Use of Language in Animal Farm

In Animal Farm, George Orwell shows how the public can be influenced by the words, slogans and propaganda through rhetorical skills and the means for manipulation of the language. The public in a totalitarian society is deceived by the dominant ideology through the effective use of the language.

Several characters in Orwell’s Animal farm play their roles as masters possessing great rhetorical skills. Old Major tries to use many examples of man’s tyranny, such as killing the weak, withholding food, and preventing them from owning their own bodies. Second, Old Major uses slogans as well. He tells the animals: “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.” He knows that some animals like Boxer who are very simpleminded will be persuaded easily, and it was considered a masterful persuasion and even it paved the way for Old Major to motivate the animals for a revolt against Mr. Jones, the human master of the Animal Farm. Third, he sings the song of “Beasts of England” to rouse the audience; and the use of a song to stir the citizenry is an old political maneuvering and the lyrics of the above mentioned song summarizes Old Major’s feelings about man.

In the beginning of the novel, Napoleon shows no concern in what the animals do and leaves most of the leadership work and inspirational speeches to Snowball. Napoleon is described as, "¦not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way”. This foreshadows Napoleon's future behaviour because later on in the novel, he takes on more of a Stalin-like role in the farm. Unable to effectively speak in public, he uses Squealer to talk to the animals of the farm and get them under control. For example, Squealer justifies the pigs’ complete appropriation of milk and apple as a necessity for their brainwork.  

To maintain power, Nepoleon uses many different types of propaganda techniques, one of which being, using Snowball as scapegoat. Napoleon blames the farm's failures on Snowball who is nowhere to be found so he cannot deny or confirm any truth of what is said. For instance, when Boxer questions the loyalty of Snowball, Napoleon tells Squealer to announce that "Snowball was Jones's agent from the very beginning". Boxer, being the loyal and gullible animal he is, admits that "if Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right."

Not only does Napoleon use Snowball as scapegoat, so that he can secure his position, he alters the seven commandments to legitimize what he does (drink alcohol, sleep in beds, deal with humans). At this point in the history of the farm, the pigs do not quite have enough power to do what they like and Squealer is forced to change the Commandments to fit new circumstances.

The first alteration to the Commandments comes after the pigs move back into the farmhouse. The ban on sleeping in beds was changed in Napoleon's favour by the addition of the words 'with sheets'. Napoleon's hangover is a cause for alarm but all that eventually happens is that the words "to excess" are added to the fifth Commandment (“No animal shall drink alcohol”). Finally, all pretence of "unalterable laws" is abandoned and the Commandments are replaced by the meaningless slogan: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." 

The political leaders of the totalitarian regime of the Animal Farm, under the leadership of Napoleon, used the rhetoric aspect of the language to keep the animals docile and quiet to get their way, deceiving the animals by some convoluted logic to get their own advantage. Through the rhetorical skills and the means for manipulation of the language, such as the words, slogans and propaganda the animals and accordingly people in a totalitarian regime will be tricked into working hard and believing what is not logical and reasonable. The dominant ideology by means of its strong media and propaganda withholds people from noticing their interests, views and thoughts.

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 May 2018, 1:21 PM