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The Dystopian Novel

For most of the 19th-century writers and thinkers, utopia was a thing of the future, the culmination of the forces of historical evolution, prepared by the most powerful and progressive tendencies of modern times: democracy, science and socialism. The renewal of utopia also stimulated its counter-force: anti-utopia/dystopia. As utopia concentred on the positive, so dystopia painted the most negative, the blackest picture possible of the present and the future to come.


- it concentrated on the positive.
- it dedicates the techniques of literary imagination to the cause of modern ideas of science and socialism.
- it invented all social orders which were perfect in the moral sense.
- it is considered as ideal in the sense of the best possible.
- The expected responses to what is experienced are delight.
- the reader is invited to live the life of a society based on certain principles.


- it gives the most negative, the blackest picture possible of the present and the future to come.
- it dedicates the techniques of literary imagination against modernity.
- here the perfection of some modern systems or ideas in the social science is dreadful (terrible).
- it represents the victory or tyranny of the idea.
- The expected responses to what is experienced are horror.
- the reader is invited to live the life of a society based on certain principles.

George Orwell (1903, India-1950, Londra)

The trauma of public-school education

George Orwell is the pen-name of Eric Arthur Blair. He is sent to school in England where he has to study very hard in order to win a scholarship since his parents were poor. He is admitted to Eton, a famous boys' school, but he resented its snobbishness. This is touchingly described in his essay "Such, Such Were the Joys (1953).

Living with the lower classes

He decides to enroll in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He wants to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man's dominion over man. He returns to Europe with a keen sense of guilt in relation to the working classes; to calm down it, he abandons his upper-class friends and family and works in London and Paris hotels and restaurants, often socializing with tramps and the unemployed. He records writes down these experiences respectively in "Burmese Days"(1934) and "Down and Out in Paris and London"(1933).
Later he teaches in private schools and works in bookshops to win a name as a writer. In 1936, at the height (al culmine) of the Great Depression, comes out "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" and he is commissioned to travel to the north of England to write about social conditions there: the result is "The Road to Wigan Pier" (1937), an account of his life and work with miners.

The war in Spain

Like many left-wing writers of the 1930s, Orwell considers a moral duty to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish civil war, even if he sees the manipulation of socialists who had gathered there from all over Europe. This produced "Homage to Catalonia" (1938), an affectionate but also a critical description of his time in Spain.

Journalism and the greatest works

Rejected for the army as unfit for medical motifs he works for the BBC Indian Service. He becomes literary editor of the socialist newspaper "Tribune". In spite of his left-wing ideas, his disillusionment with the totalitarian methods of world Communism is growing. It finally comes to the surface in his political fable "Animal Farm" (1945), a satire of the Russian Revolution. Before dying he publics "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (1949), an anti-utopian novel which describes a future world in which a tyrannical power, headed by the dictator Big Brother (the symbol of modern man's enslavement to mass media), controls man's actions and thoughts through telescreens and microphones present in every room and street.

“Animal Farm” (1945, when the Soviet Union is still one of the allied powers and Stalin is at the height of his prestige. This novel was regarded with hostility by Orwell's fellow-socialists. The work began to be shaped in his mind after he comes back home from Spain where his belief in socialist Russia was shattered.)

Theme: the importance and the failure of political ideas.

The Hopeless Revolution

It is a political fable in the form of an allegory which describes how the animals on a farm rebel against their cruel master. The animals decide to run the farm themselves on socialist principles (a parody of workers running farms and factory in the Soviet Union), summed up in 7 commandments written on the wall of the barn; but in a short time the pigs being smarted and more selfish and gain control over the other animals and start to behave as cruelly as the human master, founding in fact a society based on exploitation. The sad conclusion is that the animals/workers are both exploited, they lack social consciousness, they cannot work for their own good, and that revolutions are destinated to fail and result in new forms of oppression. This fable specifically satirizes the corruption of Socialism in the Soviet Union. A paralogue can be found in Russian history, even if Animal Farm is intended as a satire on dictatorship in general.

The story

The animals of an old British farm are tired of being exploited by the farmer, Mr Jones. One of the animals, an old pig called Old Major (he stands for a mixture of Marx and Lenin), convinces the others that they should rebel against man and set up an independent community: Animal Farm, only run by animals. The animal's revolution takes place, led by two disciples of Old Major: two pigs called Napoleon (he is Stalin, he uses terror in order to maintain his power over the animals. He can also represent the historical Napoleon, like him he has come out of a revolution only to end up as an emperor) and Snowball (he is Trotsky, his bravery is an example to the other animals through his inspiring speeches). An equalitarian or socialist community is established in the place of the old farm, and all the animals are asked to work for and contribute to the commonwealth. The farm's statutes are drawn up, in the form of 7 commandments; the most important is the seventh: "All animals are equal". This, however, proves not true because Napoleon gradually concentrates all the power in his hands and grants privileges to his fellow pigs: he even creates a police force, made up by the hounds (the metaphor for terror the State that Stalin created in Russia and as a means of giving order and crushing political opposition) he of the farm, to discourage opposition to his rule. A new form of oppression begins: the pigs have taken the place of the men. In fact, even hostility to man, one of the original commandments, has ceased: the other animals finally see pigs and men drinking together to celebrate their pacification and common rule over the farm. A strange thing has happened: to the other animals looking at the scene, the faces of the pigs and the faces of the men seem more and more similar, till they can no longer be distinguished.

In a passage of the text the animals are terrified by the unusual scene: the farm’s pigs are walking on two legs, like man. Their parade across the yard is a parody of military parades. The sheep, with their tremendous bleating of four legs good, two legs better!, correspond to the masses in totalitarian regimes that sing out slogans. Inequality becomes an article of the law: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.

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