Social Criticism in Literature

Many authors receive their inspiration for writing their

literature from outside sources. The idea for a story could come from

family, personal experiences, history, or even their own creativity.

For authors that choose to write a book based on historical events,

the inspiration might come from their particular viewpoint on the

event that they want to dramatize. George Orwell and Charles Dickens

wrote Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively, to express

their disillusionment with society and human nature. Animal Farm,

written in 1944, is a book that tells the animal fable of a farm in

which the farm animals revolt against their human masters. It is an

example of social criticism in literature in which Orwell satirized

the events in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. He

anthropomorphises the animals, and alludes each one to a counterpart

in Russian history. A Tale of Two Cities also typifies this kind of

literature. Besides the central theme of love, is another prevalent

theme, that of a revolution gone bad. He shows us that, unfortunately,

human nature causes us to be vengeful and, for some of us, overly

ambitious. Both these books are similar in that both describe how,

even with the best of intentions, our ambitions get the best of

us. Both authors also demonstrate that violence and the Machiavellian

attitude of "the ends justifying the means" are deplorable.

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, ". . . to discredit the Soviet

system by showing its inhumanity and its back-sliding from ideals [he]

valued . . ."(Gardner, 106) Orwell noted that " there exists in

England almost no literature of disillusionment with the Soviet

Union.' Instead, that country is viewed either with ignorant

disapproval' or with uncritical admiration.'"(Gardner, 96) The

basic synopsis is this: Old Major, an old boar in Manor Farm, tells

the other animals of his dream of "animalism": " . . . Only get

rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost

overnight we would become rich and free.'" (Orwell, 10) The other

animals take this utopian idea to heart, and one day actually do

revolt and drive the humans out. Two pigs emerge as leaders: Napoleon

and Snowball. They coneztly argued, but one day, due to a difference

over plans to build a windmill, Napoleon exiled Snowball. Almost

immediately, Napoleon established a totalitarian government. Soon, the

pigs began to get special favours, until finally, they were

indistinguishable from humans to the other animals. Immediately the

reader can begin to draw parallels between the book's characters and

the government in 1917-44 Russia. For example, Old Major, who invented

the idea of "animalism," is seen as representing Karl Marx, the

creator of communism. Snowball represents Trotsky, a Russian leader

after the revolution. He was driven out by Napoleon, who represents

Stalin, the most powerful figure in the country. Napoleon then

proceeded to remove the freedoms of the animals, and established a

dictatorship, under the public veil of "animalism." Pigs represent the

ruling class because of their stereotype: dirty animals with

insatiable appetites. Boxer, the overworked, incredibly strong, dumb

horse represents the common worker in Russia. The two surrounding

farms represent two of the countries on the global stage with Russia

at the time, Germany and England.

Orwell begins his book by criticizing the capitalists and ruling

elite, who are represented in Animal Farm by Mr. Jones, the farmer. He

is shown as a negligent drunk, who coneztly starved his animals.

"His character is already established as self-indulgent and uncaring."

(King, 8) Orwell shows us how, "if only animals became aware of their

strength, we should have no power over them, and that men exploit

animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat."

(Gardner, 97) What was established in Russia after the Bolshevik

Revolution was not true communism ("animalism"), which Orwell approved

of, where the people owned all the factories and land. Rather, "state

communism" was established, where a central government owned them.

Orwell thought that such a political system, "state communism," was

open to exploitation by its leaders. Napoleon, after gaining complete

control, did anything he wished - reserved the best for the pigs, and

treated the animals cruelly. The animals could not do anything, unless

they again realized their strength in numbers against their own kind.

Unfortunately, they were too stupid to realize this and accepted the

"status quo." It began when