The Concept of Power in Animal Farm

7 July 2016

In the allegorical fable Animal Farm by George Orwell, power is shown in the way the animals take over the farm to achieve their own means, with the conclusion drawn by Orwell that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” To begin with, Old Major, a highly respected old boar, uses his position of trust to influence the other animals that it is time for change. To do this, he uses the power of oratory, using a number of persuasive techniques. The Roman philosopher Cicero observed regarding oratory, “There is to my mind no more excellent thing than the power, by means of oratory, to get a hold on assemblies of men …

” and as a trusted elder of the farm, Old Major uses this ‘power’ to great effect. He tells the animals about a dream he claims to have had, in which animals live in a world free from the tyranny of men, and by using emotive language, he causes the animals to have an ‘emotional’, rather than ‘rational’ response. People generally respond better to emotional inferences rather than to mere facts, as Orwell demonstrates. First, Old Major gets the other animals to share a common injustice, that throughout their lives, they have all been unfairly taken advantage of by men; a point they can all equally agree upon.

The Concept of Power in Animal Farm Essay Example

He then appeals to each individual set of animals … citing how each of them have been used in a particular way. This makes the speech much more personal, and therefore powerful, as it makes it easy for them to relate to individually. Further, using this combination gains the maximum effect of bringing an audience together over a common cause through individual experience. The second idea is that man is a threat, and for the sake of the animal’s very existence, needs to be dealt with. Old Major states in his speech “Man is the only real enemy we have.

Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever. ” So, something needs to be done. Action needs to be taken. Revolution! Using the power of emotional oratory, he urges them to do everything they can to get rid of the humans who claim they own them, and pursue the vision of his dream. Old Major knows he may not (and in fact doesn’t) live to see the results of his oratory power, but he has sown the seeds of action to achieve what he ultimately desires for his kind. (His power however also leads to future tragedies.

) Soon after Old Major’s death, the animals, inspired by the power of his words, rise in revolt, overthrow the cruelly irresponsible Farmer Jones, and take over the farm. It is at this time two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, begin to display their power. Napoleon, a ‘rather fierce-looking’ pig, represents the direct approach to power. He is generally accepted as the most powerful of all the animals primarily because of the way he presents himself. He tends to look mean when he speaks, which is seldom, and often utilises Squealer, the ‘small fat porker’, to speak for him.

He does this firstly because Napoleon isn’t very good with his words, but more importantly, by having another animal convey his wishes, it makes him appear even more powerful and important. The animals also know he has a ‘reputation for getting his own way’, so no matter what Napoleon does to them, they all simply treat him as a leader, never even questioning his authority. Snowball on the other hand, in an attempt to gain the confidence of the other animals and therefore subtly exert his power, appears more easy-going. His intention is to show that he is simply ‘one of them’.

Therefore, the animals will feel more relaxed and calm around him so he is more easily able to gain their trust. It is apparent that Snowball uses slyer techniques to gain power, appearing to be on the same level as the other animals, rather than the more straightforward technique Napoleon uses to put himself ‘above’ the other animals … at least to begin with. While Snowball becomes a valuable leader in the cause, it is Napoleon who systematically begins to control all aspects of the farm until he is an undisputed tyrant – a person who exercises power in a cruel way.

He partly achieves this because he later secretly trains the dogs to attack Snowball! Snowball and Napoleon are two very similar characters, yet they struggle for power over the farm in different ways. Squealer, also exhibits a type of power; the ability to manipulate the animals’ thoughts through the use of empty, yet compelling rhetoric. So in Animal Farm, we have several types of power portrayed: The power of words; Old Major’s emotional speech which set the wheels in motion. The straightforward, highly assertive approach, employed by Napoleon. Snowball’s more subversive approach of gaining trust to control from within.

And the loud emptiness of rhetoric – the use of largely ornamental language to effectively please or persuade. However, the real power of Animal Farm work is in its use of allegory; a technique involving multiple levels of meaning. On one level the story is about animals taking over a farm. However, the way the animals behave throughout the story becomes a criticism about the nature of people and ideas. Because allegorical stories encourage us to make comparisons and connections, their relevance is timeless. In this way, Animal Farm continues to show us the ways people abuse power and manipulate others.

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