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Old April 27th, 2011, 12:12 PM   #31

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Stalin's purges of the 1930's are represented very briefly in Animal Farm. I find Arthur Koestler's fictional account in Darkness at Noon quite interesting to compare. When Rubashov (the disgraced former party member) "confesses" it goes like this.

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While he was speaking, he had pushed the prepared statement over to Rubashov, and laid his fountain-pen beside it. Rubashov stood up and said with a strained smile:

"I have always wondered what it was like when the Neanderthalers got sentimental. Now I know. "

"I do not understand," said Gletkin, who had also stood up.

Rubashov signed the sstatement, in which he confessed to having committed his crimes tthrough counterrevolutionary motives adn in teh service of a foreign Power. As he raised his head, his gaze fell on the portrait of No. 1 hanging on the wall, and once again he recognized the expresssion of knowing irony whth which years ago No. 1 had taken leave of him--that melancholy cynicism which stared down on humanity from the omnipresent portrait.
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Old April 28th, 2011, 12:28 PM   #32

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Why did George Orwell select a fable as a form for writing his criticism of the Russian Revolution?

George Orwell and Arthur Koestler were friends after the fact, and both chose allegory to write their criticism of Stalin's betrayal of the Revolution. Orwell used Animal Farm. Koestler wrote a trilogy. The first, written in Hungarian, was Gladiators which described the revolution in terms of the slave rebellion of Spartacus. The second, originally written in German, but the German manuscript was lost and it had to be back translated from English. It was Darkness at Noon, which was the most successful of the three. It is about a Bolshevik, Rubashov, who is betrayed by Number 1 (Stalin), forced to sign a confession, and shot. The third, Arrival and Departure, was written in English. It is fairly difficult to even find a copy now, but it was somewhat autobiographical, or so I am told.

Koestler's version was written from personal experience. Orwell's version was written out of disillusionment over the Russian Revolution and partly arose out of his experiences in Spain, but mainly from his Socialist and anti-totalitarian philosophy. But why did he choose an animal fable to make his point?

Orwell's essay on Arthur Koestler is here.
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Old April 28th, 2011, 01:40 PM   #33
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Why did George Orwell select a fable as a form for writing his criticism of the Russian Revolution?
//
Orwell's version was written out of disillusionment over the Russian Revolution and partly arose out of his experiences in Spain, but mainly from his Socialist and anti-totalitarian philosophy. But why did he choose an animal fable to make his point?
Strictly a guess on my part, but could his reason have been to present a case against totalitarianism in terms that children and politically unsophisticated adults could understand? Perhaps he thought a message tailored for those groups might have more impact than a complex work which would be fully appreciated only by académe, the literati, those deeply involved in politics or social movements, etc.,.

Also, for a man of his intellect, Animal Farm might have been a pleasant break from weightier efforts, and offering fresh challenges, like simplifying political arguments and social issues, but simultaneously making them interesting - especially for children.

'As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.'
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Old April 28th, 2011, 06:15 PM   #34

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Intended audience is good enough reason, but might it also be because of the political atmosphere in England in 1944? People were touchy about direct criticism of Stalin. Do you really think it was directed at children?
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Old April 28th, 2011, 07:34 PM   #35
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Intended audience is good enough reason, but might it also be because of the political atmosphere in England in 1944? People were touchy about direct criticism of Stalin. Do you really think it was directed at children?
I'm not well enough informed on Orwell to have a strong opinion about his intent. If you're dubious, then likely it wasn't. I was just tossing out a possibility.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 06:36 AM   #36

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I don't know. The animated version is almost as much a classic as the book, but it doesn't seem to be very suitable for children either (to me). It was released in 1954, 4 years after Orwell's death. It lasts an hour and twelve minutes, but take a look if you want to.

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MKXgrF9IRc"]Animal Farm-George Orwell-Full Length Animated Movie(1954)[/ame]
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Old April 29th, 2011, 11:47 PM   #37

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I don't know. The animated version is almost as much a classic as the book, but it doesn't seem to be very suitable for children either (to me). It was released in 1954, 4 years after Orwell's death. It lasts an hour and twelve minutes, but take a look if you want to.
Thanks for the link in youtube. I will watch this!
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Old April 30th, 2011, 06:06 AM   #38

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I'll look forward to a discussion of the differences from the book.
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Old April 30th, 2011, 12:22 PM   #39

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Looking back over this discussion, I think one thing that we have really glossed over are the social issues raised by this novel. I see two related issues:
1) The rise of Totalitarianism in Europe during the period when Orwell was writing. There were Stalin's Russia, Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Italy. But there were also strong Socialist movements in other countries. As I pointed out in Post #30, Orwell wrote in his essay Why I Write that, "every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it." I think this is a very appropriate quote in a discussion of Animal Farm.

2. The other issue is, as Orwell saw it, Russia's betrayal of the Worker movement. Orwell, as we know, was a Socialist and a Marxist. I quoted in post #17, a few lines from his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War, where he says, "in the long struggle that has followed the Russian Revolution it is the manual workers who have been defeated, and it is impossible not to feel that it was their own fault." The animals let the pigs take the milk. They let the pigs sell the hens eggs. In the ultimate betrayal, Boxer, the "workhorse" of the Worker movement was sent to the glue factory. It is hard not to feel that it was at least in part the animals' own fault.

Orwell was a Socialist, but there are many flavors of Socialists. There are those whom Orwell refers to in his essays as "right wing" and "left wing." The Nazi's, the Italian Fascists, the Spanish Fascists, and the Bolsheviks were all in this right wing category. Orwell was not alone in considering the Communists "right wing." The politics of the time were so extreme that the left wing went full circle to the right.

An interesting comparison to this aspect is a novel I have been reading (almost finished) Jimmie Higgins, by Upton Sinclair, the American muckraker who wrote from about 1900 to the 1940's. Jimmie Higgins is a socialist and, like Orwell, a pacifist. All the way through the novel (written during World War I) he is torn between the labor movement and pacifism--he is a Wobbly, but non-vilolent--and the fact that the factory where he works is making munitions to defeat the Germans. Many of his friends are Germans, Kaiser hating but Germany supporting. He is thrilled by the Russian Revolution, but pulled the other way by Mensehvik policy toward the Germans. He supports the Bolsheviks in October, but is disappointed by them. He is constantly pulled one way, then the other. He even joins the United States Army. It is a story of a very conflicted individual. In the end, Jimmie chews the ends off his fingers and is committed to an asylum where he is finally treated decently. A gory ending, but it symbolizes an animal caught in a trap that chews off its foot to get away; but unsuccessfully and it becomes someone's pet. Well, that's a Sinclair ending.

Point is, I'm enjoying learning all the different flavors of the early 20th century socialist/communist movements and I'm fascinated by how many of the subthemes parallel Orwell's themes.
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Old May 1st, 2011, 01:34 PM   #40

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Regarding the animated feature, I let my grandson and some friends watch it this morning to see theri reaction. They were pretty interested at first. Interest picked up a little at the "revolution" but started to fall off after that. By the destruction of the windmill, no one was interested and they turned it off. Of course, one experiment is just "anecdotal" and I doubt whether it's suitability to kids now would apply to us back in 1954 who hadn't been raised on a fare of tv cartoons. In '54, I was 13 and might have been interested because I had read the story by then and had discussions with my dad about what it meant. But it was too dark a theme for the more sophisticated 7-year-old audience of the 21st century.

After watching it twice, I concluded that the cartoon followed the plot of the book, but it neglected character development, and that was the biggest difference. The cat was late to "Old Major's" speech, but only made one very brief appearance besides that. Benjamin, the donkey, seemed bored more than cynical at the beginning. His name was barely mentioned two times, but I didn't even notice his name during the first time through. Napoleon's parallel to Stalin was fairly clear, but I don't think I would have realized that Snowball represented Trotsky had I not known the book version. Squealer was a propagandist, but unnamed and with little character. Mollie and Clover weren't named or developed and so on.

Without the character development, much of the satire was gone. Even so, the film was clearly satirical IMO. It developed Orwell's idea of totalitarianism in general better than his satire on and disillusionment in the Russian Revolution.

The end was changed rather radically. It had Orwell's end, where the animals became increasingly indistinguishable from the humans, but it went on about a minute from there with the animals revolting against the pigs. I don't think Orwell would have liked that end had he lived a few years longer. It changed the story that he had in mind.
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