George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm is subtitled “a Fairy Story”, a label that may make the book seem innocent and appropriate for children and classroom settings. However, the title is misleading. Animal Farm is a work of Communist propaganda. It outlines and even encourages the overthrow of the government, and explains how to set up and maintain a communist state. It portrays government as corrupt and the public as stupid and easily manipulated. Orwell himself wavered between being a socialist and an anarchist.
Considering communist China’s recent increased aggression, and deteriorating relations between them and the United States, the dangers of this novel must be weighed carefully. It is often taught in schools, despite the fact that it promotes un-American and anti-capitalist views. With today’s political tension, do we really want our youth exposed to literature that encourages them to mistrust the government and supports a communist revolution? Animal Farm is indeed communist propaganda. It describes how the animals overthrow the farmer and drive all humans from the farm.
The animals create a set of laws, designed to eradicate all hints of humanity; humanity, of course, represents the capitalist government. The animals call each other “comrade”, a clear reference to communism, and after the revolution the animals are described as being “happy as they had never conceived it possible to be” (Orwell 46). The novel describes much of the procedure of running a communist state. It includes the organization of committees, and the indoctrination of the public in the form of the sheep.
Snowball, one of the two pigs who leads the animals after the revolution, teaches the sheep to repeat the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad,” which, he feels, sums up the laws of their new system – completely against humans. Methods of propaganda are also explored. Carrier pigeons are sent to neighboring farms to deliver heroic tales of the revolution and convert other farms to ‘Animalism’ – the domino effect in action. Internal propaganda is the responsibility of a pig named Squealer, whose primary function is to convince the animals that the actions taken by the pigs are for their own good.
This is a clear description of how to keep a communist regime in power: as long as the pubic is convinced that all actions are for their own good, they will go along with anything. The public is constantly told that they are doing better than ever before; Squealer always tells the animals that they are producing more food more efficiently than when they were under human rule, no matter what the reality of the situation. The novel portrays government in general in an extremely negative manner, and one that is certainly intended to inspire mistrust and encourage rebellion.
The government officials are represented by pigs, and are portrayed as sneaky and greedy, with only their own best interests at heart. They take the best of the food, and live in the farmhouse in luxury. Impressionable minds could take this to mean that all governments are greedy and corrupt, and again encourages rebellion. The public, too, is portrayed in an extremely negative light. The vast majority of the animals, who represent the general public, are not even intelligent enough to learn the alphabet.
Most of the public is represented by the sheep, who “could get no further than the letter A” (Orwell 50). Violence is portrayed as both noble and desirable. In the beginning of the novel, the animals turn on their human keepers and attack them, driving them off the farm. This is portrayed as a noble action, and one to be proud of. It is also promotes violence against the government, and explains that the only way to put a communist regime in place is to eliminate the current government by force.
When the humans are driven off the farm a second time in the novel, this time with even more violence than the first, the animals are jubilant. They are described as having “reassembled in the wildest excitement, each recounting his own exploits in the battle at the top of his voice” (Orwell 59). This is not a mere glorification of violence; it is a call for violence against the government, an act that is clearly unlawful. “Advocacy aimed at promoting the forceful overthrow of the government… an be punished without violating the first amendment” (Choper 139). Religion, too, is portrayed as undesirable in Animal Farm. Religion is represented by a raven named Moses who is described as “a spy, and a tale-bearer”, and who is hated by the other animals because he “told tales and did no work” (Orwell 37). Moses is later driven off the farm, much as religion was driven from communist countries. Not only is this factor of the book anti-religious, it also explains to readers that for a communist regime to remain in power, religion must be eliminated.
Orwell himself alternated between being an anarchist and a socialist; are the values of a man with no respect for capitalism or democracy views that we want taught to our children in schools (Storgaard 5)? Our schools should be teaching children how to be good Americans, not feeding them communist propaganda in the form of fables. Animal Farm is dangerous and inflammatory. It contains instructions for staging a revolution and putting a communist regime in place, and encourages the overthrow of the government. Young minds should not be exposed to this manner of propaganda in school.