In ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, there is an abundance of conflict between animals and Man and among the animals themselves. This lesson will take us through some of the major conflicts in this novella.
Think about the last story that you could not wait to tell your friends or family. What was the struggle you faced? All great stories emerge from conflict. The conflicts, or problems that exist either between characters or between opposing parts within a character, create the tension or obstacles that determine the plot points of a story. Let’s look at some of the conflicts that drive the novella Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Old Major was the most respected pig on the farm. He inspired the other animals with a speech about overcoming their oppressor, Mr. Jones, who owned the farm. After this, there was much talk and planning about the type of government the animals would like to have. The animals knew that they wanted to live a communal and democratic lifestyle, but there were no immediate plans for an uprising.
The animals were just as surprised as the humans when the rebellion came. Mr. Jones had gotten drunk and forgotten to feed the animals, so they helped themselves to feed. When the men showed up with whips to punish the animals, it was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. ‘With one accord, though nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their tormentors.’
The conflict between the animals and man came to a head when the animals finally had enough and violently attacked Mr. Jones and his men. Man was driven off of the property and the animals took control. Although there was another incident, the Battle of Cowshed, where Mr. Jones attempted to return to power, the animals overcame their tyrannical leader.
Another major conflict soon followed, as Animal Farm needed new leadership. The pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerged as front-runners, but had very different ideas about the direction the farm needed to go. Snowball had dreams of building a windmill that could provide electricity that would improve conditions for the animals and reduce the workload in the future. Napoleon wanted to spend more time building food stores and concentrating on developing a defense against future attacks. Every issue became a source of tension between the two leaders.
By the time the windmill project came to a vote, Napoleon had trained attack dogs that chased Snowball off of the farm. When Napoleon announced that there would be no more votes, and that his committee would make all farm decisions, some pigs complained, ‘. . . But suddenly the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and the pigs fell silent and sat down again.’ Napoleon continued the conflict with Snowball through the distribution of propaganda about him, but the issue of leadership was settled when Napoleon took control through force.
The Loss of a Dream
An internal conflict occurred within the worker animals as they began to realize that their dreams of overcoming their oppressors and living a better life were never going to come true. They had managed to get out from under Mr. Jones’s tyranny, but it was quickly replaced by Napoleon’s. Every one of the original Seven Commandments of Animalism that were agreed upon by the animals shortly after the Rebellion were altered to benefit Napoleon. The animals worked harder than ever before for less food.
Despite their misery, no one dared speak up as public executions had become commonplace. ‘As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears. If she could have spoken her thoughts, it would have been to say that this is not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race.’ The working animals had to come to terms with their disappointment.
Animal Farm has both internal and external conflicts. These are problems that exist either between characters or between opposing parts within a character. Throughout the story, conflicts develop the action as characters attempt to overcome them. Some examples of external conflicts are between the animals and man. The animals are under the illusion that if man were removed, all of their problems would be solved. After enduring terrible abuse, they overcome man, but that is just the beginning of their problems.
Soon another conflict emerges between the possible new leaders, Snowball and Napoleon. The upcoming vote over whether or not to build a windmill precipitates Napoleon’s uprising as the new dictator by using the force of attack dogs to chase Snowball off of the farm and suppress the other animals. Napoleon’s violent tyranny forces the animals to face internal conflict as they realize that their lives are not going to get better under animal control of the farm. They had replaced one problematic ruler with another.