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Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The sentence quoted in the book "Animal Farm", by George Orwell, defines a very simple reality, one in which people value animals based on their value to them.


Throughout its 130 pages, the reader is confronted with a non-fictional story that questions the social dynamics of power and, furthermore relates the transformation of the oppressed into a born oppressor. 


But, after all, how can the oppressed transform themselves into the evil that they have suffered so much? that they have fought against? More than that, how can the oppressed turn against an equal? It is this mechanism of social metamorphosis that will be symbolized in this story, which begins in England, at the Manor Farm. 


Initially led by Mr. Jones, the farm contained a large number of animals: chickens, dogs, horses, goats, donkeys, sheep, cows and pigs. The animals maintained the farm through their milk, eggs, by working on the plow, by fertilizing the soil through their manure, and everything that was produced there was turned into incomes by Mr. Jones. 


Throughout the pages, one realizes that the animals in the story have human characteristics, such as questioning their environments, talking about deep issues and discussing ideas of justice and freedom. Given this circumstance, it does not take long before they feel exploited, realizing that they got nothing out of all the work they put in. After all, Mr. Jones only held such a privileged position because he was human. 


In a passage near the begging of the book, an elderly pig, the old Major, says: man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He doesn't give milk, doesn't lay eggs, is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. 


The Major’s views on human versus animals and his reach for freedom becomes responsible for kicking off the movement that aims to free the animals from the farm’s captivity. The movement seeks to create an egalitarian society among animals and humans, without any distinction. 


In fact, one of the fundamental rules of the new society was to understand that all humans are enemies, placing the animals in the same social stratification in a new political movement called Animalism. After the death of the old Major, the movement is continued by three other pigs: Snowball, Squealer and Napoleon.


After they take over the farm and oust power from the hands of Mr. Jones, a new banner arises in order to represent the animal class. A hymn entitled "Beasts of England" is created and the seven commandments that would guide the new society. Equality among all animals was the main premise. All matters were dealt with collectively, as were general needs. Everything had been decided by means of an Assembly in order to establish an environment of justice. 


However, some things are much more functional in theory than in practice. Over time, some animals began to work harder than others. Pigs, for example, inspected the work of the farm and the other animals, but did not actually work. Privileges - which should not exist in a so-called egalitarian society - began to appear for the so-called "intellectual workers," who, based on a meritocratic discourse, claimed to deserve a little more than the others. 


Food for the other animals became scarce, the pigs started to live in Mr. Jones' old house, they traded with other farms (demanding more work for the other animals) and even began to trade with humans. Gradually, the pigs no longer treated the farm animals as equals, but as subjects. 


In other words, the work demonstrates the transformation from an equal to a complete stranger. The metamorphosis of a previously oppressed group into an oppressor. It is also a criticism of utopian discourses that use the social position of a group to establish, in theory, a society based on equality and justice. However, this discourse is later used to imprison people and to re-establish a dynamic of authority and power. 


Orwell's ideas of metamorphosis in his novel complements the events that followed the Communist Revolution of 1917 during the Stalinist Era in the Soviet Union. Animals failed to build a fair society based on utopian principles, which can be compared to the period when Stalin came to power and the discussion over reaching utopia through communism emerged. Because of the time he lived in, Orwell may have been motivated to write on the corruption of man and authority.


The pig becomes a human being from the moment he reproduces all behaviors in the same way, with the same intention: to exploit and imprison. Orwell's work brings an important reflection on violence and authority: it doesn't matter where they come from, but the final objective that is intended when practicing them. At a certain point in history, it became impossible to identify the difference between pigs and humans, the so-called enemies, since both started to share the same values. 


The animals in Orwell's childhood novel represent the intricacies of the human experience, highlighting the boundary between a just and a corrupt society. It explores the motives that people can fall into that lead to the exploitation of others.


One must be careful not to become that which one fears so much. 


illustration: Ralph Steadman

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