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Essay: Satire and government tyranny in Nineteen Eighty-four/Animal Farm

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There are many issues in the world and one of them are the social injustices. According to honorsociety.org, “Social injustice is the way unjust actions are done in the society. Social injustice occurs in a situation where the equals are treated unequally and the unequal is treated equally. Three common examples of social injustice include: discrimination, ageism and homophobia.” According to Quora.com, “Social injustice issues would be things like unfair labor practices, racial discrimination, discrimination due to gender, orientation, ethnicity, age. Also, the death penalty, inequality of health care, public school quality in poor income areas, etc. It is any issue affecting a society where there are differences based on certain criteria, generally affecting marginalized groups or those who are not considered to be ‘equal’ to the ‘norm’.” Political correctness has created the same dynamic in America. Freedom of speech is no longer equal in some venues of America today. (Gardner, 2017)

Many authors get inspired by the government to write their books. An example is George Orwell, he is very passionate about politics and decided to write many works of literature about it. He noticed that the government used many elements to manipulate people, like propaganda and persuasive speaking, and he decided to speak up about it in his novels. But who is George Orwell?

George Orwell, pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair, was born June 25, 1903, and died January 21, 1950. He was an English novelist, essayist, and critic famous for his novels “Animal Farm” written in 1945 and “1984” written in 1949, the latter a profound anti-utopian novel that examines the dangers of totalitarian rule. (Woodcock, 2019)

George Orwell was very invested in politics because he always wanted to know what was happening in the world he lived in. He wrote an essay called “Politics and the English Language” in which he criticized the “ugly and inaccurate” written English of his time and he examines the connection between political orthodoxies and the debasement of a language. This essay focuses on political language, which, according to Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. Orwell believed that the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless because it was intended to hide the truth rather than express it. This unclear prose was a “contagion” which had spread to those who did not intend to hide the truth, and it concealed a writer’s thoughts from himself and others. Orwell encourages concreteness and clarity instead of vagueness, and individuality over political conformity. This essay reflects Orwell’s concern with truth and how truth depends upon the use of language. (Wikipedia, 2020 ) Which is why he tries to use his novels as a way to express how he really feels about politics and the government.

This paper will analyze the elements of satire and government tyranny in the novels “Nineteen Eighty-four” and “Animal Farm” which will help readers understand how Orwell portrays his concerns about society through his novels. He uses lots of satiric elements in his novels, as well as governmental tyranny. Writing books is a way in which he shows how he sees society that many people don’t understand because they don’t read in between lines.

Satire is a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society, by using humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule. It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foibles. A writer in a satire uses fictional characters, which stand for real people, to expose and condemn their corruption. A writer may point a satire toward a person, a country, or even the entire world. Usually, a satire is a comical piece of writing which makes fun of an individual or a society, to expose its stupidity and shortcomings. In addition, he hopes that those he criticizes will improve their characters by overcoming their weaknesses. Satire and irony are interlinked. Irony is the difference between what is said or done, and what is actually meant. Therefore, writers frequently employ satire to point at the dishonesty and silliness of individuals and society, and criticize them by ridiculing them. The role of satire is to ridicule or criticize those vices in society the writer considers to be a threat to civilization. The writer considers it his obligation to expose these vices for the betterment of humanity. Therefore, the function of satire is not to make others laugh at persons or ideas they make fun of. It intends to warn the public, and to change people’s opinions about the prevailing corruption and conditions in society. Satire elements include exaggeration, hyperbole, incongruity, reversal, parody, irony and sarcasm. (Literary Devices, 2020).

A tyrannical ruler wields absolute power and authority, and often wields that power unjustly, cruelly, or oppressively. It was first used in the 1530s, the adjective tyrannical stems from the late-14th-century word tyranny, meaning “cruel or unjust use of power,” which has origins in the Greek word tyrannos, meaning “master.” Tyrannical rule is the opposite of democratic rule, which places the power in the people, the majority of whom makes the decisions. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin are three examples of the 20th century’s most tyrannical dictators. (Vocabulary.com Dictionary, 2020)

Tyranny is a noun that describes a repressive and arbitrarily cruel regime. One of the root words of tyranny is the Latin tyrannia which means the “rule of a tyrant” and a tyrant is a “cruel master.” Today, it can mean the repressive regime of a dictator or it can also mean being controlled by something metaphorically harsh like time or work. (Vocabulary.com Dictionary, 2020)

Satire is used in many works of literature to show foolishness or vice in humans, organizations, or even governments – it uses sarcasm, ridicule, or irony. For example, satire is often used to achieve political or social change, or to prevent it. Satire can be part of a given work, or it can be the purpose of an entire text. Satire is a broad genre, incorporating a number of different approaches. It is sometimes serious, acting as a protest or to expose, or it can be comical when used to poke fun at something or someone. Some satire is explicitly political, while other examples of satire in literature, film, TV and online take on a wider variety of topics. While a satirist may direct their work at one individual, a whole country or the world as a whole, political satire is some of the most common and the most significant. Satire has been a part of literature since literature has existed. The oldest texts available to modern readers, all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh from around 2100 BC, contain satirical passages. (YourDictionary, 2015). Examples of these can be George Orwell’s works “Animal Farm” and “1984”.

Tyranny is considered an important subject, one of the “Great Ideas” of Western thought. The classics contain many references to tyranny and its causes, effects, methods, practitioners, alternatives… They consider tyranny from historical, religious, ethical, political and fictional perspectives. “If any point in political theory is indisputable, it would seem to be that tyranny is the worst corruption of government – a vicious misuse of power and a violent abuse of human beings who are subject to it.”(Adler, 1952). While this may represent a consensus position among the classics, it is not unanimous – Thomas Hobbes dissented, claiming no objective distinction, such as being vicious or virtuous, existed among monarchs. “They that are discontented under monarchy, call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy, call it oligarchy: so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy, call it anarchy…” (in Leviathan). (Wikipedia, 2020).

Old Major, the old boar on the Manor Farm, summons the animals on the farm together for a meeting, during which he refers to humans as parasites and teaches the animals a revolutionary song called Beasts of England. When Major dies, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, assume command and consider it a duty to prepare for the Rebellion. The animals revolt and drive the drunken and irresponsible farmer Mr Jones from the farm, renaming it “Animal Farm”. They adopt Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, “All animals are equal.” (Giordano, 2012)

Snowball teaches the animals to read and write, while Napoleon educates young puppies on the principles of Animalism. Food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and set aside special food items, ostensibly for their personal health. Napoleon and Snowball struggle for preeminence. When Snowball announces his plans to build a windmill, Napoleon has his dogs chase Snowball away and subsequently declares himself leader of Animal Farm. (Giordano, 2012)

Napoleon enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs who will run the farm. Through a young pig named Squealer, Napoleon claims credit for the windmill idea. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. When the animals find the windmill collapsed after a violent storm, Napoleon and Squealer convince the animals that Snowball is trying to sabotage their project. Once Snowball becomes a scapegoat, Napoleon begins to purge the farm with his dogs, killing animals he accuses of consorting with his old rival. Beasts of England is replaced by an anthem glorifying Napoleon, who appears to be adopting the lifestyle of a man. The animals remain convinced that they are better off than they were under Mr Jones. (Giordano, 2012)

Mr Frederick, one of the neighboring farmers, attacks the farm, using blasting powder to blow up the restored windmill. Though the animals win the battle, they do so at great cost, as many, including Boxer the workhorse, are wounded. Despite his injuries, Boxer continues working harder and harder, until he collapses while working on the windmill. Napoleon sends for a van to take Boxer to the veterinary surgeon, explaining that better care can be given there. Benjamin, the cynical donkey who “could read as well as any pig”, knacker, and attempts a futile rescue. Squealer reports that the van was purchased by the hospital and the writing from the previous owner had not been repainted. But in reality, Napoleon has sold his most loyal and long-suffering worker for money to buy himself whisky. (Giordano, 2012)

Years pass, and the pigs start to resemble humans, as they walk upright, carry whips, and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are abridged to a single phrase: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He abolishes the practice of the revolutionary traditions and restores the name “The Manor Farm”. As the animals look from pigs to humans, they realize they can no longer distinguish between the two. (Giordano, 2012)

The book is set in 1984 in Oceania, one of three perpetually warring totalitarian states (the other two are Eurasia and Eastasia). Oceania is governed by the all-controlling Party, which has brainwashed the population into unthinking obedience to its leader, Big Brother. The Party has created a propagandistic language known as Newspeak, which is designed to limit free thought and promote the Party’s doctrines. Its words include doublethink (belief in contradictory ideas simultaneously), which is reflected in the Party’s slogans: “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.” The Party maintains control through the Thought Police and continual surveillance. (Lowne, 2018)


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