Animal Farm – Hopes & Dreams
GCSE Exam Question & Answer
Q: How does Orwell present the importance of hopes and dreams in ‘Animal Farm’?
Start with the point that ‘Animal Farm’ presents the reader with a dream that seems achievable
‘Animal Farm’ is a story of dashed hopes as Orwell takes the reader through the gradual erosion of the animals’ dream of a place where everyone can be equal. Yet at the start of the novel, we have real belief that the animals’ dream can come true. Old Major teaches the animals the ‘Beasts of England’ song; one of the lines is ‘cruel whips no more shall crack’. Through this line, we see the need for hopes and dreams to escape Jones’ brutal mistreatment of his animals. From the beginning, we are on the animals’ side. Old Major is the figure of hope at the start of the novel. He inspires the animals to examine their miserable lives and imagine a future world where they can be free from slavery and enjoy equality. He is an eloquent orator and uses the power of language to ignite hope. Here, the lyrics paint a picture of a world free from ‘cruel whips’ that ‘crack’. The hard c consonants of the alliteration capture the pain of the whips that the animals endure, inspiring them to be free from their torture. Old Major’s use of the modal verb ‘shall’ shows a strong level of certainty; he sees this future utopia as an event that will definitely happen and his certainty excites the animals. Old Major is the allegorical figure that Orwell uses for Karl Marx. Karl Marx was the founder of communism, the philosophy that everyone should be equal, and as such inspired the Russian peasantry that life could be better and to rebel against the repressive Romanov regime. The revolution, inspired by this speech, comes swiftly and, as the humans flee after the revolution, the animals experience great joy as their dream comes true: ‘they gambolled round and round, they hurled themselves into the air’. The dynamic verbs of ‘gambolled’ and ‘hurled’ show the animals’ overwhelming excitement and the hopeful enthusiasm with which they embrace their future.There is a sense of community here as the animals are described collectively, as one being- the animals. This reflects the camaraderie and equality which is the hallmark of their dream. Orwell originally called his novel ‘Animal Farm; a fairy tale’ and there is a sense of a fairy tale here with the talking, emotional animals and their extraordinary achievement.
Move to the point that there are hints from the beginning that the dream will be destroyed
Although ‘Animal Farm’ can be read as a fairy tale, it can also be read as an allegory, and any reader aware of the history of the Russian Revolution would understand this and also be aware that the euphoria of the animals will be short-lived. Indeed, even in the opening chapter there are hints that the dream of an equal, fair society will be difficult to achieve through the presentation of the pigs, who are among the first animals to arrive, sitting down in a prominent spot as they ‘settled down in the straw immediately in front of the platform’. From the outset of the story, the pigs are shown to be dominant. Their positioning of themselves at the front shows their sense of importance and privilege; this is highlighted by the deliberate use of the adverb ‘immediately’ which sharply reinforces their sense of superiority. Already, even as Old Major presents his vision for an equal society, Orwell uses the pigs’ positioning to foreshadow how the pigs have no interest in a dream of equality.
Move to the point that the pigs exploit ideas of hope and dreams for their own benefit
As conditions on the farm deteriorate under the pigs’ rule, the animals cling determinedly to the dream of the revolution bringing a better life, and the pigs work hard to maintain that illusion. The use of a cult of personality is one of these ways of keeping dreams alive as Napoleon triumphantly displays the money that he has received in payment for the timber: ‘smiling beatifically, and wearing both his decorations, Napoleon reposed… with the money at his side’. Napoleon’s status as a great, revered leader manipulates the animals so that they believe they are still better off under his regime than under Jones’. Near the end of the story, Moses the raven comes back onto the farm to talk to the animals about ‘Sugarcandy Mountain’. The pigs allow Moses to peddle the dream of an after-life to the oppressed animals as they know that, without any hope for anything better, the animals could become so disillusioned that they end up rebelling. It is ironic that the animals’ best hope now rests in an afterlife, not the in the life that they fought so hard to achieve. Moses represents the church and reminds us of how Karl Marx claimed that religion is the opiate of the masses. Certainly, we see how the animals are soothed and reassured by this hope of an afterlife, just as the Russian Orthodox Church was used by Stalin in the 1940s to improve morale during the hard years of the war.
Finish with exploring whether the novel leaves us any hope for those who dream of a fairer, more egalitarian society
Despite the conclusion of the novel with the animals living a life of miserable servitude under the complete control of Napoleon, there is perhaps, a symbol of hope in the character of Clover. The cyclical structure of the novel with the pigs and humans morphing into one means that the reader wonders whether there will be another revolution; Clover is not so downtrodden that she cannot investigate what the pigs are up to. The animals creep up to the farmhouse and ‘paused, half-frightened to go on, but Clover led the way in.’ The conjunction ‘but’ emphasises the courage of the old horse and her authority is clear in the verb ‘led’. If there is to be another revolution, it will perhaps be Clover, who has witnessed the whole process already, who will be instrumental in bringing it about. There is still a sense of hope left for the reader, especially if we remember that Orwell was a great champion of the working class, as is evident in his great work ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. He believed in a more equal society that, if the working class were active and involved, could be achieved. Clover, who is the symbol of the working classes in the novel, can instigate again that hope for a better life. However, this is only one interpretation, and there is a much bleaker reading of the novel as a story of inevitable shattered dreams. It seems unlikely that Clover, with her ‘old, dim eyes’ can be a symbol of hope; she is physically frail and she, like the other animals, fails to challenge the pigs at any point in the novel. It seems that the negativity that Benjamin expresses is the underlying message of Animal Farm; Benjamin says that ‘life would go on as it had always gone on- that is, badly.’ The donkey has no faith that society will ever change and his pessimism is, perhaps, our lasting message from the novel.
Essential Exam Tips
• Don’t spend ages writing an introduction. Get stuck into the question straightaway.
• Keep an eye on the time. Write the time that you need to have finished this ‘Animal Farm’ question on a piece of paper and stick to it. If you run over too much, your response to the next question will suffer.