Inside the Mind of a Commoner. Essay on Animal Farm and 1984

As Victor Hugo, the renowned nineteenth century French poet, once said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” What Hugo intended with this carefully constructed quote was to explain that while large armies possess physical strength seemingly unequal to anything else in this world, an idea that unifies nations can easily overcome the most daunting of oppositions. As readers keep this in mind, one can see that Orwell’s novels 1984 and Animal Farm in their own symbolic way share ideals with this quotation. Despite their methods of dealing with the spread of ideas, both works agree that when one has an idea opposed to the governing body, they have the power to overthrow even the greatest of oppressors.

Orwell’s novels differ in their methods of controlling the spread of ideas contradictory to the governing party. In 1984, the Party uses the feared “Thought Police” in order to arrest individuals suspected of defying the party. As Winston repeatedly denounces Big Brother in his diary, he realizes, “Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed-would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper-the essential crime that contained all others in itself” (Orwell 1984 19). Unlike Animal Farm, the Thought Police are a permanent solution for anyone trying to defect from the Party. Rumors play a large part in this defense against the distribution of anti-Party propaganda.

Fear is instilled into the population, deterring insurgents from revolting even before they realize they want to rebel. Orwell tries to show through this that with the use of appealing to citizens’ fears, a government can effectively stomp out the spread of new ideas. Nevertheless, in Orwell’s Animal Farm, the Animalists show how unstable the government can become in their attempts to argue down claims made by opposed individuals. As readers meet Moses the Raven, they learn, “The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work, but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place” (Orwell Animal Farm 18).

While it offers a temporary solution, the Party does not completely banish the idea, but merely puts it aside. When left alone, the idea has a chance to evolve and really become a force to be reckoned with. Luckily, in the case of Animal Farm, the idea is soon forgotten, and the Animalist movement continued but in real world cases, the thought would have resurfaced, causing problems later down the path of the movement. What Orwell truly wants readers to take away, however, is that in order to wholly eliminate the opposition one needs to eradicate the root of the problem, unlike it was exemplified as casting the problem aside. All in all, while disagreeing upon the process of execution, both novels offer separate ways ruling administrations minimize revolutions.

Regardless of their disagreements, however, both works agree that an idea opposed to the basis of the government absolutely has the potential to wipe out the entirety of the government. In 1984, it is seen that the Party must do whatever it takes to avoid being seen as the antagonists in the public’s eyes. As O’ Brien is torturing Winston, he reveals, “Men were dying because they would not abandon their true beliefs.

Naturally all the glory belonged to the victim and all the shame to the Inquisitor who burned him... they knew, at any rate, that one must not make martyrs” (Orwell 1984 209). Similar to Animal Farm, the Party seeks to be recognized as the savior, not the “Inquisitor”. It was realized that one must not make “martyrs”, either the symbol or even the cause of rebellions. The creation of even just one could be enough to motivate the afflicted majority of the population, leading way to an almost guaranteed uprising. The party incorporates the “reeducation” of its prisoners in order to make the defectors love Big Brother, thereby seeming as though they themselves truly wanted to be punished for their accused crimes.

Orwell uses the example of Nazis to show just how disastrous the backlash could be in the event of the oppressed realizing they are capable of their own rebellion.  Moreover, in Animal Farm, readers are shown how the opposing views must be challenged in order to overcome ideologies contrary to governmental beliefs. As Napoleon conducts the trials, the narrator discloses, “And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet... They did not know which was more shocking-the treachery of the animals who had leagued themselves with Snowball, or the cruel retribution they had just witnessed” (Orwell Animal Farm 84-85). 

From this the reader can infer that the fear of death is a greater motivator to lie instead of simply telling the truth. Even more, the quote shows how a leader can remain a positive image in his subject’s minds, all while eliminating those who may oppose him. It can also be seen that the animals are shaken by the events that occurred. From this emotion Orwell is able to display to readers just how close one must come to the contradictory ideas in order to resume his unquestioned regime. To sum up, both 1984 and Animal Farm seek to demonstrate just how much power an idea, when in the wrong hands, can contain.

All things considered, ideas-when not correctly dealt with- can pose drastic threats to the party they refute. Even Victor Hugo concurs that the ideas of a mere commonplace citizen have the ability to challenge the strongest of nations. From this, one can clearly see the power of free thought, must exercise frequently this freedom, and above all, never stop thinking for themselves.



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