“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite! ” Like Marx and many other prominent figures in the Russian Revolution, the animals dreamt of the “Golden Age” when their cruel, human proprietors would be vanquished. Thus the failure of the “Golden Dream” made the Russian revolution a clear target for satire, or, in other words, mocking a historical event, idea, or literary work.
The dark, humorous classic Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, draws on parody and irony to mock Communist leadership in Russia and autocratic rulers in general. The pride and avarice of the pigs, specifically Napoleon, mimic the self-absorbed attitude of Communist leaders in their corrupted attempts to supposedly achieve the Golden Dream of Communism. On the few occasions that Napoleon appears in front of his animals, he has “a black cockerel who… [lets] out a loud ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’” each time Napoleon speaks and at all times he totes along “his retinue of dogs” (99).
When comparing each animal of the entourage to character traits, roosters represent arrogance and intelligence, while dogs represent loyalty, and Napoleon appears to believe that these animals could present a better image of how he wants the farm animals to view him. Napoleon heightens such an effect to the point of snobbery by actually having the procession in the first place, showing off his luxuries to rub it in their faces, ironically similar to the attitude of a socialite.
Originally, one of the Seven Commandments stated that “No animal shall drink alcohol” (43), yet when the pigs started drinking and brewing alcohol, “the Commandment read, ‘No animals shall drink alcohol to excess’” (113). Knowing that the other animals might notice that the pigs were breaking the original laws, the pigs have to resort to editing the Seven Commandments so that hardly anyone complains, especially since the animals have poor memories.
Their actions simulate how those with immense power could and will easily take advantage of their surroundings, tainting the system with corruption. Each time Napoleon crafts a contradiction with another statement, the animals on the farm will immediately suppose that “‘If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right,’” (91) even if his statements prove false. Like Stalin, who executed and starved millions of Russians during the Russian Revolution, Napoleon constantly tries to create a god-like aurora around himself, though Napoleon was greatly revered by any of the animals. The animals’ belief makes fun of the large fandom and fame Stalin created around himself merely to justify his accusatory statements, and their blind trust further mocks the adoring supporters of Stalin. By mocking the dictatorship of Napoleon, Orwell also derides the terror caused by Communist Russia, and the ironical statements and thoughts of both Animal Farm’s and Communist Russia’s society. In the form of thoughts and statements made by the pigs and the animals, irony appears throughout the book so that the situation appears almost laughable.
For instance, a poem written by Minimus praises the “full belly twice a day [and] clean straw to roll upon” that the animals have gained through the “Friend of Fatherless… Comrade Napoleon! ” (100) Due to their mindless obedience toward Napoleon’s pigs, the animals believe they are receiving great amounts of food and bountiful sleep as said by the poem. On the contrary, the reader can assume that the farm animals devour minimal amount of rations and have to sleep less and work more. Upon hearing the animals sing Beasts of England, Squealer arrives to announce that the song represented “the Rebellion… and their] longing for a better society,” and that since the society of the farm has finally been established, “clearly this song has no purpose” (96). Squealer’s opinion about the circumstances of Animal Farm appears to concern only the prosperity of the pigs, for the animals they rule over live in an inferno. As of result, Squealer’s words demonstrate the self-absorbed attitude prominent in the pigs, also pertaining to Stalin’s cult of personality. To make matters worse for the animals, “all the rations were reduced” except for those of the pigs and the dogs, because “a too rigid equality in rations… ould [contradict] with the principles of Animalism” (115). Animalism preaches the equality of all the animals, whereas Squealer, under Napoleon’s orders, tells the animals that a similarity in all the animals’ rations would contradict such ideals. Napoleon once again displays the selfishness of the pigs, which in turn parodies Stalin’s drastic reduction of homes, farmland, and food for the farmers and workers. Irony in Animal Farm emphasizes the criticism of Russia and reveals the corruption present in the 1940’s.
Despite the dark humor present in Orwell’s Animal Farm, the story imagines a future of terror through the corrupt, selfish, yet highly intelligent pigs who torture the mindless animals that follow them. Comparing people to animals, Orwell reminds readers that as urbane as the human being appears on the surface, man’s animalistic characteristics will turn him into a cruel, vicious monster or a greedy hog. Either way, the Golden Dream of Communism ceases to exist. Instead, Communist autocrats trade in freedom of speech for personal gain, and the only legacy they leave behind is a pig sty of starving, tired workers.