Perspectives

The Russian Revolution

The most obvious perspective to make when working with Animal Farm is a historical perspective to the Russian Revolution, as the novel is a direct allegory of this revolution and the decades that followed it.

You may draw parallels between events depicted in the novel and the historical realities in the Soviet Union. It may be obvious to look for similarities, but it might also be interesting to consider whether Orwell presents an unfair or incorrect version of some events or people in his allegorical story.  

Other historical revolutions

It is also possible to compare the story of Animal Farm to other historical revolutions, as it also tries to display some general tendencies that might be observed. For example, you may consider other examples of revolutions that have left the relevant nation or area in a worse political position than before, or which were based on beautiful ideals in theory, but led to extreme violence and rights violations in practice.

The French Revolution is in some ways an example of both these issues. Even though France eventually became a proper democracy, it first went through an extremely violent period of executions of the former royalty and aristocracy,  followed by a period of dictatorship under Napoleon (the man, not the pig!).

Current issues

Even though Animal Farm was published more than 70 years ago, its core messages are still highly relevant when trying to understand the world as it exists today.

For example, its warnings against propaganda might be applied directly to a number of nations - particularly North Korea, which is infamous for its use of propaganda and its highly state-controlled media. Also, in Animal Farm Napoleon forms a cult of personality around himself, and North Korea has formed a cult of personality around the ‘Dear Leader’, Kim-Jong-Un.

The flexible propaganda used by Napoleon in response to the changing relationships between Animal Farm, Mr. Frederick, and Mr. Pilkington is also very similar to the way North Korea has changed its propaganda messages related to its neighbours Japan and South Korea, depending on the political situation at any given time.

However, the story’s warnings against state propaganda may not be limited to dictatorships, as the modern world has also seen examples of political propaganda in democracies. For example, some political candidates rely on facts or arguments that are presented in a distorted or misleading way in order to gain public support, sometimes even resorting to outright lies to secure support and criticise their opponents.

Furthermore, the Internet and the popularity of social media have made it easier than ever to spread political propaganda among the population, and it has become possible to target this propaganda very specifically towards the social groups where it is estimated to have the greatest impact. 

Textual perspective

Here you can find suggestions for other texts that deal with similar themes and may be useful to compare to Animal Farm.

1984

The most obvious choice for a novel to compare to Animal Farm is probably Nineteen Eighty-Four, also by George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four is an interesting point of comparison because it deals with similar themes, but presents them in a very different way.

Instead of focusing on a revolution that leads in a negative direction, Nineteen Eighty-Four takes place in a future society that already has a highly efficient dictatorship in place, complete with a government that places the population under constant surveillance and even strives to control their thoughts. Though the possibility of rebellion against this rule is hinted at as the plot unfolds, the ultimate conclusion is brutally dark and pessimistic.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is another famous British novel with political overtones. Much like Animal Farm, the story is centred on a group of characters who have to create a society from scratch - though in Lord of the Flies it is a group of boys stranded on a desert island rather than liberated farm animals. The plot also develops in a somewhat different direction (towards increasing anarchy and chaos, instead of an increasingly tightly controlled dictatorship), though the conclusions of both novels are highly dark and pessimistic, expressing very negative views of humanity and human societies.  

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