Freda Mcglade 2018
Comparative essay: Animal Farm and V for Vendetta
George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical novella Animal Farm details the life of animals after a rebellion, and explores various themes including propaganda, power and fear, and how they ultimately result in corruption. Similarly to Animal Farm, James McTeigue’s 2005 movie V for Vendetta reveals how the concepts of propaganda and fear play a key role in developing a government’s corrupt regime. The film is set in a futuristic society and traces the life of vigilante V and his role in an eventual uprising against the fascist government. Both texts aim to demonstrate the role different factors play in the gradual gain of power, and the inevitable corruption that follows.
Through the use of characters, Orwell illustrates how propaganda and manipulation can be used to disguise a regime’s corrupt nature. This is exemplified through the character of Squealer and his ability to “turn black into white”. Throughout the text, Squealer, who speaks “so persuasively” utilises propaganda to hide the gradual corruption occurring amongst the pigs. This can be seen through his explanation for the pigs consuming such “luxuries” as milk and apples. He tactfully claims that the superior pigs need these items to assist them in managing the farm, and that it is for the animal’s “sake” that they “drink this milk” and “eat these apples”. Through Squealer’s consistent use of propaganda and manipulation, Orwell implores his audience to consider how these tools can be used to benefit those that possess excessive power. Similarly to Animal Farm, V for Vendetta uses characters to demonstrate the theme of propaganda, and the role it plays in disguising the “crimes of the government”. Through the characters of Squealer and Dascombe, Orwell and McTeigue’s text highlight how propaganda and manipulation can be used to hide corruption within a powerful organisation.
Orwell and McTeigue both use symbols to demonstrate how powerful figures prey on the masses fear by portraying non-conformists and minority groups as threats to society. This can be seen in Animal Farm through the public slaughtering of any disobedient animals that promote defiance against “Comrade Napoleon”. As the animals hear of the “shocking” crimes committed on the farm, they develop a fear of those that rebelled against their “leader”, and view their brutal fate as necessary. This links back to Orwell’s idea that powerful figures can capitalise on one’s susceptibility to fear by discouraging non-conformity. Similarly to Animal Farm, a fear of minority groups is apparent in V for Vendetta. This is exemplified through the character of Prothero, and his negative portrayal of Muslims, atheists and homosexuals. Through his television show, Prothero reveals that America, a country that once “had everything” has since amounted to nothing due to “godlessness”, the primary creator of “judgement”. He then continues to tactfully prey on his audiences fear by further blaming America’s failures on Muslims and homosexuals. Through symbols and characters, Orwell and McTeigue both demonstrate how powerful figures can become corrupt by instilling a misconception of minority groups and non-conformists into fearful civilians.
While both texts share many similarities, there remains one significant difference between the two, V for Vendetta explores an element of hope that is non-existent in Animal Farm. After the corruption of the “improved” society, Orwell uses symbols to reveal the lack of hope for overcoming the farm’s oppressive regime. This is demonstrated through the animal’s inability to remember the “old days” before the revolution, and the powerful pigs’ adoption of Mr Jones’ old habits. As the pigs’ behaviour gradually begins to mimic that of human’s, the animals can no longer distinguish between man and pig, hence highlighting the removal of hope for an equal society. Through several symbols including the pig’s adopting human habits, Orwell reveals that failure to intervene and instead succumb to mistreatment and oppression erases any hope of overcoming corruption. In contrast to this, V for Vendetta explores the theme of hope that was not apparent in Animal Farm. This is demonstrated through Valerie’s letter which symbolises her desire for the “world to turn”, and her belief that things will eventually “get better”. The civilians are also guided by vigilante V and his aspirations for a systematic change, as well as the destruction of parliament, a symbol of rebellion against tyranny. While the masses in V for Vendetta are guided by several tools representing hope for a better system, the animals in Animal Farm, don’t experience any element of hope, and instead display no signs of resisting corruption.
Animal Farm and V for Vendetta both utilise characters and symbols to illustrate how propaganda and fear causes power to ultimately corrupt. This is apparent in Animal Farm through Squealer’s consistent use of propaganda that assists in disguising the farm’s gradual corruption. Similar events take place in V for Vendetta as McTeigue illustrates through the character of Dascombe, how bias news reports assist in hiding corruption amongst those that possess power. The two texts also explore the theme of corruption through the dictator’s ability to prey on the masses fear of non-conformity. While Orwell and McTeigue’s texts share many similarities, there is an element of hope in V for Vendetta that Animal Farm lacks. By exploring this theme, McTeigue reveals the integral role hope plays in overcoming corruption and power, while Orwell reveals how a lack of hope erases any chance of a systematic change.