Dictatorship is defined as a governmental system where an individual, or a small group, has absolute power over the people. (Britannica. 2013). In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the author bases the farm’s governmental system around the concept of dictatorship.
The term dictatorship originates from the world “dictator”, referring to “a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.” (OxfordDictionaries. n.d.). In this form of government, absolute power can be given to an individual, also known as an autocracy, or a small group of people, also known as an oligarchy. (Wikipedia. 2013).
Totalitarian and Authoritarian Dictatorship
Dictatorship is said to come in two different forms: Authoritarian and Totalitarian. (Wikipedia. 2013). An authoritarian-based dictatorship exists when there is a single group with absolute power. (Britannica. 2013). However, it is only responsible for having control over political power and not the people. (DifferenceBetween.net. 2011). A totalitarian-based dictatorship, however, is an ‘extreme’ type of authoritarianism. (2012). Rather than having control over political power alone, totalitarian-based dictatorship has complete control over the people, “theoretically permitting no individual freedom.” (Britannica. 2013). A dictatorship in the form of a totalitarian controls not only political power, but also exerts control over all aspects of a citizen. (Pipes. 1995). This may include the economy, culture, and even religious values of an individual. (1995). An authoritarian dictator, however, only gains control of the policies governing the community. (DifferenceBetween.net. 2011). In both cases, these two forms of dictatorship gain control through propaganda, reign of terror, and rewarding those who follow orders. (2011). They may also use their charisma and leadership to gain support from the masses. (2011).
Examples of Dictatorship
In context to the Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin has been noted for being a Totalitarian-styled Dictator. (ThinkQuest. n.d.). After exiling Trotsky from the Soviet Union, Stalin has been able to win over the other contenders for Lenin’s spot and gained absolute power over the Bolsheviks. (Britannica. 2013). As a leader, Stalin aimed to expand the Union through a new economic policy and having total control over the people and the government. (ThinkQuest. n.d.). The purge trials in particular, was aimed to eliminate any possible rivals and counterrevolutionaries, as of to reinforce his power. (n.d.). He built his image through propaganda and the secret police, killing anybody who did not recognize Stalin as a leader. (Britannica. 2013). As a result, people were forced to obey Stalin and ‘admire’ him, gaining control over a person’s life and altering their views upon Stalin. (DifferenceBetween.net. 2011).
Tying it Back to the Novel
Snowball and Napoleon (the Pigs)
In context to the novel, dictatorship was highly prominent when Napoleon and Snowball were in charge of the farm. After listening to Old Major's speech about a "utopia" with peace and equality, the pigs began to mislead the other animals in the farm. In Chapter 3, for example, following the October Revolution, Snowball, Napoleon, and the other pigs were accused of stealing apples and milk from the farm for themselves, claiming that it will increase their ‘brain power’ and ‘the whole management and organization of the farm depended on [the pigs].” (Orwell. P. 23) Through force, the pigs have been given the privilege of obtaining food for themselves, differencing themselves from the other animals. Their claim of being the ‘brainworkers’ in particular, also increased their power and status, giving animals the impression they have huge power and responsibility in the farm. In context to the system of dictatorship, the pigs can be considered the oligarchic dictators of the farm. Through force, they took food without permission, and also convinced the animals they had absolute power and control, building up their image in the process. From this, Orwell has clearly portrayed dictatorship within the farm, of which is further emphasized as the story progresses.
In this scene, Orwell uses the pigs to bring out the situational irony in the Russian Revolution. The animals, who listened to Old Major's ideas of a "utopia" revolving around equality, allowed the pigs to be their leaders. As a result, the pigs were considered superior to all other animals, of which contradicts the idea of equality in the farm. Orwell's use of situational irony, attempts to portray the injustice within the Soviet Union. Although the union aimed to bring equality, the totalitarian regime that was enforced later only allowed Stalin to live in a "utopia", while the people were forced to work for him. From this standpoint, Orwell suggests that the governance the pigs have provided is not different to that of Mr. Jones. He feels that it does not promote equality, but it also makes the pigs feel superior than the other animals. Orwell continuously portrays the superiority of the pigs to comment on the flaws in the Soviet Union's "utopia", stating that it was false and unjust.
After Snowball’s exile, dictatorship in Animal Farm became increasingly prominent. Napoleon, who wanted more power and control over the farm, began using various methods of manipulating the animals to attract support. He forbid the singing of the song ‘Beasts of England’, only allowing animals to recite poems revolving around him (Napoleon), such as ‘Comrade Napoleon’. (P. 63) He also forced animals to address him under the title ‘Father of all Animals, Terror of Mankind, Duckling’s Friend, Protector of the Sheepfold” (P. 62), forcing all animals to credit him for everything fortune that was to have happened to them. (P. 62) By doing so, all animals values and views over Napoleon have changed. Instead of viewing Napoleon as a common pig of Animal Farm, they see him as a heroic leader; a god that provides them with everything. Similar to a totalitarian dictator, Napoleon controls over not only the policies of the farm, but also the way animals live and act. By forcing them to value him as a ‘god’, Napoleon ensures that animals will not betray him, and give him their full support instead. His use of poems, in particular, can be depicted as propaganda techniques he uses to attract support from the animals. Although Napoleon’s urge to gain absolute power alludes toward his insecurity and fear of being taken over by rivals, through this, Orwell has clearly exemplified Napoleon’s traits as a totalitarian dictator.
Additionally, Napoleon was also seen gaining support through brute force. He trained his puppies to become his secret police, which was used to kill any animal he believed would betray him. (P. 56 - 57) This was to eliminate any possible counterrevolutions or threats, ensuring he had absolute power over the farm. Furthermore, Napoleon altered the meanings of the Seven Commandments, such that it would go in his favour and difference him from the other animals. In chapter 8, for example, it was found that Napoleon changed the fifth commandment from ‘no animal shall drink alcohol’ into ‘no animal shall drink alcohol to excess’. (P. 73) This change was made following Napoleon’s celebration after their victory in the battle of the Windmill, where Napoleon was claimed to have drank alcohol. In order to ensure he was not questioned and overthrown of his power, Napoleon changed the wording of the commandment, using his political power to bring about fear and control to all animals without losing the power himself. From these two examples, Orwell further exemplifies dictatorship within the novel, as well as Napoleon's totalitarian autocracy, portraying the concept of dictatorship within the novel.
By providing a wide range of examples regarding dictatorship in Animal Farm, Orwell advocates his criticism towards the totalitarian regime. Throughout the novel, there have been little mentions of Napoleon's feelings and thoughts as a dictator. Instead, Orwell focused on describing the animal's obliviousness towards Napoleon's actions, and emphasized on their depression while living in such an environment. After Napoleon killed animals during his "trials" (See more: Joseph Stalin), instead of describing Napoleon's joy over the incident, Orwell emphasized how the animals were terrified and shocked by the killings. (P. 57) The changing of commandments in particular, evoked the corruption in animal farm, and highlighted Napoleon's hypocrisy in disobeying the commandments he agreed to follow. By focusing on the depression Napoleon's dictatorship has brought, Orwell demonstrates the flaws behind Stalin's dictatorship, stressing how it is corrupt and fails to achieve the "utopia" Lenin was originally aiming to create. From this standpoint, Orwell also used these examples to illustrate how dictatorship will do more harm than good.
As Orwell has mentioned, the main purpose of the novel was to advocate his views towards Stalin's totalitarian regime. By showing various examples of the pigs taking control of the farm, Orwell has successfully emphasized upon dictatorship in the farm. What started out as an oligarchy soon evolved into an autocracy, as Napoleon exiled Snowball and took full control of the farm. Through the various uses of propaganda and policy making, Orwell successfully stresses the suffering dictatorship has caused towards the animals, criticizing Stalin's totalitarian regime. He successfully describes the hypocrisy behind many of Napoleon's decision, how it goes against the animals' original policies, and points out the flaws behind many of Stalin's decisions.
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Wikipedia. (2013, April 3). Dictatorship. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship