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The Author's Style of Writing in "Animal Farm"


George Orwell's political allegory "Animal Farm" has a moment in Chapter 1 when the rebellious farm animals sing the rallying song "Beasts of England"; the music is described as "something between 'Clementine' and 'La Cucuracha.'" This scene, its solemnity undermined by the imagery of the silly tune, clues us in to Orwell's writing style which is as straightforward as a manifesto, but with a satirist's underlying playfulness.

Silliness Reported Seriously

Orwell, a political court jester, pokes holes in the balloon of socialist attitudes throughout. At one point, the animals vote on the question, "Are rats comrades?" Only the dogs and cat disagree, having "voted on both sides." Orwell reports this childish nonsense in clipped, balanced sentences, befitting the minutes in a meeting. Later, the leaders argue over Snowball, a pivotal founder denounced as a traitor: "I could show you [his treachery] in his own writing, if you were able to read it." We are left to wonder how a pig puts pen to paper at all.

Words, Words, Words

Orwell's dialogue also hints at his satirical intent. The animals speak in crisp, brief sentences of slavish devotion: "I will work harder!" and "Napoleon is always right." The leaders' dialogue is entirely party slogans: "Forward, comrades!" and "All animals should go naked." When a leader speaks at length, Orwell -- whose stylistic rules demand that writers omit needless words -- devotes entire paragraphs to the speech to demonstrate how little of it has real content. His syntactical style implies that the more words are used, the more they are misused.

Darker Satire, Darker Messages

The politically correct aspects of Orwell's style darken as the takeover of Animal Farm becomes more sinister; like a good party member, he reports all lies as truth. The pigs become the Stalin-like ruling class, taking all the food because "the importance of keeping pigs in good health was obvious." Orwell begins the animal rebellion with the "Seven Commandments" of Animal Farm, the last being "all animals are equal." By novel's end, he has verbally shaved the commandments down to one corrupt, equivocal message: " ... but some animals are more equal than others."

Manifesto into Maniacal Dream

In the final chapter, pigs have become human: They transact business, walk on two legs, carry whips. Orwell's dazzling ending underlines this change and evokes fairy-tale horror straight out of "Beauty and the Beast." The other animals spy on a business conference and "looked from pig to man and from man to pig ... impossible to say which was which." This visionary moment breaks the straightforward style Orwell has used thus far: The manifesto becomes a cautionary nightmare.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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