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Old Major’s Vision
Old Major’s vision of a farm where animals ruled, where there were no human oppressors, is a direct match to Marx’s vision of a communist society. In his Communist Manifesto, Marx envisions a world where everyone is equal, and where those on the lower rungs of society have as much say as those on the upper rungs.
Although both concepts are nice in theory, “Animal Farm” shows that too much power can corrupt anyone. When Old Major’s vision, later called “Animalism,” was put into practice, the pigs in charge took over and became selfish and violent, twisting the philosophy until it barely contained an echo of the original intent. The same thing happened with communism, as Stalin left much of the country penniless and helpless, and put people to death if they showed the slightest resistance to his regime.
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Napoleon and Snowball
The parallels between Napoleon and Stalin, and Snowball and Trotsky, are relatively straightforward. At the beginning, the two pigs lead the revolution against Mr. Jones, just as Stalin and Trotsky played instrumental roles in the Russian Revolution under Lenin. Eventually, Stalin exiles Trotsky by using force, the same way that Napoleon drives out Snowball through the use of a pack of violent dogs. For more details about the symbolism of Napoleon and Snowball, see the article in this series on symbolism.
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When Napoleon takes over Animal Farm, he quickly shows his hypocrisy. Although he encourages the animals to work harder than ever, his sole worry when food becomes scarce is about public approval. He therefore fills the food bins with sand so that the outside world will not realize that the animals are starving. Stalin did essentially the same thing when his collectivization of agriculture led to a widespread famine, killing millions of Russians.
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The Rebellion of the Hens
When the hens refuse to give the pigs their eggs, Napoleon starves them until several die, and the rest give up. He later sets the dogs on a group of pigs who have expressed discontent, as well as several other possibly innocent animals. This likely parallels Stalin’s Great Purge, which happened between 1936 and 1938, in which Stalin killed or exiled anyone who might have possibly defied him.
These are only some examples of how “Animal Farm” matches the Russian Revolution. Orwell’s entire novel is essentially an allegory, in which each detail represents a different aspect of this historical event and the episodes surrounding it.
Parallels Between “Animal Farm” and the Russian Revolution
This series of articles act as a study guide for "Animal Farm," by George Orwell. They include a summary of the novel, character analyses, symbolism and parallels with the Russian Revolution, and essay questions for the novel.