Animal Farm Language as a Tool of Control
Animal Farm is a short novel, published in 1945 and written by George Orwell. The novel tells the story of a group of farm animals who, in an attempt to create an idealistic state, overthrow their human master. However, their leaders, the pigs, progressively become more corrupt and the other animals realise that their goal, to establish a utopia, has become a mere, receding whisper. The pigs use verbal and semantic techniques to control and manipulate their naïve minions, including through the use of persuasive words, the alteration of rules and use of hymns and poems.
In the novella, propaganda is used to manipulate the other animals on the farm. Squealer, the silver-tongued propagandist, exploits the power of language in an effort to defend Napoleon’s wicked actions. Some techniques used by Napoleon and Squealer to two-time the proletariat comprise the use of drastically simplifying language into memorable verses, to limit the terms of debate. An example of this is when the sheep are taught by him to bleat ‘four legs good, two legs better’ (pg.
89, Chapter 10).This is an ironic twist to the original maxim ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ (pg. 22, Chapter 3) quoted by the sheep, which was used to unify the animals against the human enemy. Squealer also chooses to overcomplicate language, to strike intimidation and confusion among the uneducated animals.
Where he says to the birds, ‘a bird’s wing is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation’, the birds are confused as to what Squealer means here. On top of these language techniques, Squealer also employs perplexing false statistics, many lies and a boasting vocabulary, to bring about a sense of hopelessness and self-doubt within the other animals. Deceptive practices are used tenfold by Squealer in his speeches to the other animals, and in the novel we are told of his misleading abilities. We are told that he can ‘turn black into white’ and that he has a ‘shrill voice’ and ‘twinkling eyes’; these are his assets of manipulation. His first example of deceit in the novel is when the pigs have taken the milk and apples for themselves, and Squealer cuckolds the ignorant animals with lies such as ‘Many of us actually dislike milk and apples (pg. 23, Chapter 3).
’ On top of that Squealer also uses false statistics in this speech to support his arguments, an example includes ‘Milk and apples (this has been proven by Science, comrades) contains substances absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of a pig (pg. 23, Chapter 3).’ Squealer uses these lies to justify the pigs’ evil means, and to convince the other animals that the pigs only eat the milk and apples for the other animals’ benefit. The larceny of the milk and apples ages from the very first moments after the Rebellion, and thus shows how early the pigs’ wicked and unscrupulous intentions manifest themselves.
As events unfold, on Animal Farm, we see small privileges quickly evolve into complete corruption, and we begin to see the pig resemble those who they usurped. The power of language can take many forms, including the manipulation of the written word. Old Major’s ideas of equality are taken on board from the very start and after the occupation of Animal Farm by the animals, the Seven Commandments are written. These Commandments bind the animals to one another in harmony against the humans and keep order within Animal Farm. We see the first example of alteration on the Fourth Commandment which states ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed’.
After the pigs move into the farmhouse and sleep in the beds, the embargo on sleeping in beds is altered, by the addition of the words ‘with sheets’ on the Commandment. However, this is a minor crime compared to what happens after the fiascos of winter. Snowball is incriminated for the collapse of the windmill and in turn, trials are held in which animals confess to crimes that were motivated by him. In direct contradiction with the Sixth Commandment which states ‘No animal shall kill any other animal’, the executions that follow are a horrific event. However, when the Commandments are checked, ‘without cause’ has been added to the Sixth Commandment.
Squealer was employed to make these changes to the Seven Commandments to justify the pigs’ humanisation and also to exercise control of the proletariat beliefs about themselves and the society. Ironically, the revision of the Commandments allows the pigs to commit human behaviour, when the original purpose of the Commandments was to prevent the animals from following the humans’ evil habits. Orwell demonstrates how simply a philosophical code of belief can be turned into propaganda, with the revision of the commandments.
Animal Farm is filled with many songs, poems and mottos, including Old Major’s rabble-rousing ‘Beats of England’, Minimus’s odes, and even the sheep’s chants. Serving as propaganda, each of these songs, poems and slogans, are one of the pigs’ major tools of control over the animals. Most notably, ‘Beats of England’ was used to stir the rebellious side of the animals and was a symbol of revolution. The pigs used ‘Beats of England’ to grind down the animals’ sense of individuality and keep them inspired and united to work for their freedom. However, when the chant is used by Clover to criticise the direction of Animal Farm, Napoleon argues that ‘Beasts of England is no longer needed as the rebellion has been achieved. Replaced by ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Comrade Napoleon’, ‘Beasts of England’ is outlawed (pg. 59, Chapter 7).
The principles of the rebellion are distorted by Napoleon and are demonstrated by the replacement of ‘Beasts of England’. ‘Comrade Napoleon’, written by Minimus, is used by Napoleon to glorify himself. The poem generates a happy feeling towards his rule and, even though he had minimal role in the success of animal farm, ‘Comrade Napoleon’, attributes many of the events to Napoleon reinforcing his position as leader (pg. 63, Chapter 8). This demonstrates how language, in this case in the form of songs, chants and poems can be used to distort and manipulate a religious or political code of belief to benefit the bourgeoisie.
In conclusion, as seen in the novel, language is a major tool of control used by the pigs. In the novel, Orwell tries to demonstrate the danger of a naïve working class, and the use of propaganda to control others. Orwell warns us of the many dangers if we believe everything we see and hear and draws attention to the way certain leaders, such as the pigs, gain and maintain power and control using language as a tool of repression and manipulation.
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