Roberts, Pearce. "Animal Farm: Sixty Years On." History Today, vol. 55, no. 8, 2005. pp. 47-53.
a. What literary approach does the author take? (psychological, formalist, sociological, etc.)
In Robert Roberts's "Animal Farm: Sixty Years On," the author takes a sociological approach to literary criticism of George Orwell's seminal satirical novel Animal Farm.
b. What is the main idea/focus of the author of the criticism?
In essence, Roberts compares the messages and symbols in the book itself to what was intended to be their analogue, and finds that they are somewhat wanting in terms of accuracy and effectiveness. At the same time, the reasons for its success are fully explained, in terms of its sense of humor, its political allegories, and its strength of writing.
c. With what literary device(s) does the author use to support his/her position? (symbols,
elements of fiction, etc.)
Roberts uses interview and historical accounts to place the novel in its original context, noting the historical figures that inspired the characters in the book, and the literary tradition that preceded him.
d. What are some of the details/facts that support the main idea of the author""?s criticism?
Roberts notes T.S. Eliot, H.G. Wells, Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Conrad and more provide inspiration for many aspects of the novel - Jefferson's "All men are created equal" speech is found in many of the words of Old Major in the beginning of the book. Orwell's own life was also used as inspiration for many of the characters: he grew up around animals, and "Simmonds, who drove Boxer to the slaughter-house, was the name of a Henley magistrate, painted on the brewers' drays [Orwell] saw in his youth" (p. 49). Roberts uses this to note that Orwell derived much of the novel from his personal experiences with Marxism, as he spent the 1920s as a left-wing Communist sympathizer until Stalin began to exercise what he felt was totalitarian rule. After that, Orwell "decided it was time to bury him," and so he chose to write Animal Farm as a response to that (p. 50).
Roberts also uses literary criticism to note the flaws in the book, which perhaps color the message that people take from it. Because of the somewhat-muddled message of Animal Farm, and the generalized direction the revolution and totalitarian state takes, Roberts believes readers have used it to justify critiquing of revolution in and of itself.
e. Provide a quote from source to support one of the above statements.
"There is no didactic voice, and therefore there is room for doubt" as to what he is implying about revolutions (p. 51).
a. Write a main idea (thesis statement) for the assigned essay that can be supported by source.
Roberts's source could be used exceptionally well to drive an essay noting the satire inherent to Orwell's novel. Orwell's novel 1984 satirizes the Socialist Revolution of Russia through its depiction of communist leaders as authoritarians; regardless of its effectiveness, the work was meant to show the problematic nature of revolution and the ability for power to corrupt.
b. Write three ideas (topic sentences) that support the main idea and can be supported by source.
- Animal Farm's influence on politics during the Cold War is unmistakable; it is often cited as an important work.
- Orwell meant to make the novel an allegory for the Russian Revolution when writing it and developing its plot and thematic parallels.
- The use of animals is meant to equate human ignorance and misjudgment, as well as lust for power, as base, simple attributes that we must overcome.
c. Develop details/facts that could be used to support above ideas.
Many animal characters, in personality and role in the revolution, echo real historical figures from the rise of Communism in Russia in the early 20th century. Old Major is meant to be Karl Marx, Napoleon is Joseph Stalin, Snowball represents Trotsky, and so on.
d. What literary devices might be used?
In this essay, I should be able to use literary devices such as references to history and symbols to denote which character corresponds to what real life figure, and what events are echoed in history, to show the effect and narrative direction of Animal Farm as illustrated by Roberts's article. The animals are symbols of the gullible and greedy citizens of a government, who either choose to be complacent or take advantage of that complacency for the sake of their own lust for power. Roberts' essay should be able to allow me to write about these various historical connections, as well as its reception when it first came out.
e. Write a quote that supports any of the above items.
"Animal Farm was a pivotal piece in a new era of Cold War literature" (p. 47). Due to the literary predecessors of Animal Farm anthropomorphizing animals to a great extent, "endowing animals with human characteristics must have seemed perfectly normal" (p. 48).
"[Orwell] would say exactly what he thought about the betrayal of the Russian revolution in order to help revivify a realistic democratic socialist movement at home" (p. 50).