Power and control in Animal Farm

Still of Farmer Jones with a gun, from the 1954 film
Farmer Jones tried to keep the animals under control

Power and control is one of the most important themes in Animal Farm. Orwell explores political power - Mr Jones owns the farm and the animals and uses his men and whips to keep them under control and maintain his power.

Orwell shows that the animals have the power to challenge Mr Jones' control and take over the farm - using power in a positive way. He then explores how the pigs use rhetoric and propaganda to establish themselves in power and take control of the farm. It is interesting that the working animals, especially Boxer the horse, have great physical power but they don’t use it to break free from the control of the pigs.

Old Major is partly based on Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Karl Marx, was a German philosopher who lived during the 19th-century. His ideas formed the basis of communism - his ideas are collectively known as ‘Marxism’, like ‘Animalism’ in the novel. He developed theories on how power structures in society keep people under control. Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary who established a form of ‘Marxism’ in Russia in the early 20th-century.

Orwell explores the idea of power leading to corruption. Many of the characters in the novel are eventually corrupted by the power they have, particularly the pigs, as they manipulate their position of leadership to exploit other animals.

How is the theme of power and control shown in the novel?

In Animal Farm, Orwell explores power and control through:

  • Mr Jones exploiting his power and treating the animals badly
  • the rebellion and how the animals use their power to take over the farm
  • the pigs and how they cleverly control the other animals
How does Orwell show this?EvidenceAnalysis
Mr JonesOld Major teaches the animals a song called Beasts of England in response to Mr Jones treating them badly. The song is about animals overthrowing man and being free.Bit and spur shall rust forever, Cruel whips no more shall crack.The animals sing about the devices Mr Jones uses to keep his power. The 'bit and spur' and 'whips' are used to cruelly keep the animals under control.
The rebellionThe animals fight back against the men and take control of the farm....this sudden uprising of creatures whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, frightened them almost out of their wits.The animals surprise the men with their 'sudden' change in behaviour - it frightens the men to see the animals using their power.
The pigs taking controlThe pigs take charge and begin to control the other animals. Napoleon uses Squealer and the dogs to stop the animals' questions about the windmill.Squealer spoke so persuasively, and the three dogs who happened to be with him growled so threateningly, that they accepted his explanation without further questions.Between Squealer being so 'persuasive' and the dogs so 'threatening' the pigs control the animals by preventing them questioning their decisions.

Analysing the evidence

Question

How does Orwell explore power and control in Animal Farm?

  • Mr Jones uses his power over the animals. It is suggested that Mr Jones uses physical violence to maintain control of the animals - they sing about the 'crack' of his whip in the song 'Beasts of England'.
  • The animals use their own power to take control of the farm. They gang up on Mr Jones and his men and physically kick them off the farm.
  • The pigs use the power of speech or rhetoric to maintain their control of the other animals.
  • Napoleon uses fear to control the farm.
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