Animal Farm as a Dystopian Novel
A dystopian novel is one in which an author creates a world that is a total nightmare to live in. A utopia is a perfect world, a dystopia is the opposite. In Animal Farm, Napoleon creates a world that is not exactly the worst possible, but pretty close for the animals. It is a dystopian text because it portrays a world where the characters seek to have a perfect or utopian society, but their plight results in a world that is worse than the world they changed.
Dystopia is a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. In a dystopian society propaganda is used to control the citizens of society. Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted. A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society and citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance. Citizens have a fear of the outside world and they live in a dehumanized state. The natural world is banished and distrusted. Citizens conform to uniform expectations; and individuality and dissent are considered bad and therefore, ostracised. The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
When we look at the Animal Farm, we see almost all the features of dystopia present there. Old Major's ideals about animals working for the betterment of animals rather than the humans, lead to the formation of the idea of Animalism. Unfortunately like most revolutions, the ideals that form the revolution are often distorted to serve the purposes of the individuals leading the revolution. In this case, Napoleon the Pig and his initial ally Snowball, seek for the betterment of the pigs and not all the animals as a whole. Eventually, Napoleon drives Snowball from the farm because he sees Snowball as a threat to his autocratic rule.
The animals on the farm are easily manipulated because of their belief and blind adherence to the principles of Animalism. What begins as a series of commandments and mantras like "Two legs bad, four legs good", evolves into a list of rules that are either flouted or modified to benefit the pigs; yet they must be adhered to by all animals on the farm and this leads to the animals' downfalls.
Ultimately, the pigs who are lead by Napoleon betray all of the other animals on the farm. This is evident by the mass slaughter on pretext of a coup with Snowball, and the ultimate betrayal: the slaughter of the loyal horse Boxer. By the end of the text, the commandments are all modified with the last commandment reading, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." The animals are dehumanized by taking their choices away. The hens, for example, are forced to give their eggs away or their “rations stopped”, thereby denying their right. The animals are forced to work on rebuilding the windmill during the malicious winter. In the farm the animals are forced to “cruel work.” The works have them always tired, cold, and hungry. The pigs reside in the farmhouse, a symbol of the previous human regime, wear clothes, sleep in beds, and drink alcohol. Ultimately, the animals cannot tell the difference between the pigs and the humans who they trade with, as Clover observes through the farmhouse window.
The animals who can remember life before the revolution know that their life is worse now than before. The other animals did not remember a time without pigs in charge and dogs serving as police and guards.
The animals in Animal Farm seek a perfect or a utopian society where there would be no classes, no leaders, and supreme happiness. What they ultimately get is a world that is worse than they could have imagined: a degraded dystopia headed to its ruin.