Le maître et Marguerite
par Mikhaïl Boulgakov
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Symbols are those things in a novel that stand for something else. Given that so many of the characters in the novel actually symbolize historic people, one must look at the characters to see whom they symbolize. Furthermore, there are elements in the story that stand for historic events. Still, it would be wrong to view the novel solely as a political allegory. Because of its broader impact, it is important to look at how elements of the story symbolize broad concepts as well as specific people or events.
Old Major – Old Major is a symbol of the major Socialist thinkers, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. His age symbolizes wisdom. Moreover, he is respected by the animals on the farm and is seen as a de facto leader on the farm. However, like Marx and Lenin, he would be around to help inspire a revolution, but would not be there to lead for a substantial period of time following the revolution.
“Beasts of England” – “Beasts of England” is a symbol for the writings of Marx—most likely Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. Like these documents, the song “Beasts of England” outlines how the animals of England have been misused and offers a proposed remedy for their mistreatment.
Napoleon – Napoleon symbolizes Joseph Stalin, who initially helped lead Russia in a revolution for the people but, like Napoleon, became a brutal dictator who ruled through fear, intimidation, and violence.
Snowball – Snowball symbolizes Leon Trotsky, who challenged Stalin’s leadership of Russia. Like Snowball, Trotsky was removed from power and exiled from Russia.
Boxer – Boxer symbolizes the members of the working class who continued to support Stalin after the Russian Revolution, despite seeing no benefits in their living conditions.
Squealer – Squealer symbolizes all of the propagandists used in Stalinist Russia, as well as propaganda in other dictatorships.
Moses – Moses symbolizes organized religion and its ability to placate those members of the working class.
Sugarcandy Mountain – Sugarcandy Mountain, as a mythical place where animals go after they die, is a symbol for Heaven. It is also a symbol for the idea that religion is used as a means to encourage members of the lower social classes to defer to those in power.
Mollie – Mollie represents the members of the bourgeoisie, or the middle class. As a member of the middle class, Mollie lacked any true power, but gained significant benefits under the old regime that were denied to members of the lower social class. Like many members of the middle class, Mollie was not enthusiastic about the revolution and saw a real decline in her living conditions as a result of the social changes. This is similar to how much of the middle class would have experienced the Bolshevik Revolution.
Mr. Jones – Mr. Jones symbolized Tsar Nicholas II, the Russian ruler prior to the Russian Revolution who was ousted by the Bolsheviks. Unlike Tsar Nicholas II, Mr. Jones is not executed in the novel.
Mr. Frederick – Mr. Frederick symbolizes Adolf Hitler, the ruler of Germany. Napoleon does business with Mr. Frederick despite reports that Mr. Frederick is mistreating his animals, much like Stalin continued to deal with Hitler despite concerns from the Russian citizens over Hitler’s treatment of the Jews and other vulnerable groups.
Mr. Pilkington – Although not a major character in the book, Pilkington is Frederick’s enemy and serves as a symbol for capitalist countries such as England and the United States. Pilkington’s relationship with Animal Farm and Napoleon are uncertain.
The dogs – Napoleon’s guard dogs are symbols of the means of enforcement in society, whether police or the army. Specifically, they serve as the symbols of Stalin’s secret police. However, it is important to keep in mind that Stalin was certainly not the only World War II-era dictator to employ secret police and use brutality to enforce a regime. In this way, the dogs may actually have been more symbolic of Hitler’s Nazi soldiers and his SS secret police, both of which were known actually to employ attack dogs as part of their intimidation and violence against the people under Hitler’s control. Therefore, the dogs should not be seen literally as Stalin’s police, but as more symbolic of the overall abuse of violence and power by dictator-led regimes.
Animal Farm – Animal Farm has multiple levels of symbolism. At the most basic level, Animal Farm stands as a symbol for human society. It has followers, rulers, government, police, and state-related rituals. On a more specific level, Animal Farm symbolizes Russia/the Soviet Union at the time surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution. Animal Farm’s physical location is also symbolic: It is surrounded by hostile neighbors who disagree with an animal-run farm, which symbolizes the Soviet Union’s isolation among hostile neighbors. Even the name changes at Animal Farm, which begins and ends the novel as Manor Farm, are significant, because Manor Farm symbolizes a place where the animals work for others without receiving adequate compensation or fair treatment, while the name “Animal Farm” represents the ideal that the farm is run by the animals. More importantly, the pastoral setting of Animal Farm provides great symbolism as a possible utopia, which is transformed not by outside forces but by inner corruption into something other than utopia.
The Barn – The barn symbolizes the whitewashing of the history of the nation. The barn’s walls feature the original Seven Commandments, as well as their revisions. However, it is important to understand that the barn does not symbolize the actual history of the nation, but rather the history as it has been molded and shaped by the government.
The Farmhouse – The farmhouse is a symbol of luxury at the expense of others. Mr. Jones is living in the farmhouse at the beginning of the novel, which is only possible because of the animals’ uncompensated hard work. Moreover, the pigs move into the farmhouse and live there as Animal Farm progresses, deeming themselves entitled to the luxury denied the other animals.
Tools – The tools, including whips and harnesses, are symbols of man’s oppression of the animals. However, the animals treat all tools as symbols of oppression, which actually makes it more difficult for them to complete such projects as the windmill.
The Windmill – The windmill symbolizes exploitation and manipulation. The windmill project is really driven by the pigs, which stand to benefit from the eventual profits the windmill will generate. The windmill is a symbol of the betrayal of Socialist principles into capitalism, because it becomes an important component in Animal Farm’s trade with outside farms. It is also a means for exerting control over the animals. Napoleon’s betrayal of Snowball is closely interrelated with the windmill, and he continues to blame Snowball for problems with the windmill long after Snowball has been driven from the farm.
The themes of a story are the universal ideas explored in the story. For such a seemingly simple animal fable, Animal Farm has a number of different central themes, which are explored in different degrees throughout the novel. It is critical to understand that these different themes work together and that no single theme entirely captures the essence of Animal Farm, because Animal Farm is not solely a story about Communism or Socialism, nor is it strictly a political allegory providing commentary on the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath in a Stalin-led Soviet Union.
Communist Corruption of Socialism
To many people, Communism and Socialism are interchangeable political systems, but Orwell makes it clear that he believes that the two different political systems are sufficiently different. Orwell presents Old Major’s vision of a Socialist utopia in a very positive light, even if he simultaneously makes it clear that Old Major’s outline for a utopia lacks structure and guidance. He makes it clear that Old Major is somewhat naïve when he describes his utopia. However, Orwell also makes it clear that he supports Old Major’s view of a fair society. What he does not support is the transition from Socialism to Communism. The idea was for the animals to run the farm and for them to participate collectively in the government. However, the reality was that it was impossible for the animals to engage in the daily business of running the farm and run the government. They had to elect a representative if they wanted a say in the government. However, they did not ever elect a representative. They allowed the pigs to ease into a position of control, which was the first way that the Socialist ideals were subverted. Of course, this theme is reminiscent of what occurred in the Soviet Union following the Bolshevik Revolution. Still, the theme is not solely a condemnation of Communism in Russia; it is a general indictment of Communism, which has seemingly always resulted in a dictatorship.
The Danger of Dictatorships
A recurring theme in the novel is that dictatorships are dangerous. The novel makes it clear that any person with that type of power is subject to abusing that power. Mr. Jones had that type of power over the animals on the farm, and he abused that power. Of course, Napoleon gains that type of power and abuses his authority over the animals. The more power Napoleon has, the more he believes that he is somehow entitled to have that power. Dictatorships place citizens in danger of arbitrary behavior by those in power. Napoleon’s vicious attack on Snowball introduces dictatorship to the novel and reinforces the relationship between dictatorship and violence. A single person cannot maintain control over a group of citizens without employing violence and the threat of violence. However, it is also important to note that Orwell’s condemnation of dictatorship addressed the danger of centralized power. Even Snowball, who ostensibly worked on behalf of all of the animals, exercised privilege as a pig prior to Napoleon’s betrayal of him.
Another central theme in the novel is the danger of propaganda. Throughout the novel, Orwell demonstrates how propaganda can be used to change people’s perceptions of history and reality. Moreover, he demonstrates that the use of propaganda does not have to be driven by selfish or improper motivations to have a detrimental impact on people. The first use of propaganda in the book is when Old Major teaches the animals the song “Beasts of England,” which will become their first quasi-national anthem. This song, which portrays an idyllic version of how animals should be treated, is used to inspire the animals toward the Rebellion and to criticize their treatment under Mr. Jones. In fact, all of the propaganda in the novel has a dual purpose: to convince the animals of the superiority of one way of life, while simultaneously condemning another way of life as inferior. Through the use of propaganda, the central characters—and particularly Napoleon through Squealer—are able to establish standards and norms for society that reflect their own personal standards, while presenting an image that they are reflecting the overall norms and values of the society as a whole.
Socialism is ostensibly about eliminating social class, but so much of Animal Farm focuses on the reinforcement of class lines. At the beginning of the novel, Old Major’s speech suggests that there are two social classes: the privileged upper class that consists of the men, and the lower working class, which consists of the animals. However, this is a simplification that ignores the existence of a middle class, which consists of the animals who experience privileges as part of their relationship with the upper class. While Mollie is a good example of the bourgeoisie class, Old Major himself is a member of this class. What is interesting to note is that Orwell eliminates the presence of a middle class in Animal Farm. The pigs, which were part of the middle class under Mr. Jones, move into a privileged status, while the rest of the animals continue to be members of the working class. The novel certainly seems to suggest that social classes are present in all societies. It also suggests that those in power benefit from the existence of a working class, and this therefore discourages them from eliminating the working class.
The Danger of an Uneducated Lower Class
Throughout the novel, Orwell addresses education. In many ways, this was a direct discussion of the role that the educated middle class played in the actual Bolshevik Revolution. However, it was also a commentary on the danger of having an uneducated lower class. The pigs manipulated those class members who were not as bright and able to learn, and eliminated those animals that were smart enough to observe and point out their inconsistencies. It is critical to understand that part of Orwell’s theme about education does appear to presuppose the existence of a group of people who are not as bright as the rest of society, and seems to suggest that they will always be vulnerable to manipulation. After all, at the beginning of the novel, the pigs attempt to educate all of the animals on the farm, but not all of them demonstrate the same mastery of reading, writing, or language comprehension.Inscrivez-vous pour trouver des essais sur Mikhaïl Boulgakov >