little
Red RidingHood")'.36Chesterton moreacutelycomparedpersonsin a fableto
algebraicabstractions or chess pieces,whereasthefairytale
absolutely onthepivotofhumanpersonality. Ifnoherowerethere tofightthe
dragons,we should noteven know that were
they dragons. ... If there
is no personal
princeto findtheSleepingBeauty, shewillsimply sleep.Fablesreposeon quitethe
oppositeidea;thateverything is itself,
andwillin anycasespeakforitself. The wolf
thefoxwillalwaysbe foxy.37
willalwaysbe wolfish;
AnimalFarmspansbothgenres:thesheepremainsheep; thedogs,dogs; the
cat, a cat; but the pigs, horses,and donkeyall displayelementsof 'human
personality',althoughBenjamin'sworld-pessimism goesbackto IEsop's fable
'The Oxen and theButchers',in whichan old ox stopshisbrothers fromrising
againstthebutchers, arguingthattheyat leastcauseno needlesspain,butthat,
if theyare killed,inexperiencedslaughterers will replace them and inflict
greatersuffering: you may be sure that,even thoughall the Butchers
perish, mankind willnever go without theirbeef.'38'Fairytale' ofcoursemay
simplysignifyfantasy, but this fits
hardly AnimalFarm,whichderivesits
authority preciselyfromhistoricaleventsthatare in turnilluminatedby it.
The subtitlepoints,therefore, to a parodic impulse,like that which the

functionson thefarm'.In fact,Benjamin,who stresseshis longevity,

is as passiveas theothers,
and iftheyare all made victimsofzoologicallimitations
themeaningis lost.Their actions,fate,
and differencesin intelligence
mustbe read as human.Lack of previouseducationis a common
factor,but whenthe pigs tryto teachtheanimalsto read,onlyBenjaminattainstheir
proficiency-proving thepigs' inbornsuperiority.
34 Letterto Gollancz, 19 Mar. 1944,quoted in Crick,GeorgeOrwell,452.
35 The 'fairystory'or contedefies,a terminventedby educatedwomenwho in the 1690s gave
literarypolish to medievaland folktales,does not have 'political'meaning,althoughPerrault
used itto preach'morals'endorsingthesocialorder.(Perraultdid notcall hiscollectionContesde
fiesbutHistoires passe:Avecdesmoralites
ou contesdu temps (Storiesor Tales ofPast Times: With
36 D. M. Roemer,in M. E. Brownand B. A. Rosenberg(edd.), Encyclopedia ofFolkloreand
Literature(Santa Barbara,Calif.,1998), 195, 198.
37 G. K. Chesterton,introduction to Esop's Fables,trans.V. S. Vernon-Jones,
illus. Arthur
Rackham(London, 1975), 10.
38 Ibid. 72. Orwell,however,was modernin makinghis protagonist a community.
A precedent
was Mark Twain's 'The Man That CorruptedHadleyburg'(1899), in whicha self-righteous
townrevisesits motto'Lead Us Not Into Temptation'to 'Lead Us Into Temptation',afterits
renownedhonestyis shownto be skin-deep.

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Teheran conferenceinspired.But why parodya 'fairystory'for 'political'

The answermay again lie in the springsof Orwell's inspiration.In his
prefaceto theUkrainianeditionhe mentionshavingseena carthorse whipped
and thinkingthat 'men exploitanimalsin much the same way as the rich
exploitthe proletariat'(p. 112), but thisskirtsthe issue.39Othersuggested
'sources' are equally unconvincing.40The parodic mode is more fertile.
Parodiesof magictalesgo back to theirinception,and fableshave also been
parodied,41butCharlesDickensprovidedtheprecedentoffairy-tale parodyat
one remove.When George Cruikshank'alteredthe textof a fairystory'to
propagate'doctrinesofTotal Abstinence, Prohibitionofthesale ofspirituous
liquors,Free Trade, and PopularEducation',42 Dickens vowed:
Halfplayfully I meantoprotest
& halfseriously moststrongly alteration-for
any purpose-of the beautiful little stories which are so tenderly& humanly useful to
us in these times when the world is too much with us, early& late; and then to re-write
Cinderella according to Total-abstinence, Peace Society, and Bloomer principles, and
especially for their propagation.43

39 Orwellhad alreadyused the horsein an abandonedwar novel,'The Quick and the Dead',
wherean officer sadisticallywhipsa dyinghorsenamed'old Boxer','presumably in theretreatin
1918': OrwellArchive,'LiteraryNotebookNo. 1', pp. 14-15.
40 It has been claimedthatOrwellwas directlyinspiredby his own BBC adaptationofIgnazio
Silone's 'The Fox', misleadingly called 'a politicalallegoryset in a pig farm'(The Lost Writings,
ed. West, 60). Formallyit is not 'allegory',but a realisticstoryin whichan anti-fascist Ticino
peasantgrowsto like an injuredItalianengineerbroughtinto his house. When the engineeris
identified as a local fascistspythepeasanthumanelyrefusesto havehim killedby a fellowanti-
fascist,onlyto see himescape withdocumentsleadingto mass arrestsof Italianworkmen.The
peasant emotionallyidentifiesthe treacherousspy with a prowlingfox that has finallybeen
trapped,and hacksit to bits.All thecharacters, foxincluded,are fleshand blood,and the story
has no relationin formor contenttoAnimalFarm.Crick(GeorgeOrwell,459) morepersuasively
cites the 'influence'of Swift'sHouyhnhnms,which Orwell regardedas havingreached 'the
higheststageof totalitarian organization'(iv. 252); but the dynamicof transformation, vitalto
AnimalFarm,is absentfromthe Houyhnhnms'staticworld.
41 After1698 contesde fies were criticizedas extravagantand parodied on the stage: see
G. Rouger,introduction to Contesde Perrault(Paris, 1967), p. xlviii.They were perennially
parodied,e.g. byVoltairein TheWhiteBull (1773-4) and byGeorgeMacDonald in the1860sand
Oscar Wilde in the 1890s:see J. Zipes, Fairy Talesand theArtofSubversion:The ClassicalGenre
for Children and theProcessof Civilization(London, 1983), 104-11, 114-21. Orwellmighthave
readWilde's parodyofthe 'happyending'(e.g. the'Star Child' becomesa good king,yet'ruled
he notlong... And he whocameafterhimruledevilly').JamesThurber,whomOrwelladmired
parodiedthe fablein Fablesfor Our Time(1940). In 'The Owl Who Was
(iii. 325), delightfully
God' Thurbertellshow birdsand beastscome to worshiptheowl as God because he can see in
thedark(assuminghe can see as wellin thedaytime)and becauseby luckhe answersquestions
correctly withthe fewmonosyllables he knows.Blindlyfollowinghim,theanimalsare hitby a
truckin broaddaylight, and many,includingtheowl,arekilled.Thurber'smoralis: 'You canfool
toomanyofthepeopletoomuchofthetime':VintageThurber, 2 vols. (London, 1983),i. 159.
42 Charles Dickens, 'Frauds on the Fairies' (1854), in MiscellaneousPapers/EdwinDrood
(London, n.d.), 202.
43 Quoted in H. Stone,Dickensand theInvisibleWorld:Fairy-Tales,Fantasyand Novel-Making
(New York, 1979),2.

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Dickenskepthis word.In 'Fraudson theFairies'he denounced'theintrusion

ofa WholeHog ofunwieldydimensionsintothefairyflowergarden',44 adding
a moralisticparodyof'Cinderella'.The sameyearhe used fairy-tale imagery in
Hard Timesto attackeducationaimedsolelyat grooming thepoorto servethe
Orwellmaywellhaveknown'Frauds on theFairies'.Duringa five-month
sanatoriumcure in 1938 he keptDickens's collectedworksin his room.46In
1947he himselfcontemplated a BBC versionof'Cinderella',callingit 'thetops
so faras fairytalesgo but ... toovisualto be suitablefortheair'.He imagined
Cinderellaas a wonderful singerunableto singin tune(nota bad self-parody),
and a godmotherwho cures her: 'One could make it quite comic withthe
wickedsisterssingingin screeching voices'(iv. 318-19). Orwell'sparodicidea
sprangfromtechnicalnecessities, buthe knewthatpastiche'usuallyimpliesa
realaffectionforthethingparodied'(iii. 193).Dickensparodiedan abuseofthe
Duringthe 1920sand 1930schildren'sstoriesin theWeimarRepublic,the
United States, and, to a lesser extent,England were again alteredby a
'proletarian'or 'left-wing' slantto counterclassicfairytalesseen as a tool of
bourgeoissocialization.47Orwellat firstthoughtofparticipating. In May 1940,
afterdenouncingright-wing bias in boys'stories,he wroteto RobertGeoffrey
Trease (author of a left-wingversion of Robin Hood): 'this matterof
intelligentfictionfor kids is very importantand I believe the time is
approachingwhen it mightbe possibleto do somethingabout it'. Orwell,
Trease recalled,had in mind
juvenile pinkinshade,perhaps
publishing backedbytheT.U.C.
or the Liberal News Chronicle.Not havingread Homageto Catalonia,and being
unawareof his disenchantment
withthe official
Communist line,I did notfully
appreciate quipthat,ifLaurence
andWishart[Trease'sleft-wing didit,
theywouldwantbookslike'boysoftheOgpu'or'The YoungLiquidators.'
Later Trease realized that 'perhapsOrwell's quip had helped-that false
historyfromthe Rightshouldnot be counteredwithfalsehistoryfromthe
communisttractquotedin his'Boys'Weeklies'
essay(i. 529),or whether
by Frank Richards's
robust he
reply(i. 531-40),49 dropped the
44 'Frauds on theFairies',201.
45 See A. Bony, 'Realite et imaginairedans Hard Times',Etudesanglaises,23/2 (Apr.-June
1970), 168-82.
46 Crick,GeorgeOrwell,367. 47 See Zipes, FairyTalesand theArtofSubversion,
48 G. Trease,A Whiff ofBurntBoats (London, 1971), 155,and Laughterat theDoor (London,
1974),26, 27. I thankNicholasTuckerforcallingmyattention toTrease and to TheAdventures
theLittlePig (see below).
49 Richardsviewedhappinessin youthas the best preparationforlatermisery:'At least,the
poor kidwill have had something!He may,at twenty, be huntingfora job and notfindingit-

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in children's
idea and insteadpursuedhis interest literature
by adapting
Andersen's 'The Emperor's
New Clothes'fortheBBC in November 1943,
justbeforehe set out to counter'falsehistoryfromtheLeft' by stripping
USSR of its emperor'sclothesin AnimalFarm.
In doingso, he mayhave been partlyreactingin a Dickensianwayto left-
wingchildren'sstories.One I recallvividlyfrommyown childhoodwas the
titlestoryofa bookletbyHelen Kay (pseud.Helen ColodnyGoldfrank) called
BattleintheBarnyard.50 preface, 'To theChildrenofthe WorkingClass',
Dear Comrades:
Once upona time,a longlongtimeago,a bookappearedcalled,'FairyTales for
Workers' Children.'Butthiswasa longtimeago,andthebookhassincerunoutof
Now,we arestarting anew.I offerthisbookas a challenge-achallenge
to every
readerto writefor'Us Kids.'
These storieswerepennedwhenI was a 'Pioneer.'As a member of theYoung
PioneersofAmerica, book.Later,whenI cameto
I felttheneedofsucha children's
workwithyounger comrades, I evenmoreclearly
Today, the Pioneer movementis growing.. . . Farmers' childrenand kids of
unemployed parentsarerapidly joiningourranks.We mustfurnish themwithour
I amgladtomakethisstart.
All tellof theclass
Severalof thesestoriesdeal withrealand livingchildren.
struggle. toldmesome.Everyonewaswritten foryou.I hopeyou'll
Comradely yours,

Kay's prototypewas a collectionof German 'proletarian'fairytales by

HermyniaZur Mtihlen,translatedand publishedin Chicago by the Daily
WorkerPress in 1925,51and she saw herselfas marchingin the ranksof
history. 'An oldercomradetoldme
(Note herclaimto authority:
some'.) Paraphrase would not adequatelyconveythe spiritof her story.I
thereforegive it in full:

whyshouldhis fifteenth yearbe cloudedby worrying aboutthatin advance?He may,at thirty,

get the sack-why tell him so at twelve?'Makingchildrenmiserablewas unjustifiable anyway,
but 'the adult will be all the moremiserableif he was miserableas a child' (i. 537). Richards's
honestpatriotism, and affection
anti-intellectualism, forpre-1914Englandwouldhave appealed
to the authorof ComingupforAir.
50 New York: WorkersLibraryPublishers,1932.
51 Zipes, Fairy Talesand theArtofSubversion, birth,Zur Mtihlen(1883-
154-5. Of aristocratic
1951) studiedMarxismin Switzerlandand joinedtheCommunistPartyin Frankfurt-am-Main.
In 1933she emigrated to Viennaand in 1938fledto England.Her tales,aimedat raisingthesocial
consciousnessof childrenand offering themmodels of a fairerworld,appearedin communist
children'smagazinesduringthe 1920s:see J. Zipes (ed.), The OxfordCompanion to Fairy Tales,
(Oxford,2000), 561-2. Her firstcollection,Was Peterchens Freundeerzahlen(1921), is in the

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Battlein theBarnyard
Out in thecountrywherethefieldsare greenand thesunshineis golden,an old farm
standsbetweentwo grovesof tallpoplartrees.On thisfarmtherelivedat one timea
happycolonyof healthychickens.
Now the yardwherethesechickenslivedwas filledwithveryfertilesoil. The rich
groundcontaineda plentifulamountof wormsupon whichthechickenslived.There
werelongskinnyworms,shortstubbyworms,and big fatworms.There wereas many
kindsof wormsas thereare people. Besides wormsa greatvarietyof caterpillars and
bugs helpedthesechickslead a healthywell-nourished life.
In a corneroftheyardwherethechickensscratchedawaytheirtimerana refreshing
spring.This springwas usedbythechickensto quenchtheirparchedthroatsin thehot
Many a happyday was passedby theseroostersand hens.The chickenswouldrise
withthe sun, scratchforworms,drinkwaterfromthe spring,cacklingand crowing
merrilyall the while.The hens would lay eggs-and thentell the worldabout it in
'Cut-cut-cut-ca-deh-cut!' theywouldcry.Justas iftheyweretrying to say,'I've laid
an egg,the loveliestwhiteegg!'
The littledownychickswouldplaytagand leapfrogbetweentheireatingtimes,to
whileawaythetimeuntiltheyin turnwouldgrowup and becomehensand roosters.
The cockswouldstrutaboutthefarmin theirconceitedmanner,crowingand asking
theworldifithad notnoticedtheirhandsomeplumage.'Cock-a-doodle-do!''Am I not
a handsomebird.Am I not. Am I not!'
Then at the settingof the sun the chickenfarmwould becomedarkand silent-
closed in theembraceof slumber.
On thisfarm,however,therewas one veryslyuglyrooster,whohad lostmostofhis
finefeathers in hisquarrelsand fights
He wouldalwaystakeadvantageoftheyoungchicks.Beinga verylazyfellowhe would
tryto getout of doinghis own scratching forworms.
For instance,whena youngercockwoulddigup a daintymorselfromtherichloam,
such as a livelyyoungearthworm, thisuglymonsterwouldimmediately pounceupon
his comrade'sdinnerand gobbleit all up. Yes, everysinglebit of it. This nastyhabit
made himverymuchhatedby all the otherson the farm.
One daytheentirecolonywas amazed.They werein factso astonishedat thesight
beforetheireyesthatwordsactuallyfailedthem.Even someofthemoretalkative hens
who alwayshad somethingto cackleabout,couldn'tfindtheirtongues.
Dear littlecomrades,it actuallywas an unusualsight,fortherebeforetheireyes,
theysaw forthe firsttimethis nastyroosterscratchingaway forworms!But what
surprisedthemeven more was thatthis greedycreaturedid not eat the wormshe
unearthed.He put themaway.As manywormsas he dug up he wouldlayin a pile on
the ground.
The inhabitants ofthecolonybecamenervous.Such a stateofaffairs wasimpossible.
They wereunableto understandit. Somethinghad to be done aboutit.
One eveningat the settingof the sun, a huge mass meetingwas called. It was
advertisedfarand wide by the youngcocks,who would perchthemselveson high
fencesand, flappingtheirwings,wouldcrowtheorderforthemeeting.
At thisgathering theroosterwas askedbythepatriarchs and industrious hensofthe
colony,whatthemeaningof the hugepile of wormsmeant[sic].
The roosterpromptly answered.'Here, I havea hugepileoftastybugs,catterpillars

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[sic],and worms.. .' He paused cleverlyto let theaudiencetakein thesight.'If you

willgiveme thecornerofthisyardwherethespringruns-and allowme to keepit all
to myself-I will giveyou in returnthathuge pile of food.'
Withoutfurtherthoughtthe chickencommunitydecided to do as the rooster
bargained.His foodwas evenlydividedamongall the membersof thevillageand in
returnhe receivedthatsectionof the yardwherethe cool springran.
The chickensgossipedamongthemselves-tellingeach otherhow stupidthe old
roosterwas to desirethatbitoflandin returnforthedeliciouspileofeatables.Afteran
houror so everyoneretiredforthenight.The sun setand thefarmwas darkand silent.
The nextmorningthechickensaroseas usual.The sun was up and shiningbrightly.
The day became veryhot and uncomfortable. The inmatesof the farmgrewvery
thirsty and as was theirhabittheystrolledover to the springto quenchtheirthirst.
However,as theycamewithinreachofthepreciouswater,themeanroosteraroseand

This springdoes notbelongto you.
It's mine,you cannotdrinkhere!'

The thirsty chickensexclaimed,'What do you mean,yours!It is everyone's.'

The cockimmediately answered,'Didn't yousellitto me yesterdayin returnforthe
foodthatyou have alreadyeaten.'
A youngrebelliouscock criedout, 'But we are thirsty. You cannotkeep the water
fromus. We wishto drink.'
The roosterreplied,'For everydrinkofwaterthatyoutakeout ofmyspring,I will
in returntaketwo worms!'
Since thechickenswereverythirsty theyconsentedto thisarrangement.
The pile of wormswhichtheold miserlycockreapedfromthetoilof thechickens
beganto growby leaps and bounds.As a matterof factit grewso largethathe alone
could notcareforit. So he hiredtenofthestrongest youngroosterson thefarmto be
his policemen.
Their job was to take care of and to protecthis hoard of worms.In return,he
promisedto give themenoughwaterand foodto live on, no morenor no less. No
less-because he had to have stronghuskywell-nourished policemento takecare of
and guardthesurplusthathe now livedupon.He wouldgivethemno more-because
thiswickedroosterwantedmoreand moreforhimself.
wenton fora longtime.The chickencolonylostitsusual happy
This stateofaffairs
satisfiedexpression.They did not crow as joyouslyas theydid before.The young
chickenswere afraidto be merry.They were underfedand undernourished. They
could no longerplay withoutfearof disturbingthe selfishcock. The hens could no
longerlay good eggs,becausetheylackedfood,and entertainment. They now had to
laborfromsunriseto sunsetso thattheycouldhaveenoughfoodto liveon,and enough
foodto giveto thecruelroosterin returnforthewaterthattheyso badlyneeded.
The chickswho werebornduringthisperiodweregenerallynotstrongenoughto
live. Most of themdied and the tragicpartwas thatthosewho did survivetookthe
conditionthatnow existedforgranted.They thoughtit was impossibleto live any
On theotherhandtheroostergrewbiggerand fatter. His daughteralso grewbigger
and fatter.Neitherhad to work.They merelyateand playedall day.They livedoffthe
toiland sweatof theirfellowchicks.

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Now, on the farmtherewas a duck,a veryhandsomegracefulduck. He would

waddleand quackall throughthechickenfarm.One daytheroosterdecidedto marry
his daughterto theduck,in orderthatshe wouldbecomea duchess,and so be one of
the nobility.
The roosterwentup to theduckand said,'If youmarrymydaughter,and so make
hera duchess,I willgiveyoua shareofmygroundsand makeyoua partnerinmyfood
association.You willnothavetoscratchforyourworms,butwillliveoffthewormsthat
theotherchickensscratchup. You willlead a lifeof luxuryand play,ifyou do this.'
The duckagreed.And so theyweremarried.They had littlearistocratic duck-chicks
bornto lead livesof idleness.
One day one of theroosterswas tiredof feedingthemean cock,and goinghungry
himself.He ranup singlehandedto theold miserand startedto fighthim.Of course,
he was immediately killedbythepolice.This incidentaddedto thesuffering and to the
downtrodden conditionsoftheotherchickens.But theyalwaysremembered thebrave
young cock.
Soon afterthisoccurred,theuglymisergotanotheridea. He calledoversomemore
chickens.He toldthemthathe wouldpaythemmorethanthepolicemaniftheywould
act as preachers.
'Your duty,'he said,'is totellthechickensto be submissiveandobeyme,theapostle
of the lordin the heavensabove. If theyare submissiveand do everything I and my
family order them to do, when die
they they will to
go heaven, and there lead happy
lives.But, if theyrebeltheywill go down to thefiresof hell and burnforever.The
hardertheyworkhereon earth,thebettertimetheywill have in heaven.'
As timewenton thechickensslavedharderand harder,and theroostergrewricher
and richer.They began to believewhateverthe preacherchickenstold them.They
thoughtthat conditionsmust alwaysbe as theyare. That the greateramountof
chickensshouldbe poorand thata privilegedfewmustliveoffthewealththatthepoor
One youngand energetic cockwhowas deeplyimpressedbyall thegoingson,began
to think.He thoughtand planned,and othershelpedhim.Then theyall decidedthat
theonlywayto savethechickensofthefarm,and themselves, fromendlessslaverywas
bydrivingouttheselfishrooster, hisdaughter,theduchess,herhusband,theduck,and
the aristocratic duck-chicks, also theirprotectors,the policemen,and especiallythe
Secretleafletswereprintedand spreadoverthecolonyforthechickensto readandto
learn the truth.Huge mass meetingswere called and the exploitedchicks were
organizedintobattalionsto driveout theiroppressors.
The chickencolonywas in a stateof excitement. If theywon thebattletheywould
againbe freechickens.If theylost-no one wantedto thinkof that.They mustwin.
And dearlittlecomrades,theydid win.They certainly werevictorious.They drove
theold roosterand hisprotectors outoftheirlivesforever.The meancockand his lazy
good-for-nothing familywerekilled.The preachersand policemenfledfromthefarm.
No one has everheardof themsince.Perhapsthe wolvesate them.
Now in the summerwhenthe fieldsare greenand the sunshineis goldenin the
country youcansee thehenshappilylayingeggs,andtheotherchickensscratching away
forworms.They havelearnedtheirlesson,and neveragainwillanyonebe able to trick
themintoslavery.The littlechicksplaytagand leap-frog in theirmerryway.You can
hearthemgo 'Peep-peep-peep!'The roostersstrutaroundthefarmand crow,'Cock-a-
doodle-do!'The henscry,'Cluck-cluck-cluck!' They are all contentedand equal.

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As faras I know,the onlyextantcopy of Kay's bookletis in Harvard's

WiednerLibrary.A studentof mine52tracedit forme twenty-five yearsago:
otherlibraries,he said, had 'removed'it duringSenatorJoe McCarthy's
inquisition.On a falleveningin 1995I visitedtheWiednerand askedto see it.
A guard,happilywaivingtherules,tookme downto thestacks,and thereit
was,itssoftbrownand buffcoveras I had lastseen it welloverhalfa century
beforein the guestloungeof a holidaycamp patronizedby skilledlow-paid
workers.It was then(likemyself)nineor tenyearsold, but stillcirculating.
Like Combrayfroma teacup,a bygonehopefulethosrose beforemymental
visionas I leafedthroughKay's stories-'Bread', 'High Hat Ants', 'Strike
Secret'-and saw whathad worriedlibrarians. In one story,'Us AlleyKids',
blackand whitechildrendefying Jim Crow organizedthepoor ofbothraces
againstexploitation: a threatthatnearlymaterializedthirtyyearslaterin the
last,'integrated' marchMartinLutherKing was planningat thetimehe was
murdered.By thenWorkersLibraryPublisherswas longextinct.53 Today,the
premiseof Battlein theBarnyardis obsolete.As a FinancialTimesjournalist
sanguinelyremarked:'Long considereda basic right,wateris now being
lookedat as a goodinvestment.'54 The word'Comrade'(whichOrwellthought
putpeople socialism) needn'tbe banned,as itfinally
is on AnimalFarm,for
thereis littleriskofitsuse betweenmembersofcontending national,religious,
ethnic,linguistic, or sexualinterest
groups.In thenewRussia theSong ofthe
VolgaBusinessmanproclaimstheblessingsbroughtto workers and pensioners
by Soviet apparatchiks turned freebooting
capitalists-giving Orwell's ending
a propheticresonancemissingfromKay's.55
Yet, despitesuch progress,few'greatbooks' I have read since childhood
haveleftme withas vivida memoryas Kay's,downto thecoverdrawingofthe
routofthemiserlyroosterand his clan. That factseemsto me relevantto the
enduringpowerofAnimalFarm.The secretofKay's impacton me as a child

52 RogerWebster.
53 I have triedunsuccessfully
to traceKay or anothercopyright-holder.
54 A. Mandel-Campbell,'Water could make yourcup runnethover', Financial Times,16-17
Feb. 2002, 'Weekend' section,p. xxii. Privatefirmshave acquired 85% of the world'swater
distribution(UBS Investment,July/Aug.2001, p. 23). AlthoughNGOs arguethatprivatization
strikesthepoorestand thatwateraccessshouldbe freeor chargedat costprice,theWorldWater
Forumdoes notrecognizewateras a 'basic humanright'.The WorldCommissionon Water,an
armoftheWorldBank,considersita profitable resource,especiallyin poorcountries(Le Monde,
24 Mar. 2000,p. 40). Fromtheboardroomthislooksideal.If regulators menaceprofits,firmscan
invokejob losses. On the otherhand,CEOs who boostthesharepriceby sackingworkersearn
biggerbonuses,and if theyhave to be sackedin turntheyare replaced,as in Orwell'sday,by
otherslike themselves,but rewardedfortheirfailurebeyondthe wildestdreamsof Orwell's
contemporaries.Privatization,however,sparksconflict.VivendiEnvironment was drivenout of
Tucuman Province,Argentina(International Herald Tribune,27 Aug. 2002, p. 1). Anotherfirm
doubledthewaterpricein Bolivia,provoking whathas beencalledtheworld'sfirstcivilwarover
water(Le Point,30 Aug. 2002, p. 87). Kay's far-fetchedmetaphoris today'sfait divers.
55 'Whilemillionsoftheircountrymen sufferedcollapsinglivingstandards,declininghealthand
increasingalcoholism,a few [Russians]made enoughmoneyto join the ranksof the world's
richestmen' (FinancialTimes,6/7 Apr. 2002, p. I).

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laynotin contentbutin form.Max Frischonce ascribedthepeculiarforceof

marionettes to the factthat,unlikeactors,theydon't have to 'makebelieve',
but are bodied forthas nakedcreationsof the spirit."6 Animalsrepresenting
humansoperatesimiliarly.17Like 'Battlein theBarnyard', AnimalFarmgains
forcefromelementsof the fableand themagicfolktale whilecorresponding
strictlyto neither.Orwell's storystructurally mirrorsKay's. Kay's idyllic
prelude closed a
by peacefulnight's slumber precedesthe insidiousriseof a
provoking revoltand a return
to theidyllicstatusquo ante.Orwell'sparodicutopianpreludeis also followed
by a peacefulnight'ssleep,but thenby conspiracyand a rebellionpavingthe
way forthe insidiousrise of a collectivist,ideologicaltyrantand even more
hopelessoppression.Kay faresless well than Orwell in fusingartisticand
politicalpurpose. Beneath the communist catchwords,her nostalgiafor a
happystateofnatureis closerto Rousseauthanto Marxor Lenin,farfromthe
open-endedstoriesof Zur Miihlen,whomshe claimedas a model.58" Never-
theless,thekinshipbetweenOrwell'sstoryand Kay's is obvious:thecollective
protagonist, the gradualhabituation to oppression,theword'Comrade'used
seductivelyby Kay, ironicallyby Orwell,and the calculatedslippagefrom
symbolicto directstatement(havingestablishedthe youngroostersas the
miser'spolicemenKay can say thatthe hungryroosterwas 'killed by the
a metaphorconveyingforcedconfessionand execution,can creditNapoleon
withthe cry 'Death to humanity').Both storiesuse preachersand private
tailsto theirmaster,theyremindus thata dog is Man's bestfriend.Andwhen
the preachingravenMoses, initiallychasedoffthe farm,laterreappears,the
pigstoleratehim,evengivinghima dailygillofbeer,as ifto say'Stickaround,
youmaybe needed.'This hasbeentakento symbolizeStalin'swartime entente
withtheOrthodoxChurch;moregenerally itreflects
ofreligionto dictators(Hitlerviewedhis concordatwiththeCatholicChurch
as propitiousforhis waron Jews).59Finally,ifOrwelland Kay bothplayon
words,Kay's duck-duchessand hens that'alwayshad somethingto cackle
about' seem frivolous,whereasOrwell's ham-burialhas dramaticpoint.In
bothstoriesthekeywordis 'equal', but Orwell'sturnsit upsidedown.

56 Max Frisch,'Uber Marionetten', in Tagebuch1946-1949(Zurich,1964), 154.

57 The Parisiancrazeforfablesand literary contesdefeesin thelate 17thcenturycoincidedwith
one formarionettes (see Contesde Perrault,ed. Rouger,293 n. 2). Perraulthimselfmade the
'Qu'en certainsmomentsl'espritle plus parfaitI
connection;dedicating'Peau d'ine' he affirmed,
Peut aimersans rougirjusqu'aux Marionettes'.(ibid. 57.) The mostsensibleReason,he added,
oftenweariedof its vigiland enjoyeddozing,ingeniously rockedby talesof Ogre and Fairy.
58 See Zipes, Fairy Tales and theArtofSubversion, 154-5.
59 See J.-D. Jurgensen,Orwell,ou la Routede 1984 (Paris, 1983), 154,and J. Cornwell,Hitler's
Pope (London, 1999), 151 ff.

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Despite, or because of, theirdifferences,the familylikenessbetweenKay's
story and Orwell'smakes Animal Farm look likeliteraryparody.Was parody
intended?In 1946 Orwell recognized,'I am not able, and I do not want,
completelyto abandonthe world-viewthatI acquiredin childhood(i. 28).
Magic tales,althoughescapist,werepartof thatworld-view.In 1947,while
contemplating a parodyof 'Cinderella'and hopingfora re-broadcast of 'The
Emperor's New Clothes',Orwell to
agreed adapt 'LittleRed Riding Hood' for
theBBC's Children's Hour.Like Dickens,he wouldprobablyhaveresentedthe
abuseoffairytalesforpropaganda,whichhe detested.60 Withhispenchantfor
parody,he mightwellhaveregardedAnimalFarm,once written, as a pastiche
of left-wing children'sliterature.
Whetherhe intendedit as such is moreconjectural.There is no evidence
thathe knewof Kay or Zur Miihlen,whose storieswere not publishedin
England.On theotherhand,foran omnivorous readerwithcosmopolitan left-
wingcontacts61 in
and a specialinterest 'proletarian' literature
and ephemeral
writing-whohad workedin 1934-5 in a Hampsteadsecond-handbookshop
doing'a good deal ofbusinessin children'sbooks. . . ratherhorriblethings'
(i. 274),-nothingcan be quiteruledout. In anycase Orwellcouldhaveseena
mild strainof left-wingchildren'sliteraturein the CooperativeUnion's
'CooperativeBooks forYoung People': 'fairyplays' and storiesenvisaging
factories whereno workerwas eversackedowingto bad trade.62 In 1937,the

60 See P. Davison,ed. TheComplete WorksofGeorgeOrwell(London, 1998),viii.116.According

to GeorgeWoodcock,OrwelljustifiedworkingfortheBBC 'by contending thattherightkindof
man could at leastmakepropagandaa littlecleanerthanit wouldotherwisehavebeen . .. buthe
soon foundtherewas in factlittlehe could do, and he lefttheBBC in disgust'(quoted in Crick,
GeorgeOrwell,418). (In NineteenEighty-Four OrwellnamedtheParty'storturechamber,Room
101,aftera BBC conference room.)For Orwell,a propagandist aimednotat truthbut 'to do as
muchdirton his opponentas possible'(iii. 262). Propagandatook'just as muchworkas to write
somethingyoubelievein,withthedifference thatthefinishedproductis worthless(iii. 293). Yet
he madeone exception:'I havealwaysmaintainedthateveryartistis a propagandist. I don'tmean
a politicalpropagandist.If he has any honestyor talentat all he cannotbe that.Most political
propagandais a matterof tellinglies,notonlyaboutthe factsbut aboutyourown feelings.But
everyartistis a propagandistin the sense thathe is trying,directlyor indirectly,to imposea
visionof lifethatseemsto him desirable'(ii. 57). In AnimalFarmOrwelldoes thisby exposing
the betrayalof such a vision.
61 Orwellcontributed to PartisanReviewfrom1941 to 1946,and praisedDwightMacdonald's
reviewPolitics.By 1944 he had the New York addressof RuthFischer(pseud. ElfriedeEisler,
1895-1961),the one-timeGeneral Secretaryof the GermanCommunistPartyand authorof
Stalinand GermanCommunism (iii. 334). Her hatredof Stalin-she neverlostheradmiration
Lenin-led her to denounceher brotherGerhartas an agentof the Comintern,and her other
brother,the composerHanns Eisler, as a communist'in a philosophicalsense' to the Un-
AmericanActivitiesCommitteein 1947; thiseventuallyled, in 1948,to Eisler'sexpulsionfrom
the United States:E. Bentley(ed.), ThirtyYearsof Treason(London, 1971), 55 ff.,73. Among
Orwell's papers in the BritishLibraryis a manuscripttranslationof a German socialist's
eyewitness accountofthefallofBerlin,otherversionsofwhichappearedin Fischer'snewsletter
'The Network'(Nov.-Dec. 1945) and in Politics(Jan. 1946). FischervisitedOrwellon 17 June
1949 (iv. 565; confirmedto me by PeterDavison).
62 For example,J. R. Carling,Each forAll: A Fairy Play in ThreeScenes(1923); Winifred

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yearin whichOrwellsaid he firstthoughtof AnimalFarm,Gollancz'sLeft

Book Club publishedboth TheRoad to WiganPierand a left-wing children's
book, The Adventures oftheLittle Pig and OtherStories
by F. Le Gros and Ida
Clark.63Gollanczmayhave planteda seed.64
Orwell'spoliticalopinionswere,besides,hardlyoriginal.Some had been
inscribedin literaryhistoryby thatversatilefemmede lettresand nostalgic
historianof rural mannersGeorge Sand during the revolutionof 1848.
Privately,Sand declaredherselfcommunist
as peoplewereChristianintheyear50 ofourera.Formeitis theidealofadvancing
thatwilllivea fewcenturies
societies, hence.ThusI cannot be tiedbyany
ofthepresentcommunist formulas,since allarerather
and thinktheycanbe
setup withouttheaidofmorals, habitsandconvictions. No religion
is established

Publicly,she denouncedelectionsorganizedin May 1848 against'chimerical

youmeana conspiracy
readytotrya grabfordictatorship
... weare
notcommunists.... But if,by communism,
youmeanthedesireand thewillthat,by
all meanslawfuland admitted
therevolting of
extremewealthandextreme should
poverty herebyvanishto makeway forthestart
trueequality, anddaretotellyouso.65
Like Orwell,she wanteda revolutionpreserving 'commondecency'.
Nor was Orwell alone on the leftin condemningRussian communism.
Whateverthe seeds of AnimalFarm theywereencouragedto sproutby an
anarchistpamphletin his collection:The RussianMyth.66"

Young, Cloudsand Sunshine:A FairyPlay (1922); L. F. Ramsey,Fairiesto theRescue,a Fairy

Play (1926). H. B. Chipman,Meri-ka-chak:A Children's BookletwhichCarriestheCo-operative
Message(n.d.); F. M. Campling,It's Different
Now: A Yarnfor YoungPeople(1939). Some arein
the BritishLibrary;othersare in the Co-operativeUnion Library,HolyoakeHouse, Hanover,
Manchester,or appearedin its sales catalogue.
63 In the firsttwo stories,a 'kindlyrobber'givesthe littlepig forChristmasa silvernecklace
stolenfroma fatduchess.He tellsthe pig to giveit to his mother,who complainsshe owes the
farmerback rent:
'He's a cruelmeanman.He does no work,and makesall theanimalspayrent.The horsehas to
payrentnow forhis stablesand thefowlsfortheirhen-house,and thecowsforthecow-shed.'
'Good heavens,'said the littlepig. 'But wheredo theyget themoneyfrom?'
His motherbeganto weep bitterly. 'It's veryhard,'she said. 'The fowlshave to taketheir
eggs to marketto raisethe moneyand the cows have to taketheirmilkand the horsehas to
carryloads to and froforthe neighbours.'(p. 28)

64 There wereprobablyothers.Trotsky'sTheRevolution Betrayed(1937) mayhave suggested

thesubject,and evenan anglefromwhichto treatit. Describingforcedcollectivization,
writes,'But themostdevastating
hurricanehittheanimalkingdom.The numberofhorsesfell55
per cent . . .' (p. 40).
65 Quoted in AndreMaurois,Lilia, ou la viede GeorgeSand (Verviers,Belgium,1952),372,382
(my translation).
66 London: FreedomPress, 1941.

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Woodcockcaughthimout on thetitle,Orwellcalledit 'a terrific and veryable
anti-Sovietpamphlet'(ii. 210, 259). The coverread:
To Communists andothers, criticismoftheRussianpolitical andeconomic systemis
taboo.According tothem, is tobetray
tocriticise the'Worker's State'andplayintothe
Butin thispamphlet weaskthequestion: is Russiaa Socialistcountry?...
Ifwedefine a Socialist
StateorCountry as oneinwhichinequality is abolished
whereeconomic and politicalfreedom exist,thenit canbe conclusively shownthat
noneofthesepre-requisites existin Russiatoday.By clinging to theirillusions;
lookingto theRussianregime as thegoaloftheBritish workers; andbystubbornly
refusing theCommunist rankandfile,however sinceretheymaybein
theirbeliefs, theworkers ofthiscountry.
The Russian Myth anticipated the premise of Animal Farm:
Bolshevisttactics theyareappliedwillalways
wherever leadnottotheemancipation of
theworkers from thechainswhichnowenslavethem,noreventothedictatorship of
to theabsolute
theproletariat. state.By allowing
or totalitarian
powerovertheinstrumentsofproductiontopassoutoftheir ownhandsintothoseofa
government,theworkers buta slavery
as badorworsethanthattheysoughttoescapefrom.67
It distinguishedtruesocialismfromwhattheBolshevikshad established:
Thepropagandists as the
aimofrevolution. regards as
socialism the the
of workers
fromall theforceswhich ... To overthrow
fetter privatecapitalismonly
to enthrone to theblindest
in its placewillonlyappearprogress
ThreeyearsearlierOrwellhad asked,'Is [Stalin'sregime]Socialism,or is it
(i. 369). But he did nottakethe
a peculiarlyviciousformofstate-capitalism?'
anarchistlinethatthecall to defendtheUSSR 'madebytheCommunists, and
echoedby Churchilland Roosevelt'was a call 'to defendtherulingclique in
Britishand American imperialists in commonwiththe soviet
have no interests
workers. The onlywayto aid theRussianworkers is to fight the
.... the
classstruggleherein England.Similarly,
onlymeansofdestroying German NazismandFascism.Onlybyfighting fortheworld
revolutioncan theworkerseverywhereachievefreedom frompoverty,tyrannyand
wars.. .69

In 1938Orwellhimselfhad calledtheslogan'Guns beforebutter!'a dodgeto

denywage rises:theworkers'realenemieswere'thosewho tryto trickthem
into identifying their interestswith those of their exploiters,and into
forgetting whateverymanualworkerinwardlyknows-thatmodernwaris a
racket'(i. 368). But whenthebombscamehe putfirstthingsfirst.By 1940he
was 'attackingpacifismforall [he] was worth'(ii. 34), and in 1941 he noted:

67 TheRussianMyth,26. 68 Ibid. 28-9. 69 Ibid. 30.

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'The most interestingdevelopmentof the anti-warfronthas been the

interpretation [sic-a misprintfor 'interpenetration': see PartisanReview,
8/1 (March-April1941), 109] of the pacifistmovementby Fascist ideas,
especiallyantisemitism' (ii. 69).
Orwell'smoralforcewas his politicalindependence:his denunciation, in
windowpane-clear prose, of both privatecapitalism with itsmoney-based class
privilegeand 'the shallowself-righteousness of the left-wingintelligentsia'(i.
587) holdingup thetrainof theUSSR's emperor'srobes.Orwell'shatredof
propagandamakesit all themoreironicthat,withinthreeyearsof his death,
the CIA and the ForeignOfficedistributed doctoredversionsof his master-
piece. A cartoon film vetted by the CIA's PsychologicalStrategyBoard
suppressed the closingparallel between capitalistand porcineexploitation.
In the CIA's happy endinga counter-revolution deposed the pigs.70The
ForeignOfficecirculateda comicstripin whichOld Major resembledLenin.71
That Orwellshouldhave had his purposetamperedwithin thenameof the
'freeworld'to shielda systemforwhichhe saw 'manifestly no future'(iv. 429)
is, of course,disgusting.Yet AnimalFarm only halffulfilled thatpurpose,
since the pathos of the failureof a specificrevolutionimpliesa general
statementabout the impossibility of any revolution.This derivesnot from
latentconservatism or a sourchangeof politicalcolours,72 but fromthevery
rangeliterature'. Preserving 'thesymmetry ofthestory'meantsynopsizing the
oppression of the animals and on
parodically focusing betrayal of their hopes
aftertheRebellion.Hence thefinalmetamorphosis of thepigsmaybe readas
just a partingshotat them,not necessarilyas a backhanderat capitalismas
well. A seriousaccountof hardshipsbeforethe Rebellion,whilestillmain-
tainingthelinkbetweenorganizingintelligence and ravenouspower-hunger,
would merelyhave dividedthe interest.But if,as the parablesuggests,the
alternativeto privatecapitalismis 'Animalism', thenbetterthedevilyouknow.
Orwell'sconvictionthatcapitalismwas deservedlydoomedwas occultedby

70 See F. S. Saunders,WhoPaid thePiper?TheCIA and theCulturalCold War(London, 1999),

293-5. Saundersremarks,'Curiously,the critiqueof America'sintelligence bureaucratsechoed
theearlierconcernsofT. S. Eliot and WilliamEmpson,bothof whomhad writtento Orwellin
1944 [sic]to pointout faultsor inconsistencies
in the centralparableofAnimalFarm.' Orwell's
own 1946BBC versionkeepsthelastlineand praiseofmoreworkforless food.Fredericis gone,
and 'Farmer 1', who drops his aitches while Napoleon speaks like a gentleman,replaces
Pilkington,thus audiblyconfusingpigs and humans:see P. Davison, The CompleteWorksof
GeorgeOrwell,viii. 192.
71 See Guardian,17 Mar. 1998,p. 7.
72 Three monthsafterthepublicationofAnimalFarmOrwellsnubbedan invitation to speakon
YugoslaviafortheLeague ofEuropeanFreedombecauseit was 'an essentially Conservative body
whichclaimsto defenddemocracyin Europe but has nothingto say aboutBritishimperialism'.
He explained: 'I belong to the Left and must work inside it, much as I hate Russian
totalitarianismand its poisonousinfluencein thiscountry'(iv. 49). Simon Leys deplores'the
persistentstupidityof a Left that,insteadof at lastbeginningto readand understand[Orwell]
had scandalouslypermitted theconfiscationofitsmostpowerfulwriter':Orwell,ou l'horreurde la
politique(Paris, 1984),46 (mytranslation).

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thedesignofAnimalFarm,which,whileraisingit to thelevelofmoralsatire,
simultaneously made it near-perfect materialforpropagandists of the status
If literaryformhinderedOrwell'spoliticalpurpose,it also confirmed the
existenceofliteraturestripped of theories.In declaring thathe had no fearofa
dictatorshipof the proletariatbut a 'perfecthorrorof a dictatorshipof
theorists'Orwell affirmedhis faithboth in the moral code of ordinary
people and in literature.If the dominanttheoristsof his day have withered,
othersnow proliferate.They suggestthat, since words do not perfectly
representreality,theycan mean whateveryou choose, with the corollary
that searchingforobjectivetruth(and backingargumentsby evidence)is
pointless.The onlycriterionof truthbecomespower,withcarteblancheto
anyonewho can wield it. Otherstheorizethat,sincereadingand writingare
conditionedby sex, criticalstandardsshould differfor male and female
authors.Imagination, once used to transcendsexualbarriers,is expectedto
raise them. In the politicaland economicsphere,theoristsproclaimthat
civilizationhas reachedits ultimateperfectionin unfettered capitalism,as
Hegel thoughtit had in thestate,whileothers'deconstruct'literature intoan
expressionof Westernracismand imperialism.The fairytale is again a
battlefieldforpolitical,sociological,and psychological theorists"heedlessof
thegrimadmissionbya famouspoliticalexilewhomOrwellreadwithinterest:
'Theory is not a note whichyou can presentat any momentto realityfor
Alongwiththestifling effect
of totalitarianismon literature(ii. 163,iv. 88)
one of Orwell'sbugbearswas the 'invasionof literature by politics'(iv. 464).
Socialistshad no monopolyof mentaldishonesty. Rather,
acceptance ofanypolitical seemstobe incompatible
discipline withliteraryintegrity.
Thisappliesequallytomovements likePacifismandPersonalism, whichclaimtobe

73 See Zipes,FairyTalesandtheArtofSubversion, 60 ff.,179ff.Zur Mtihlenwasrediscovered in

Germanyin the 1960s,starting a waveof 'counter-cultural' children'stalesadvocatingcollective
controlby workersof theirlabour.Englandand theUnitedStatespreferred feminist fairytales.
Zipes, who has editeda volumeofthem(Don't Bet onthePrince(London, 1986)), welcomesthe
'upsetting'effectof makingCinderellarebellious,or havingSnow Whiteorganizinga band of
robbers.Mercifully, however,he grantsthat'it is extremely difficult
to determineexactlywhata
childwillabsorbon an unconsciouslevel' (Fairy Talesand theArtofSubversion, 191,57). Orwell
himselfhas drawnfeminist fire,the chargebeing'not thathe treatedwomenbadlybut thathe
portrayed thembadly.In his novels,the femalecharacters(includingthemarein AnimalFarm)
are sketchyor vapid' (D. Honigmann,FinancialTimes,1-2 June2000, 'Weekend'section,p. v).
If Comrade Orwell wrongedFeministWoman, feministsmightrecall Eileen Blair's part in
AnimalFarm.Eileen toldhow,unprecedentedly, herhusbandwouldreadhis day's workto her
and welcomeher criticismsand suggestions(Crick,GeorgeOrwell,451). Her friendsattributed
the humourin thebook to her influence(Shelden, TheAuthorised Biography, 408), and Orwell
said thatshe had helpedin planningit (iv. 131). Significantly,he askedher advice,perhapsto
help himcapturewhathe called in a broadcast'the atmosphere of childhood'(The Lost Writings,
ed. West,88). She maydeservecreditforthetoneofthebook,includingsuchhumoroustouches
as themare's frivolousvanity.
74 TheRevolution Betrayed,109.

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theordinarypolitical Indeed,themeresoundofwordsending
struggle. in-ism
seemstobringthesmellofpropaganda. arenecessary,
Grouployalties andyettheyare
to literature,
poisonous so longas literature
is theproduct
Since bothleftand righthavetriedto annexAnimalFarm,it is timeliterature
putin itsclaim.Totalitarianism mayseemlessofa threatthanin Orwell'sday,
but witha firmcalled'Narration,Ltd' recruiting authorsto writepropaganda
novels 'sponsored'by governments and companies,75 the literarynatureof
AnimalFarmneedsaffirming. Its politicalambiguities are irresolvable,but its
universalmoral satire emergesmore stronglyas the USSR fades from
memory.In China, wherethe CommunistPartyhas pragmatically equated
privateentrepreneurs with workersas a 'productiveforce'in an effortto
broadenits sociologicalbase (as Orwelltold socialiststo do in The Road to
WiganPier),AnimalFarmis unlikelyto be takeneitheras a redundantattack
on a defunctUSSR or as an endorsement ofa capitaliststatusquo, butsimply
as a warningagainstpower-seekers wieldingthejargonof theoryto establish
tyranny.76To Orwell,whodefineda realsocialistas 'one whowishes. . . to see
tyrannyoverthrown',77this would have seemed a good symptom.In our
theory-bemused West,however,thecontradictions ofAnimalFarmmaybest
be circumvented by reading it as literarycounter-parody in the perennial
struggle forthe power to enchant. In his pasticheof a left-wing'fairystory',
Orwellfusedartisticand politicalpurposeto chasea twentieth-century Whole
Hog out of theflowergardenof children'sliterature.

75 Independent on Sunday,1 Sept. 2002, p. 10.

76 The director-adapter ShangChengjunwasnecessarily morediplomatic.His playopenednear
the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,wherethe CommunistPartyhad just electedits new
leaderswithall therigidconformism ofAnimalFarm.Mr Shangknewtheymightstophis play,
but his commentwas apt: 'Many people read the book narrow-mindedly ... Sure, [it] satirises
the Soviet Union, but I thinkthe phenomenonit describessuitseverysocietyand era. I don't
wantto makea judgmentin thisplay-whethersocialismor capitalismis good or not. WhatI
wantto expressis thatno matterwhichsocietypeoplearein, iftheywantto be theirownmasters
theyhave responsibilities and duties.If theyare indifferent,
lazy and don't wantto vote,any
social systemwill fail'(FinancialTimes,16/17 Nov. 2002, p. 3). In Orwell'swords,thepeople
mustknowwhento chuckout theirleaders-but whatiftheylose faithin theefficacy ofvoting?
77 TheRoad to WiganPier (Harmondsworth, 1963), 194.

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