The main purpose of satire is to attack and intensely criticize the target subject. This is superbly carried out in the classic piece of satire, Animal Farm. The main targets at the brunt of this political satire are the society that was created in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the leaders involved in it. George Orwell successfully condemns these targets through satirical techniques such as irony, fable, and allegory.
The immediate object of attack in Orwell’s political satire is the society that was created in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The events narrated in Animal Farm obviously and continuously refer to events in another story, the history of the Russian Revolution. In other words, Animal Farm is not only a charming fable (A Fairy Story, as Orwell, playfully subtitles it) and a bitter political satire; it is also an allegory. The main target of this allegory is Stalin, represented by Napoleon the pig. He represents the human frailties of any revolution.
Orwell believed that although socialism is a good idea, it could never be successfully adopted due to the uncontrollable sins of human nature. For example, although Napoleon seems at first to be a good leader, he is eventually overcome by greed and soon becomes power-hungry. Of course, Stalin did too in Russia, leaving the original equality of socialism behind, giving him all the power and living in luxury while the common pheasant suffered. Orwell explains: “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer – except of course for the pigs and the dogs.”
The perennial topic of satire is to point out the frailties of the human condition, and this is one of Orwell’s central themes in Animal Farm. That it’s not necessarily the system that is corrupt or faulty, but the individuals in power. Old Major, with all his good intentions, took no note of the crucial fact: whilst his ideals were sound and moral, corrupt individuals found ways and opportunities to exploit those ideals to suit their own purposes.
So Orwell successfully points out the frailties of his satirical targets by using the satirical technique of the allegory. Another main satirical technique used to condemn these targets is the use of fable or storytelling. A fable is a story, usually having a moral – in which beasts talk and act like men and women. Orwell’s characters are both animal and human. The pigs, for example, eat mash – real pig food – but with milk in it that they have grabbed and persuaded the other animals to let them keep (a human action).
The dogs growl and bite the way real dogs do–but to support Napoleon’s drive for political power. Orwell never forgets this delicate balance between how real animals actually behave and what human qualities his animals are supposed to represent. Let’s just say Orwell hadn’t used the technique of storytelling and had painted an objective picture of the evils he describes. The real picture would probably be very depressing and extremely boring. So instead, he offers us a travesty of the situation.
The primary reason for this abstraction was to move readers from the concrete reality. So whilst entertaining us through a fantastic setting, he provides us, readers, with a critical vision toward his targets. It is written for entertainment, but contains sharp and telling comments on the Russian revolution and its leaders, offering `imaginary gardens with real toads in them. Part of the fable’s humorous charm lies in the simplicity with which the characters are drawn.
Each animal character is a type, with one human trait, or two at most–traits usually associated with that particular kind of animal. Using animals as types is also Orwell’s way of keeping his hatred and anger against exploiters under control. Instead of crying, All political bosses are vicious pigs! he keeps his sense of humor by reporting calmly: In the future, all questions relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of pigs.
The story of Animal Farm is told in a simple, straightforward style. The sentences are often short and spare: Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing. It was a bitter winter. The story follows a single line of action, calmly told, with no digressions. Orwell’s style, said one critic, has relentless simplicity and pathetic doggedness of the animals themselves. There is a kind of tension in Animal Farm between the sad story the author has to tell and the lucid, almost light way he tells it. This is very ironic because the content of the story is so very different from the style. You are expecting the story to be like every other fable you’ve read. Complete with cute characters, a predictable plotline, and a happy ending. But because of the nature of the content in Animal farm, the content is completely incongruent with the style. Another irony that occurs in Animal Farm is when the pig becomes a man.
In that Old Major at the beginning assumes that man is the only enemy of the animals. He emphasizes that animals must never imitate man, especially his vices. Gradually in their lifestyle and their indifference to the animals, the pigs exploit the animals much more than Jones ever did. This irony particularly depicts how low the pigs had actually become, and how Stalin had made things much worse than they had originally been under the Czar’s rule. This further enhances the satirical aim of condemning the target.
Through satirical techniques such as irony, fable, and allegory, George Orwell paints a vivid picture of the evils in Stalinist Russia in his book Animal Farm. He is very effective in doing so and condemns his targets through every thread of his book including the characters, the themes, and even the style. He does so simply, yet poignantly, and is very successful in achieving the satirical aim of condemning his targets.