‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Oliver Twist’, by George Orwell and Charles Dickens Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:53:20
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‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Oliver Twist’, by George Orwell and Charles Dickens respectively, are both novels written by two very different authors writing on a rather similar theme. Both novels outline the subject of human suffering and it is the authors’ different choices of means by which they convey this that creates the immediately apparent contrast.
Both writers write their novels in a style new to their era; the awakening of social awareness targeted by Dickens and his contemporary writers of the mid-Victorian period such as Thomas Carlyle and William Morris, and Orwell’s originality in depicting the fate of Bolshevism in Russia through anthropomorphism. Some have said that Dickens’s incentive to write Oliver Twist was that of bellicosity toward a female contemporary of his literary age: Harriet Martineau.
Dickens understood fully the propaganda Martineau was incorporating in her novels and aside from the other causes of his writing of Oliver Twist, he wished to disseminate a contrary notion of ill-justice within the infrastructure of industrialist Victorian England. The same can be said of Orwell; he lived amidst the height of British imperialist power and felt that in writing novels on the subject of communism, such as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four, he could make the others aware of not only the idyllic nature of communism as a working ideological principle, but its ultimate failings when implemented imperfectly.
Evelyn Waugh was a writer with whom Orwell shared the style of writing that observed and commented upon politics, and Waugh satirised the nature of bourgeois Britain that Orwell professed to disdain. Unlike Orwell, however, Waugh was a Conservative man. And viewed communism not as a wonderful alternative to capitalism but as an issue that at some point could threaten it. In his book ‘Brideshead Revisited’ Waugh told of the decline of the aristocracy and thereby predicted a banal future of a classless society.
This foresight can be accredited to the nature in which Britain had fought the war; it was a war whereby class mattered little for that brief period in history. Oliver Twist commences its first chapter under the heading: “Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born, and of the circumstances attending his birth. ” The reader at this stage in his or her knowledge of the book’s content will not be able to assume a great deal from this and it is possible that one may even incorrectly anticipate a story of a wealthier boy as could have been told by a contemporary of Dickens’, such as Martineau.
However, any such thoughts are dispelled promptly as the first few introductory paragraphs list instances of suffering on the part of the child being delivered. Dickens may do this to make the novel instantly appeal to those entranced in the type of novel he is writing to oppose, or he may be aiming to begin the book with irony. p. 1 “For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble…it remained a matter of doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all…” Here it can be observed that Dickens chooses to class the child as “it”, as a means of showing the child’s unimportance and insignificance.
Immediately the reader can picture the unfortunate circumstances the child has found himself begotten into and the theme of suffering has started. Animal Farm opens immediately into an earnest and simple account of the neglectful nature of a certain Mr. Jones, whom the reader can identify as a farmer. “Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. ” In Animal Farm, the deterioration of the animals’ lives commences in the aftermath of their revolt against Mr. Jones as they are made to suffer under the auspicious and increasingly powerful pigs.
The pigs, as the most intelligent animals on the farm, take over in the role of the negligent farmer and inflict suffering on the animals in the blatant inequality they create. This new way of life contradicts the egalitarianism represented by ‘Animalism’ which is the revolution’s political philosophy Orwell uses to encapsulate communism. It is the degeneration of the animals’ standard of living that perpetuates the suffering theme surrounding this revolution and the reader is made fully aware of the level of hardship present at the start of the novel during a speech made by the elderly wise boar Old Major.
Animal Farm, p. 3 “The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth. ” Animal Farm, p. 4 “And you, Clover, where are those four foals you bore…? Each was sold at a year old – you will never see one of them again” Oliver Twist Unlike the excessively intricate language used by Dickens, the language of Orwell is entirely succinct in its use of terminology. The difference between the two narrators is upon first sight obviously that of Dickens’s ornate style and Orwell’s conciseness but also the two authors include irony in different forms to one another.
Dickens very often incorporates full-blown sarcasm to his text outside of dialogue while Orwell’s is a more subtle irony. Oliver Twist, p. 22 “A beadle ordered to hold his tongue! A moral revolution! ” To show the overly high esteem the beadle holds himself in as a member of society Dickens uses the narrator as a clearly well educated gentleman, with a strong opinion on the matters of unfair social standings, to mock the superciliousness of men such as the beadle through sarcasm. The sarcasm he uses serves to depict the thoughts a beadle would hold and the outrageousness of them.
Animal Farm, p. 37 “All that year the animals worked like slaves. ” The animals actually are slaves in the regime of the pigs under whom they operate. Use of such irony by Orwell demonstrates the way in which the animals still overlook their terrible condition of living following the ousting of Mr. Jones and the reign of ‘Animalism’ as a self-governing farm. The animals continue to see their predicament as a great achievement following a time of what was deemed to be of ill treatment and hardship; comparatively, the reader realises, the animals lived better that way.
In using this irony through his animal characters Orwell can allegorically tell of the incidents of the Russia’s communist affairs and the collective psychology behind its rise and downfall. The peasants who fought under Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky for communist ideals to be implemented are represented as farm animals other than pigs – who represent leaders of the revolution – and, while Orwell never tells anything directly to us as to the feelings of the animals through narration, his irony can tell us a great deal.
In the above statement the reader is shown how the peasants/animals fail to recognise the similarities between their lives prior to revolution and subsequently to it. In the two author’s use of irony through their narrators there is, again, a difference. Orwell’s narrator is an impartial person whose irony is the only insight given into the novel, while Dickens presents his narrator as being a person who expresses opinion blatantly through sarcasm in reference to the characters, their bigoted nature or their superficiality.
It could be said that Dickens’ narrator is his self as the narrator writes intricately like a well-learned human being, as Dickens grew to be ultimately, and as a man or woman who feels strongly on the subject being told of. Oliver Twist, p. 253 “It was almost too much happiness to bear. Oliver felt stunned and stupefied by the unexpected intelligence; he could not weep, or speak, or rest. ” Dickens incorporates into his narrative writing in the novel a good deal of saddening statements, such as the one quoted above, which keep a theme of suffering running throughout the novel.
Dickens’ main source of suffering recounted in Oliver’s life is as much a lack of happiness as it is actual hardship and Dickens as a narrator ensures that this is reminded frequently to the reader. Very little of Animal Farm is written through dialogue, therefore the entire novel is mainly narrative recollections of events. In this the greatest form of suffering following the Bolshevik Revolution is symbolised: the lack of communication. The narrator mentions little correspondence between the animals and Orwell’s deliberate omission of conversation relates the novel to post-revolutionary Russia.
The people of Russia were helpless to stop Stalin’s reign of terror when there was no communication between population and dictatorship and were, therefore, left without ability to break free. Furthermore, whenever dialogue is used, it is largely that of the pigs in charge of the farm; from this it could be observed that wherever Orwell has opted to use speech he more often than not has that of the pigs showing that under Stalin especially, whatever there was of the limited communication, it only came from the powerful leaders.
The general readership assume that both authors denounce the oppression in both of the novels but Orwell remains fully neutral in his criticism of the parties he writes of and creates an authorial void thereof, whereby the reader has to fill this void to form an opinion of the issue in hand. In the following quotation, the narrator writes about a horrible event of carnage but shows absolutely no reaction or opinion. Animal Farm, p. 52-53 “When they had finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out. It is a widely acknowledged fact that both George Orwell and Charles Dickens had socialist ideals, although it must be remembered that Dickens lived through an age in which socialism existed only as an ideal and not as a political doctrine or even a word. Dickens’ experience of politics is very much different to that of Orwell; communism, the politics Orwell studied largely and was interested by, did not come officially into being until the publication of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 1848.
Communism affected Orwell a great deal and it affected the world equally; in 1980 four in every ten human beings on the earth lived under a Marxist government. Dickens did not have this considerable political monster hanging over his world as communism existed in its infancy at this time; nor did Dickens have a World War engaging around him, and nor did he know of global suffering. The two writers wrote in entirely different ages but were pioneering authors of their respective eras.
Suffering continues throughout both Animal Farm and Oliver Twist,not so much as a theme but moreso as an inherent part of the lives of the characters. Orwell scarcely directly mentions the suffering that his characters endure and even when he does he deliberately only skims the surface of that suffering; he chooses never to comment on the lies and propaganda the pigs use in their reign over the animalist farm and merely reports them in the form in which they occur. Dickens, however, ensures that the reader is aware of the message he is conveying by using sarcasm and also on occasion highlighting injustices.
Oliver Twist, p. 11 “What a noble illustration of the tender laws of England! They let the paupers go to sleep! ” This quotation serves to demonstrate further the sarcasm Dickens uses in his display of content held against the hierarchy of his society and also the manner in which he points out the suffering to the reader. The reader can also comprehend from this Dickens’ categorical accusation of the English hierarchy that they are guilty of self-aggrandisement and self-congratulation on a successful and noble society they believe themselves to have achieved.
Oliver Twist, p. 222 “…a weary catalogue of evils and calamities which hard men had brought upon him Oliver. ” From this, though, one can see also the way in which Dickens also chooses plainly and without irony to raise the reader’s awareness of the suffering. The novel gains from Dickens’ mixture of ironical and direct narration a sense of awareness and consciousness in the authorial voice, while the image of the author is continued as that of an intellectually and politically aware person.
A reader can draw from a combination of irony and simplicity a feel of knowledge of the text in hand and the subject being narrated on; this is how Dickens manages to achieve an audience of mixed dispositions. Those whom writers such as Harriet Martineau could attract would read Dickens for the epic tales he tells and those interested in the nature of Dickens’ political writing can also find the novel of interest. Animal Farm, p. 46 “Starvation seemed to stare them in the face. ”
Orwell, however, mentions suffering as it would be seen by the animals and not in a more complex way. The animals remain blind to the oppression they endure under the pigs for a long time and never once does the narrator represent events from a biased angle, like the narrator of Oliver Twist does. Dickens’ narrator is a gentleman aware of the situation and he shows this to his audience; Orwell’s narrator would not even be associated to a human voice as it expresses no awareness it may have, unlike a human narrator would.
In Oliver Twist Oliver is more aware of the sloth of his masters than the animals in Animal Farm, but he too is not fully conscious of the greed his masters are guilty of. Through Orwell’s use of narration it can be observed that he wished for the novel not to be read by a widespread readership but to be read by those whom he wished it to affect most: political people and those of intellectual nature. Animal Farm was Orwell’s method through which he interpreted the highly contentious issue of Bolshevism and explained it to others who wished to think about it.

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