Eric Blair, known by his pen name George Orwell, was an Englishman whose writings attacked political and social oppression. One of his best-known works, Animal Farm, was written in 1945 and is a satire on abusive political power and an allegory of Russian history. George Orwell’s life experiences influenced Animal Farm; as a student, he was discriminated against, and as an adult he was often impoverished and rebelled against social and economic oppression.
Napoleon, a huge Berkshire boar who becomes the dictator of Animal Farm, exhibits many of the traits of Stalin and other dictators as he constantly manipulates thought and belief, sets up a scapegoat, and proves his power by making others suffer. Napoleon uses his agent Squealer to manipulate thought and belief about he happenings on the farm just as Stalin used the communist newspaper, Pravda. Throughout the course of the novel, the animals all work on the windmill, the main project of the farm.
At the very start, Napoleon had been opposed to the idea of the windmill, but through Squealer makes all the other animals believe “that [he] had never in reality been opposed to the windmill” (Orwell 71). Napoleon is probably opposed to the idea of the windmill because it was Snowball’s idea first. After Snowball was expelled, Napoleon takes the idea as his own so he can have the credit if it succeeds, and if it doesn’t then he can blame Snowball.
Joseph Stalin did much of the same idea in that if anything worked, it was his idea and if it failed, he quickly found a scapegoat. Napoleon also uses Squealer to spread propaganda about his false feelings for the animals. He has Squealer give long speeches in which he “would talk with the tears rolling down his cheeks of Napoleon’s wisdom, the goodness of his heart, and the deep love he bore to all animals everywhere, even and especially the unhappy animals who still lived in ignorance and slavery on other farms” (Orwell 100).
Napoleon obviously doesn’t care much for the animals on the farm just as Stalin and other dictators don’t really care about the well being of the people that they rule. Napoleon, like Stalin and other dictators, uses propaganda to maintain control over the people, and keep himself in power. Just as Stalin sets up Trotsky as his scapegoat for things that go wrong, Napoleon makes Snowball his scapegoat throughout the novel so Napoleon never takes the blame for anything.
As conditions on the farm start to deteriorate under Napoleon’s rule, Napoleon tells the animals that “[Snowball] stole the corn, he upset the milk-pails, he broke the eggs, he trampled the seedbeds, he gnawed the bark off the fruit trees” (Orwell 88). This isn’t the case, as Snowball had never done any of those things just as all scapegoats usually don’t commit any of the crimes they are accused of. Napoleon, like Stalin and other dictators, need to set up a scapegoat for poor conditions so that failures will never reflect poorly on them.
As conditions on the farm grow worse and worse under Napoleon’s rule, it becomes commonplace for the animals to accept that “Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball” (Orwell 88). A big enough lie has been told about Snowball so often, that all the animals just automatically believe that all the problems on the farm are Snowball’s fault. Without scapegoats to blame all their problems on, dictators would be overthrown even more quickly than they usually are. Napoleon shares another trait with other dictators in that he must prove his power by making others suffer.
To help wash his hands of all of the failures of the farm, Napoleon, by intimidation, forces four pigs to confess “that they had been secretly in touch with Snowball ever since his expulsion, that they had collaborated with him in destroying the windmill, and that they had entered into an agreement with him to hand over Animal Farm to Mr. Frederick” (Orwell 92). Napoleon holds these trials of the animals and forces them to confess to things that they didn’t do just as Joseph Stalin did during the Moscow Purge Trails.
The trials continue and the reasons for slaughtering become even more ridiculous as some animals are even slain for having a dream of Snowball. The awful trials continue, “until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones” (Orwell 93). The society that the pigs and Napoleon created has now come to mirror the society that the animals had rebelled against at the beginning of the novel. Napoleon, like other dictators, feels that he must continually prove his power in order to keep from being overthrown.
Napoleon constantly manipulates the thoughts and beliefs of the other animals, sets up Snowball as a scapegoat, and proves his power by making others suffer for his failures, similar to how Stalin and other dictators established and controlled their regimes. When those in power become corrupt, prosperous societies become dystopias controlled by the wishes and wants of those who lead. Lord Acton once said that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” a theme that is echoed not only throughout this novel, but also throughout history.