Literary Qualities

An extremely disciplined writer, Orwell consistently used language to enhance the development of plot while providing insight into thematic concerns. This is especially true in Animal Farm, an imaginative examination of the interaction of language and political method. Written in a pure, subtle, and simplistic style, Animal Farm evokes descriptive imagery and stunning clarity of purpose. Although the novel begins with a relatively light tone, it gradually evolves into a menacing and debilitating void. Coming full circle, the novel ends with a tremendous sense of futility and loss as even the memory of the revolution fades into quiet and passive oblivion.

Orwell conceived of Animal Farm as an allegorical beast fable, drawing on a literary convention attributed to Aesop and dating from the seventh century bc. Popular in almost every literary period, the beast fable is most often designed to satirize human folly as well as to provide moral instruction. An avid reader, Orwell was undoubtedly influenced by the work of the seventeenth-century French writer La Fontaine and in his own century by Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Just So Stories.

Orwell clearly descends from an impressive lineage of English satirists, particularly those of the eighteenth century including Dryden, Swift, and Pope. Animal Farm is consistently and appropriately compared to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as having the capacity to simultaneously delight while pointing an accusing finger at the limitations of human kindness and decency. In the twentieth century, satire is generally utilized in the fictional narrative as it is in Animal Farm to criticize with the ultimate goal of improvement. In this capacity, Orwell joins company with such diverse writers as Evelyn Waugh, Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, and Aldous Huxley. Integrating political and artistic purpose, Orwell’s beast fable proved a radical departure from his previous work but an extremely successful literary vehicle and quite possible his most distinguished creative achievement.

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