Manroop Bhogal
Mr. Gellert
March 4, 2016

The Value of Knowledge
Knowledge is an important element in life that shapes the way a person sees the world. Although knowledge is not something that can be seen, it holds tremendous value to those who are capable of having it. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the downfall of the farm is caused by the unequal possession of knowledge amongst the animals. This possession of knowledge goes hand-in-hand with those who control leadership and power, life and death, and manipulation.

The pigs achieve their superiority and power through their academic abilities. Due to the pigs already having more knowledge than the rest of the animals in the beginning of the novel, they automatically take their positions as the leaders of the Animal Farm, “The pigs [do] not actually work, but [direct] and [supervise] the others. With their superior knowledge, it was natural that they should assume the leadership” (Orwell 11). In turn, their positions as higher authorities allow them to gain access to Mr. Jones’ farmhouse, using his children’s old spelling book to teach themselves how to read and write. Having gained these skills, and examined the concepts of economics, Napoleon suggests that they engage in trade with the neighbouring farms in order to obtain certain materials which were urgently necessary, mainly rations. Napoleon’s knowledge of the trades gives him the ability to order Mr. Whymper to acquire rations for the animals and continue to report that there was no food shortage on the farm. Thus, with having no other contact with humans while allowing rations into the farm, as well as implying to the outside world that there is no food shortage, Napoleon has demonstrated to both the parties, that he is capable of running the animal farm without any humans, justifying his position as a powerful leader. This, in turn, begins the downfall of the Animal Farm.

The other animals on the farm, however, due to their lack of intelligence, have only been led to their downfall. Many are unable to completely learn the alphabet while others do not feel the need to learn to read or write at all, “Clover learnt the whole alphabet, but could not put words together. Boxer could not get beyond the letter D…None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A” (Orwell 13). The sheep, hens, and ducks, were unable to learn the Seven Commandments by heart. Their inability to effectively read or write stops them from averting Boxer’s murder, when they cannot read the sign on the van that takes him away (save Benjamin):
“Fools! Fools!” shouted Benjamin, prancing round them and stamping the earth with his small hoofs. “Fools! Do you not see what is written on the side of that van?…‘Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler…’ Do you not understand what that means? They are taking Boxer to the knacker’s” (Orwell 47).

A spark of realization has occurred, and the animals soon understand the importance of being able to read and write. As they watch their fellow comrade being driven towards his death, their guilt has consumed them, for it is their illiteracy which has caused the incident. Had the pigs taught the animals how read or write with ease, or had the animals taken the effort to learn to do so, Boxer would have been spared from this terrible incident.

Through their extensive knowledge of reading and writing English, the pigs are able to easily manipulate the other animals’ minds through the changes made to the Seven Commandments. Squealer manipulates the minds of the animals by using a method called gas-lighting, a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory. When the changes made to the Seven Commandments are questioned, Squealer simply replies that there was no such thing written, questioning their memory, completely aware of their inability to read the Seven Commandments in the first place:
Squealer [asks] them shrewdly, “Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you any record of such a resolution? Is it written down anywhere?” And since it was certainly true that nothing of the kind existed in writing, the animals were satisfied that they [have] been mistaken.