“Nearly all men can withstand hardship, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” Abraham Lincoln once said. Lord Acton, who once said, “Absolute authority corrupts absolutely,” shared his words. We have seen presidents transform dramatically as soon as they take office since time immemorial. They are easy to forget about the people who elected them and impose a tyrannical law designed to protect their interests to the detriment of the voters. Such a pattern can be seen in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” where Napoleon gradually changes the laws of the land to meet both his and the Squealer’s needs. Napoleon’s attitude and actions towards the society and the animals’ best denote how power corrupts leaders. He receives absolute power and corrupts.
Some parties may argue that dictatorship is the best form of governance in any particular social setting because it gets things done. When leaders rule with iron fists, the electorate is forced to conform to their ideologies fearing the repercussions that may arise from going against their formulated policies. I, however, disagree entirely with this sentiments because of the adverse effects associated with a dictatorship rule. In a dictatorship, the government tends to focus more on spreading propaganda rather than looking after the needs of the electorate. This can be observed in the text where we see Napoleon concentrating on spreading false rumors about Snowball rather than addressing the needs of his people who are wallowing in oppression. Dictatorship also results in disregard of the opinion and views of the electorate. I believe that democracy is the best form of governance. In a democratic form of government, people are free to express themselves however they feel like as long as they do not infringe the privacy and space of others. In the text, we see the massive benefits that are brought about when the animals adhere to the basic principles of animalism, i.e., all animals are equal, and no animal shall acquire human features. Untold pain and suffering are imposed on the animals as soon as dictatorship begins being practiced by Napoleon and his followers (“Literary Analysis of Animal Farm”).
The first instance where we see power corrupting the moral fabric of leaders is when Napoleon begins competing for dominance win Snowball to the extent that he sends his guard dogs after him to chase him from the farm. “Napoleon stood up and, casting a peculiar sidelong look at Snowball uttered a high-pitched whimper of a kind no one had ever heard him utter before.” Soon after, the guard dogs chased Snowball all over the farm, and Snowball escaped through the hedge” (Orwell, 24). Napoleon was primarily jealous because other animals liked Snowball’s idea of building an electricity-generating windmill. He wants all the power to himself, and he figures that the only way he can obtain full dominance over the other animals is by eliminating his chief competitor Snowball. He, therefore, gets rid of him and embarks on a tyrannical rule that exploits his fellow animals.
Napoleon’s oppressive rule is also another indicator showing that absolute power corrupts. He declares death upon any animal that contests his leadership or attempts to conform to the conspiracy ideologies of his sworn enemy Snowball. He even stages a great purge in an attempt to curb and contain animals that participated in Snowball’s conspiracy. His undisputed reign forces boxer to coin a second maxim which states, “Napoleon is always right” (Halas, 53). Napoleon further exerts his dominance over his people by portraying Snowball as the villain. Another situation depicting the misuse of power by the ruling class is when the pigs take the milk and apples telling other animals that albeit everyone is equal, some are more equal than others. According to them, the pigs do more of the thinking; therefore, they require the supplies to replenish their energy. The exploitative rule of Napoleon leaves the common animals cold, hungry and overworked.
Napoleon’s ultimate form of betrayal to his fellow animals is when he decides to collaborate with the enemy. He joins forces with a human farmer named Pilkington declaring war against laboring classes both animal and human. He adopts the way of life of human beings and begins practicing activities such as drinking whiskey, sleeping in bed and trading with other farmers (O’Neill, 72). All which were against the seven commandments of Animalism. He also goes on to betrayal his most loyal servant Boxer claiming that he had died in peace after fighting for the rebellion when in fact he had been sold to a glue maker to obtain more money for whiskey. The animals are left in a turmoil since they become unable to distinguish the pigs from human beings.
In a nutshell, any leader who takes up a particular leadership role always starts their reign with the best interest of the people at heart. They start their rule with the best intentions putting the needs of the electorate before their own needs. This is evident in the excerpt where we see the success obtained during the initial stages of governance by Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer. We are told that during the first year of their reign the harvest was good, the reading and writing system practiced was also beneficial to some. Greed and the desire for more steps in and the leaders completely change and begin putting their selfish interests first as in the case of Napoleon and the pigs. Why do leaders change as soon as they assume a higher position? Why does power corrupt minds? George Orwell’s, “Animal Farm” is an exciting piece of work that I would recommend to all ardent readers.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. , 2018. Print.
Halas, John. Animal Farm. , 2015. Internet resource.
O’Neill, Terry. Readings on Animal Farm. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1998. Print.
“Literary Analysis of Animal Farm.” An Examination of the Life and Works of George Orwell, ab3orwell.weebly.com/literary-analysis-of-animal-farm.html.