It is the history of a revolution that went wrong — and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine’, wrote Orwell in the original blurb for the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945. His simple and tragic fable has become a world-famous classic of English prose.
George Orwell is the pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair. The change of the name corresponded to a profound shift in Orwell’s life-style, in which he changed from a pillar of the British imperial establishment into a literary and political rebel.
Orwell is famous for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four. In 1944 Orwell finished Animal Farm, a political fable based on the story of the Russian Revolution and its betrayal by Joseph Stalin. In this book the group of barnyard animals overthrow and chase off their exploitative human masters and set up an egalitarian society of their own. Eventually the animals intelligent and power-loving leaders, the pigs, subvert the revolution and form a dictatorship whose bondage is even more oppressive a heartless than that of their former masters.
Orwell derived his inspiration from the mood of Britain in the ‘40s. Animal Farm confronted the unpalatable truth that the victory over Fascism would in some respects unwittingly aid the advance of totalitarianism , while in Nineteen Eighty-four warns the dangers to the individual of enroaching collectivism. In these last, bleak fables Orwell attempted to make the art of political writing in the traditions of Swift and Defoe. The most world-known Gulliver’s Travels. This satire? First published in 1726, relates to the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon on a merchant ship, and it shows the vices and defects of man and human institutions. So far as satire has become the subject of our research-work, it is necessary we look at the nature and sources of comic.
What is comic? Similar considerations apply to the historically earlier forms and theories of the comic. In Aristotle’s view ‘laughter was intimately related to ugliness and debasement’. Cicero held that the province of the ridiculous lay in the certain baseness and deformity. In 19th century Alexander Bain, an early experimental psychologist, thought alone these lines ‘not in physical effects alone, but in everything where a man can achieve a stroke of superiority, in surpassing or discomforting a rival is the disposition of laughter apparent.’ Sidney notes that ‘while laughter comes from delight not all objects of delight cause laugh. We are ravished in delight to see a fair woman and yet are far from being moved to laughter. We laugh at deformed creatures, wherein certainly we can delight’. Immanuel Kant realized that what causes laughter is ‘the sudden transformation of a tense expectation into nothing’. This can be achieved by incongruity between form and content, it is when two contradictory statements have been telescoped into a line whose homely, admonitory sound conveys the impression of a popular adage. In a similar way nonsense verse achieves its effect by pretending to make sense. It is interesting to note that the most memorable feature of Animal Farm — the final revision of the animals revolutionary commandments: ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’, is based on that device.
Other sources of innocent laughter are situations in which the part and the home change roles and attention becomes focused on a detail torn out of the functional defect on which its meaning depends. ‘A bird’s wing, comrades, is an organ of propulsion not of manipulation’. Orwell displaces attention from meaning to spelling. One of the most popular comic devices is impersonation. The most aggressive form of impersonation is parody, designed to deflate hollow pretense, to destroy illusion and to undermine pathos by harping on the weaknesses of the victim. Orwell resorts to that device describing Squealer:’ The best known among them was a small fat pig named Squealer with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements and a shrill voice. He was a brilliant talker:’