Animal Farm – Fairy-tale comparisons

Some quick notes on how the novel shares elements of a fairy-tale. Far from comprehensive but should help to get you started.

1. Talking Animals – makes them easy for an audience to identify with. Also reassuring in form – we all remember fairy-tales fondly.

2. Definite heroes and villains. There is no complexity in these characters early on and this allows the reader to side with the animals during the revolution. The rest of the novel blurs the division between good and bad, so we can empathise with the animals as they try to stay true to the vision of Old Major while Napoleon destroys their dream. At the end, the blurring actually comes clear again as the villains assume the face of Jones the farmer.

3. A moral lesson and a warning. Like most fairy-tales there is a clear moral lesson to be learned: that to allow people in power too much control will lead us to disaster. It is a warning in the shape of an allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917. We can take away the message even if we don’t take in the historical comparison. We can see the villainy of Napoleon and the exploitation of the animals. We can all tell what is fair and unfair; the moral lesson can be absorbed on different levels.

4. Direct language. Unlike many political novels, Animal Farm uses direct, clear, uncomplicated language to tell its tale. However, notice how the pigs start to use more complicated language as the novel progresses, showing that they are trying to hide the truth of their actions in language which the animals (and possibly the reader) will find more difficult.

5. Happy endings? The novel follows a fairy-tale structure but doesn’t come to a clear-cut happy ending. We are left with a warning about the abuse of power but the ending is not happy. The pigs become human, the animals are overworked because of their faith in their leaders. Only Benjamin, the cynic, sees the truth but nobody listens to him.

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