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