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Orwell’s Animal Farm: The Causes of Dysfunctional Societies in Dystopian Novels

The majority of modern-day governments run on democracy, giving citizens some control over decisions that impact their everyday life. Too much power would lead to anarchy, and no decisions would ever be made. However, too little power creates a totalitarian government making every decision, with very unhappy civilians. This can be seen in J.T. Anderson’s Feed, where the government has built a society where people must get feeds implanted in their brains to contribute and be successful in society, and become brainwashed as consumers who buy whatever they are told to buy. It can also be observed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where Napoleon turns the animal’s farm into his dictatorship, bending the rules to his benefit and exploiting the other animal’s fears and weaknesses. In the novels Feed by J.T. Anderson and Animal Farm by George Orwell, it is demonstrated that a system of government where citizens have no power leads to a dysfunctional society. This is displayed through the manipulating leadership that only focuses on benefitting itself, the lack of resistance from victims, and the ways that compliance was enforced in the population.

Both stories contain leadership structures whose sole purpose is to benefit themselves and avoid rebellion. They do this by manipulating civilians and taking away their individuality to want to fight back. In Feed, members of society are taught to defend the government’s decisions and to stop questioning their authority to prevent backlash. “They cut down Jefferson Park? That is so like corporate-” [Violet said] My father nodded and smiled at her with this meg condescending smile on his face, and was like, “Dude, I remember when I was like you. You should grow up to be a, you know. Clean-air worker or something. Don’t lose that. But remember. It’s about people. People need a lot of air.” (Anderson, 126). Titus’ father has been brainwashed into thinking that this situation is for the community, meanwhile, the government is just trying to make more profits with another factory. By doing this, the government does not have to deal with the resistance they would receive from more people like Violet.

The government is so focused on their reputation but also profits that they have completely turned corporate. “Set in a not-too-distant future, the novel’s consciousness of the geopolitical and environmental hazards of consumer capitalism in risk society is figured through characters who are for the most part unfazed by clouds so artificial they are trademarked...The characters’ awareness of this outcome of predatory capitalism is limited by the parasitical relationship corporate capitalism—in the novel, the Feed Corporation—has with the consumer.” (Bullen, 6). By running like a business, the government can forget the people that rely on them and focus on profits, and benefit themselves. This creates a dysfunctional society because the people’s needs will never be met as the government does not listen. This can also be seen in Orwell’s Animal Farm, where Squealer is used as a propagandist to get what the pigs want out of the other animals. 'You have heard then, comrades,' [Squealer] said, 'that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds?... You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?' (Orwell, 67).

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The animals are convinced that they need to listen to the pigs or else Jones, the former farm owner, might come back. This allows the pigs to put the animals into much worse living conditions, get them to do what they need, and avoid questions on any rules they are breaking. These pigs are originally described as cute and humorous, rather they are very intelligent and manipulating. “The name Napoleon in some ways fits this pig’s character: he fancies himself a great military leader and will soon prove a tyrant who betrays the hopes the animals place in him… Squealer is less his name (which in some ways seems very appropriate to his position as chief revolutionary propagandist)” (Evans, 7). Not only does the reader underestimate the pigs, but the other animals do as well. Napoleon takes charge of everything. Everything must benefit Napoleon. The animals begin a chant in his honor, confess to the smallest crimes as acts of bravery and honesty, all for Squealer to scare them into continuing this cycle, to continue to benefit Napoleon, and the government. Evidently, the leadership running society in Anderson’s Feed and Orwell’s Animal Farm are solely focused on their benefit, and they manipulate their citizens to get what they want.

For one to get what they desire, they must fight for it. In Feed and Animal Farm, both societies have a lack of defiance against the government to get the change they are looking for. In Feed, the characters understand the threats behind the Feed Corporation but do not do anything about it. “Of course, everyone is like, da da da, evil corporations, oh they’re so bad, we all say that, and we all know they control everything. I mean, it’s not great, because who knows what evil shit they’re up to. Everyone feels bad about that. But they’re the only way to get all this stuff, and it’s no good getting pissy about it because they’re still going to control everything whether you like it or not. Plus, they keep like everyone in the world employed, so it’s not like we could do without them.” (Anderson, 20). Titus is capable of acknowledging the issues behind their way of government, but the brainwashing and the lack of power he feels keep him from doing anything about it. If citizens never feel strong enough to fight back, society will never change, because the leadership does not have to. “Titus and his friends maintain enough teenage rebelliousness to want to undermine the corporations that they know dominate their world, but they have insufficient imagination to be able to conceive of any rebellion beyond doing in excess what the corporations actually want them to do.” (Booker, 8). The corporations directly manipulate the social structure to a point where they monopolize the thoughts of the people.

People will never fight against a system that sustains them. In Orwell’s Animal Farm, there is also a lack of opposition, where the animals and their lower levels of intelligence than the pigs had forgotten most of the past and were subject to believing everything Squealer wanted them to believe. “Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they Animal Farm were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless, it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out.” (Orwell, 113). Unlike in Feed, where the characters wanted to stop the government actions but did not feel empowered enough to do so, Animal Farm’s characters are completely oblivious to what is going on, making their situation even worse. This blindness to their surroundings only leads them to be manipulated even more so because they think the conditions are getting better. “George Orwell’s Animal Farm does not include a malcontent who opposes and fights against the system. Malcontents cause readers to question how such characters have managed to transcend the false consciousness (the belief system that obscures the truth of the oppressive and unjust situation) that most everyone else remains inundated beneath.” (Gibson, 1). No animal on the farm wants or has any reason to fight back against Napoleon and his army. He does not even need to worry about any opposition, which means the pigs can do whatever they like, and their society will always be dysfunctional and corrupt. If malcontents in both of these stories stood up and fought against them, they might have had a chance to fix their world.

To keep citizens from fighting back against these corrupt leaderships, they enforced compliance. The government did not want to change its ways. In Anderson’s Feed, it was made necessary to install the feed, or citizens would be viewed as outsiders of the society’s culture. “[Violet’s father speaking] I was at a job interview. I was an excellent candidate. Two men were interviewing me. Talking about this and that. Then they were silent, just looking at me. I grew uncomfortable. Then they began looking at each other and doing what I might call smirking. I realized that they had chatted me and that I had not responded. They found this funny. Risible. That a man would not have a feed. So they were chatting about me in my presence. Teasing me when I could not hear. Free to assess me as they would, right in front of me. I did not get the job. It was thus that I realized that my daughter would need the feed. She had to live in the world. I asked her if she wanted it. She was a little girl. Of course, she said yes. It was installed.” (Anderson, 288). In this situation, these men had grown up learning that the feed is necessary for one’s life, and the leadership was getting its way. Violet’s family had long refused the idea of the Feed, but were subject to change or else they would be cut out of society. They have no way of living their life in this society without becoming the consumers the leadership wants them to become. “Denied an education, the young people of Feed are trained not as citizens but as consumers, while shadowy political forces seek to undermine the corrupt world of the novel. In effect, then, the dystopian setting of Feed is a state of emptiness where the young are offered consumerism as a substitute for participation in citizenship.” (Bradford).

The citizens are pushed to purchase the same things as everyone else, through the feed. It brainwashes them and blends everyone’s interests to make it easier to sell to them. Nobody wants to fall into this, but the consequences are too severe to try and avoid it, and these consumers feel like they are missing out if they do not have it. In Orwell’s Animal Farm, the consequences are not just fitting into society, they would be killed. “Napoleon emerged from the farmhouse, wearing both his medals, with his nine huge dogs frisking round him and uttering growls that sent shivers down all the animals' spines. They all cowered silently in their places, seeming to know in advance that some terrible thing was about to happen.” (Orwell, 82). Because the other animals would not be able to defend themselves, Napoleon and his group were able to instill fear into them, to force them to listen to him. They had to follow their leader’s directions or face a painful, deadly fate. At this point, the animals have no way out of this system as it is now a dictatorship. “Animal Farm also provides a representation of “mythical violence” as a force that preserves the law, exemplified by the institution of a police force of dogs. The audacious and ferocious nature of their duty leads to the desired effects of terror and enslavement. By threatening to use them—following Snowball’s escape from the farm—Napoleon establishes a dictatorship.” (Altobelli, 11). Napoleon takes extreme measures to ensure that nobody else disobeys him as Snowball had. The terror they put into the animals was enough to make them do what they were told. Nobody would disobey. It is seemingly impossible for the animals of Animal Farm and the citizens of Feed to ever retrieve their freedom and control over their own lives.

Through the ways compliance was enforced in the population, the lack of defiance from victims, and the misleading leadership that only focused on benefitting itself, it’s clear why J.T. Anderson’s Feed and George Orwell’s Animal Farm demonstrated that a system of government where citizens have no power leads to a dysfunctional society. With the self-centered, narcissistic leadership style, the citizens never gain anything from being constantly misled. Without any opposition from the civilians, the leadership can continue this cycle. The enforced compliance ensures the leadership benefits as much as possible, and won’t be opposed by the citizens. These societies are completely dysfunctional because the people have no say in any political decisions. Although there is no perfect government or leadership structure, it is important to give each person an equal chance of success, to be a sustainable and functional society.

Works Cited

  1. Altobelli, Dario. “A Tale of Violence: Animal Farm as an Allegory of Social Order.” Literary Reference Center.
  2. Anderson, M.T. Feed. Candlewick Press, 2004.
  3. Booker, Keith M. “Postmodernism and the Cultural Logic of Dystopian Fiction: Brave New World and M. T. Anderson’s Feed.” Literary Reference Center.
  4. Bradford, Clare.” 'Everything must go!' Consumerism and reader positioning in M. T. Anderson's Feed.” Gale Literary Resource Center. 2010.
  5. Bullen, Elizabeth and Elizabeth Parsons. “Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed.” Literary Reference Center.
  6. Evans, Robert C. “The Function of Humor in George Orwell’s Animal Farm” Literary Reference Center.
  7. Gibson, Charity. ““Just Smile and Nod”: The Absent Malcontent in Animal Farm” Literary Reference Center.
  8. Orwell, George. Animal Farm. First Signet Classics Printing, 1996.

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