Use of language in Animal Farm

The language Orwell uses in Animal Farm is simple, clear and accessible. Description and dialogue are kept to a minimum and Orwell avoids sentimentality - even the most heart-breaking sections of the text are very direct in style. He focuses on telling the story, allowing the reader to concentrate on the lessons he wants us to learn. Through the pigs, Orwell shows how rhetoric can be a powerful tool of manipulation.

When analysing the language Orwell uses, you could use this structure:
  • What has Orwell done?
  • How and why has he done it?
  • What effect does it have on the reader?
  • How could the words you have chosen to look at be interpreted differently?
  • Use a quote to back up your point.
  • Avoid explaining what language devices mean eg no need to say 'a simile is a way of comparing one thing to another'.

Evidence and explanation of the language used

Persuading questions"Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours?"To make the other animals question their positions on the farm.This rhetorical device is used to encourage the animals to rebel. Old Major asks the question and then he provides the animals with the answer he wants, persuading them that he is right.
Controlling questions"Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you any record of such a resolution?"Squealer controls the others by questioning their memories.This rhetorical device is used to make the animals doubt themselves. Orwell shows how rhetoric can be used negatively.
Repetition"Long live the windmill! Long live Animal Farm!"Here Napoleon uses repetition to reinforce his message.Repeating ‘Long live’ helps emphasise Napoleon’s point that he wants Animal Farm to continue forever. Whilst this appears to be positive, here Napoleon uses the sentiment to make a scapegoat (an individual irrationally blamed) of Snowball.
Emotive languageA cry of horror burst from all the animals.The scene when Boxer is taken away is very emotive.The fact that the ‘horror’, in itself an emotive word, ‘burst’ from the animals gives a clear indication that their fear was so great it almost exploded from within them.
Direct styleBoxer was never seen again.Orwell uses very plain language to describe Boxer’s disappearance.In contrast to the emotive language seen above, Orwell uses direct and understated language. This helps to make Boxer’s treatment more tragic.

How to analyse language

In order to analyse language you must:

  • choose a section from the text to analyse
  • select a quote from the text that is relevant to the question and the point you want to make
  • consider how the quote reflects character/theme/context
  • explore in detail the impact specific words or phrases have upon the reader
  • evaluate how effective the author’s choice of language is

Below is an example section from the novel. In this section Napoleon is speaking to the farm animals. He blames Snowball for the damage the bad weather has done to the windmill.

'Comrades', he said quietly, 'do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL!' he roared in a voice of thunder. 'Snowball has done this thing! In sheer malignity, thinking to set back our plans and avenge himself for his ignominious expulsion, this traitor has crept here under cover of night and destroyed our work of nearly a year'Napoleon

Analyse the language used in this quotation. How do the pigs use language to control the other animals?

  1. Use of personal pronouns - Napoleon uses 'Comrades' and 'our' to get the other animals on his side.
  2. Emotive language - he uses words like 'malignity' and 'traitor' - these emotive words help make the animals react emotionally to what he is saying meaning they are more likely to be angry.
  3. Use of questions and repetition - 'Do you know who is responsible for this?', 'do you know the enemy..?'. Napoleon repeats the question and gives them his own answer 'SNOWBALL'. Here questions are used to control.
  4. Uses of expressive verbs and adjectives - Orwell explains that Napoleon 'Roared in a voice of thunder'. Explosive words which add a sense of sound to of the section as well as the mood.
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