Literature Resource Center – Print Title: Author(s): Publication Details: Source: Document Type: Animal Farm Exposes Orwell’s Sexism Daphne Patai Readings on Animal Farm. San Diego, Calif. : Greenhaven Press, 1998. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Joseph Palmisano. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2004. p116126. From Literature Resource Center. Critical essay Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning [(essay date 1998) In the following essay, originally published in 1984, Patai provides a feminist interpretation of Animal Farm. Although Animal Farm is mentioned in scores of studies of Orwell, no critic has thought it worth a comment that the pigs who betray the revolution, like the pig who starts it, are not just pigs but boars, that is, uncastrated male pigs kept for breeding purposes. Old Major, the “prize Middle White boar” who has called a meeting to tell the other animals about his dream, is initially described in terms that establish him as patriarch of this world: “He was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his tushes had never been cut. In contrasting his life with those of the less fortunate animals on the farm, Major says: “I am one of the lucky ones. I am twelve years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the natural life of a pig. ” Orwell here repeats the pattern we have seen in his other fiction, of stressing paternity as if the actual labor of reproduction were done by males. Authority comes from the phallus and fatherhood, and the sows, in fact, are hardly mentioned in the book; when they are, as we shall see, it is solely to illustrate the patriarchal control of the ruling pig, Napoleon.
Leaders, then, may be good (Major) or bad (Napoleon)–but they must be male and “potent. ” Contrasting with the paternal principle embodied in Major is the maternal, embodied in Clover, “a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal. ” Clover is characterized above all by her nurturing concern for the other animals. When a brood of ducklings that had lost their mother come into the barn, Clover “made a sort of wall round them with her great foreleg,” and they nestled down inside it.
Though Clover works along with Boxer–the enormous cart horse “as strong as any two ordinary horses put together” whom Orwell uses to represent the working class, unintelligent but ever-faithful, to judge by this image–she is admired not for her hard labor but rather for her caring role as protector of the weaker animals. Orwell here attributes to the maternal female dominion over the moral sphere but without any power to implement her values. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, this “feminine” characteristic, though admirable, is shown to be utterly helpless and of no avail.
In addition, this conventional (human) division of reality restricts the female animal to the affective and expressive sphere and the male to the instrumental. Ambivalent Imagery http://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm&docId=GALE%7CH1420056283&contentSegment=¤tPosition=5&contentSet=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM] Literature Resource Center – Print Orwell at times utilizes the same imagery in opposing ways; imagery relating to passivity, for example, is presented as attractive in “Inside the Whale” and repulsive when associated with pansy pacifists.
This ambivalence is demonstrated as well in Orwell’s use of protective maternal imagery. Clover’s protective gesture toward the ducklings, viewed positively in Animal Farm, is matched by Orwell’s ridicule of a similar image in his verse polemic with Alex Comfort in 1943, about half a year before Orwell began composing Animal Farm. Falling into his familiar tough-guy rhetoric, Orwell angrily defended Churchill against pacifist gibes. … The protective environment must be rejected if manly status is to be preserved.
But the protective gesture itself, in its inevitable futility, is admired in Animal Farm, and it is through Clover that Orwell expresses the sadness of the failed revolution after the ‘purges” occur, as the stunned animals huddle around her: As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears. If she could have spoken her thoughts, it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race.
These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion. If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak, as she had protected the last brood of ducklings with her foreleg on the night of Major’s speech. Clover is here contrasted with Boxer, who is unable to reflect on these matters and simply resolves to work even harder than before.
Though Clover too “would remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to her, and accept the leadership of Napoleon,” she has the moral awareness to know that “it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled. ” But she lacks the words to express this awareness and instead sings “Beasts of England. ” Clover stands at one of the poles of Orwell’s conventional representation of female character. The other pole is represented by Mollie, “the foolish, pretty white mare who drew Mr Jones’s trap” and is shown, early in the book, to have a link with human females.
When the animals wander through the farmhouse, Mollie lingers in the best bedroom: “She had taken a piece of blue ribbon from Mrs Jones’s dressing-table, and was holding it against her shoulder and admiring herself in the glass in a very foolish manner. ” A less important female character is the cat who, during Major’s speech, finds the warmest place to settle down in and does not listen to a word he says. Both Mollie and the cat, we later learn, avoid work; and Mollie is the first defector from the farm after the revolution, seduced by a neighboring farmer’s offerings of ribbons for her white mane and sugar.
Orwell’s characterizations of old Major, Boxer, Clover, Mollie, and the cat all appear, clearly packaged and labeled, in the book’s first three pages. The animal community thus forms a recognizable social world, divided by gender. This world is presented to us complete with stereotypes of patriarchal power, in the form of male wisdom, virility, or sheer strength, and female subordination, in the form of a conventional dichotomy between “good” maternal females and “bad” nonmaternal females. It is difficult to gauge Orwell’s intentions in making use of gender stereotypes in Animal Farm.
Given the evidence of his other texts, however, it seems unlikely that the possibility of a critical, even satirical, account of gender divisions ever crossed his mind. Perhaps he simply incorporated the familiar into his animal fable as part of the “natural human” traits needed to gain plausibility for his drama of a revolution betrayed. But in so doing he inadvertently reveals something very important about this barnyard revolution: Like its human counterparts, it invariably re-creates the institution of patriarchy. ttp://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm&docId=GALE%7CH1420056283&contentSegment=¤tPosition=5&contentSet=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM] Literature Resource Center – Print Sexual Politics on the Farm Not only does Orwell’s satire of a Marxist (“Animalist”) revolution fail to question gender domination while arguing against species domination, it actually depends upon the stability of patriarchy as an institution. This is demonstrated by the continuity between Mr.
Jones, the original proprietor of the farm, and Napoleon (Stalin), the young boar who contrives to drive out Snowball (Trotsky), the only competing boar on the premises, and assumes Jones’s former position as well as that of Major, the old patriarch. In her study of feminism and socialism [The Curious Courtship of Women’s Liberation and Socialism], Batya Weinbaum attempts to explain why socialist revolutions have tended to reestablish patriarchy. Describing this pattern in the Russian and Chinese revolutions, Weinbaum utilizes the terminology of kin categories: father, daughter, brother, wife.
These categories allow her to point out that revolutions have expressed the revolt of brothers against fathers. Though her analysis relies on a Freudian model of sexual rivalry, agreement about motivation is not necessary in order to see the value of the kin categories she proposes. While daughters participate along with brothers in the early stages of revolution, they are increasingly left out of the centers of power once the brothers realize they can occupy the positions formerly held by the fathers, thus gaining privileged access to the labor and services of women.
It is intriguing to note how closely this scheme fits Animal Farm. Although Orwell describes a generalized revolt of the animals, inspired by a wise father’s message of freedom, this revolt against the human exploiter Jones is quickly perverted into a struggle between two of the brothers, each eager to occupy the father slot and eliminate his competitor. Orwell makes it explicit that the struggle goes on between the only two boars among the pigs. The male porkers (castrated pigs) are not contenders for the father role.
There is even an especially nasty portrayal of Squealer, the public relations porker who, in keeping with Orwell’s other slurs against the press, is depicted as devoid of masculinity (in Orwell’s terms): He stays safely away from the fighting. Once Napoleon wins out over Snowball, we see just what the father role means in terms of access to females. As the sole potent male pig on the farm, Napoleon is of course the father of the next generation of elite pigs: “In the autumn the four sows had all littered about simultaneously, producing thirty-one young pigs between them.
The young pigs were piebald, and as Napoleon was the only boar on the farm, it was possible to guess at their parentage. ” In addition, the relations among the sows, competing for Napoleon’s favor, are hinted at near the story’s end, when Napoleon is on the verge of complete reconciliation with the human fathers, the neighboring farmers. Orwell informs us that the pigs (males) began to wear Mr. Jones’s clothes, “Napoleon himself appearing in a black coat, ratcatcher breeches, and leather leggings, while his favourite sow appeared in the watered silk dress which Mrs. Jones had been used to wearing on Sundays. Perhaps because these details seem to be beside the point in terms of the allegory, they are all the more intriguing as instances of Orwell’s fantasy at work. Intentionally or not, Orwell has recreated the structure of the patriarchal family. As in human families, power among the pigs is organized along two axes: sex and age. Males Shown as Superior Though we are told that the pigs as a whole exploit the other animals (by keeping more and better food for themselves, claiming exemption from physical labor because they are doing the “brainwork” of the farm, and finally moving into the farmhouse and adopting all the formerly roscribed human habits), it is only the male pigs whom we see, in the book’s closing line, as indistinguishable from human males: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. ” http://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm&docId=GALE%7CH1420056283&contentSegment=¤tPosition=5&contentSet=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM] Literature Resource Center – Print Piggish adaptation to the human world involves not only the general class discrimination evident in the rewritten Commandment: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. It also appears more specifically in the gender hierarchy that culminates in this last scene, so different from the account of the revolution itself in which virtually all the animals and both sexes had participated. Even as the animal allegory duplicates Orwell’s gender assumptions, it also liberates him to some extent from the confines of his own androcentric framework. This is apparent in the unfolding of old Major’s speech early in the book. He begins with general comments about the animals’ lot: “No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old.
No animal in England is free. The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth. ” But as he continues to speak, his emphasis shifts slightly: Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of our produce is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word–Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever.
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Here, for the first and only time in his writings, Orwell recognizes female reproductive labor as part and parcel of a society’s productive activities and as a form of labor that gives females the right to make political and economic demands. In old Major’s speech, it is this female labor, specifically, that becomes the most dramatic focal point.
The passage quoted above continues: Yet he [Man] is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung fertilizes it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin. You cows that I see before me, how many thousands of gallons of milk have you given during this last year? And what has happened to that milk which should have been breeding up sturdy calves?
Every drop of it has gone down the throats of our enemies. And you hens, how many eggs have you laid this year, and how many of those eggs ever hatched into chickens? The rest have all gone to market to bring in money for Jones and his men. And you, Clover, where are those four foals you bore, who should have been the support and pleasure of your old age? Each was sold at a year old–you will never see one of them again. In return for your four confinements and all your labour in the field, what have you ever had except your bare rations and a stall?
In this passage Orwell is finally able to make the connection between “public” and “private”–between the male’s (typical) work of production and the female’s (typical) work of reproduction. He sees that both forms of labor can be expropriated and that the “private” sphere in which relations of caring and nurturing go on is very much a part of the overall system of exploitation that old Major protests. Thinking about animals, Orwell notices that females are insufficiently rewarded for the labor stolen from them by men.
Exploiting Females As the revolution decays, there occurs an episode in which Napoleon forces the hens to give up more of their eggs, so that they can be used for export to a neighboring farm. At first the hens sabotage this plan by dropping their eggs from the rafters of the barn. But they are quickly brought into line by the cessation of their rations (the acquisition of food still not being under their direct control). After holding out for five days, the hens capitulate. This increased http://go. galegroup. com/… icSearchForm&docId=GALE%7CH1420056283&contentSegment=¤tPosition=5&contentSet=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM] Literature Resource Center – Print expropriation of the hens’ products is viewed by Orwell in precisely the same terms as the increased labor time extracted from the other animals. In contrast, when Orwell wrote about the human working class, he never noticed the economics of reproduction or objected to women’s exclusion from direct access to decent livelihoods–an exclusion justified by reference to their status as females and supposed dependents of males.
It is as if, since his farm animals are not divided into individual family groupings, Orwell was able to break through the ideology of “typical family” that had earlier blinded him to the reality of women’s work and position in capitalist society. In Animal Farm, furthermore, Orwell touches on the problem of political expropriation of female reproductive capacity. Napoleon provides himself with a secret police force by separating a litter of newborn puppies from their mothers and rearing them himself, and these puppies, when grown up, drive out the rival brother, Snowball, and inaugurate Napoleon’s reign of terror.
Orwell here seems to protest against the breakup of the “natural” pattern by which the pups are suckled and raised by their mothers. This theme is reiterated when Napoleon seizes the thirtyone young pigs–his offspring–and appoints himself their instructor, so as to prepare the continued domination of pigs over the other animals in the future. Such “unnatural” expropriations stand in sharp opposition to the traditional patterns of family life so strongly supported by Orwell. The same sort of “state” interference in family life occurs, in more detailed form, in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Although his fiction suggests a strong distaste for these examples of state expropriation of female reproductive labor, Orwell was actually urging the adoption in England of population policies that, if put into practice, would have openly treated women as mere vehicles for fulfilling state priorities. In “The English People,” written in 1944 (that is, shortly after Animal Farm) though not published until 1947, Orwell, in the throes of a panic about the dwindling birthrate, exhorts the English to have more children as one of the necessary steps in order to “retain their vitality. Interpreting the declining birthrate primarily as an economic problem, he urges the government to take appropriate measures: Any government, by a few strokes of the pen, could make childlessness as unbearable an economic burden as a big family is now: but no government has chosen to do so, because of the ignorant idea that a bigger population means more unemployed. Far more drastically than anyone has proposed hitherto, taxation will have to be graded so as to encourage child bearing and to save women with young children from being obliged to work outside the home.
In addition to economic and social incentives, Orwell says, a “change of outlook” is needed: “In the England of the last thirty years it has seemed all too natural that blocks of flats should refuse tenants with children, that parks and squares should be railed off to keep the children out of them, that abortion, theoretically illegal, should be looked on as a peccadillo, and that the main aim of commercial advertising should be to popularise the idea of ‘having a good time’ and staying young as long as possible. “Breed Faster, Work Harder” In brief, what the English must do is, among other things, to “breed faster, work harder, and probably live more simply,” a program ominously reminiscent of Napoleon’s exhortation to the other animals: “The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally. ” In Orwell’s concern with socially adequate human breeding there is no more consideration for the choices of women than Napoleon shows for the desires of the hens or bitches whose eggs and puppies he removes.
Orwell seems to assume that the “natural” desires of women will precisely coincide with the lines he sets out–if, that is, he has paused to look at the matter from their point of view at all. Several years later, Orwell still viewed the “population problem” in the same terms. In a newspaper column in 1947, he voices http://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm&docId=GALE%7CH1420056283&contentSegment=¤tPosition=5&contentSet=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM] Literature Resource Center – Print larm that, if England does not quickly reach an average family size of four children (instead of the then existing average of two), “there will not be enough women of child-bearing age to restore the situation. ” He wories about where future workers will come from and again recommends financial incentives. Though Orwell was hardly alone in expressing such concerns at that time, it is instructive to note the limited perspective he brings to the problem.
And yet in Nineteen Eighty-Four he satirizes the Party’s control over Outer Party members’ reproductive behavior through the character of Winston’s wife, Katharine, who chills Winston’s blood with her commitment to regular sexual intercourse as an expression of “our duty to the Party. ” It seems obvious that Orwell’s opinion of such state interference in sex and procreation has nothing to do with any sympathy for women as individuals but depends entirely upon his judgment of the merits of the state that is being served.
Nothing in Orwell’s earlier writings reveals an awareness of the economic contributions made by women as reproducers, rearers, and caretakers of the labor force, not to mention as ordinary members of the work force. It is therefore all the more surprising that in letting his imagination translate human conflicts into animal terms this aspect of female roles at once sprang to his attention. At the same time, his female animals are still rudimentary in comparison with the more subtly drawn portraits of the male animals on the farm.
The hens and cows, for example, appear primarily as good followers, prefiguring Orwell’s description of Outer Party female supporters in Nineteen Eighty-Four. With the exception of the maternal Clover and, to a lesser extent, Mollie, the female animals are unimportant as individual actors in the fable. … As the pigs duplicate the human model of social organization, they not only reproduce the pattern of patriarchy already familiar to the animals (judging by Major’s status early in the book) but add to it those human characteristics that Orwell found most reprehensible–especially softness.
They slowly adopt Mr. Jones’s manner of living, complete with cushy bed and booze. This is contrasted with the heroic labor of the immensely strong Boxer, who literally works himself to death. Relations between the pigs and the other animals follow the patriarchal model also in that they are hierarchical and discipline-oriented; submission and obedience are extracted from the worker animals as the price of the supposedly indispensable pig leadership. Male Bonding In addition to the touching solidarity evident among the worker animals, some individual relationships also emerge.
One of these is the nonverbal “masculine” friendship between Boxer and Benjamin, who look forward to their retirement together. There is no female version of this friendship, however. Instead, Clover plays the role not only of maternal mare to the other animals but also of “wife”–to use Weinbaum’s kin categories again–in that she has a heart-to-heart talk with Mollie. Cast in the role of the rebellious “daughter” who refuses to adhere to the farm’s values, Mollie disbelieves in the communal cause and prefers to ally herself with powerful human males outside the farm, thus assuring her easier life as a kept and well-decorated mare.
Orwell signals his disapproval of Mollie by showing her cowardice as well as her vanity and sloth. Given the revolution’s eventual outcome, however, Mollie’s behavior, though egocentric, is not as misguided as it may seem. Orwell makes it explicit that under the rule of Napoleon the animals (except the pigs and Moses, the raven, who represents the church) have an even more arduous work life than animals on the neighboring (i. e. , capitalist) farms.
Mollie might better be viewed as having some spontaneous understanding of the rules of patriarchy, characterized by Weinbaum in these words: “Brothers may step across the line to become fathers; but daughters face a future as a powerless wife. ” … It is fascinating to see Orwell describe the betrayal of the animals’ revolution in terms so suggestive of women’s experience under patriarchy. It is women who, more than any other group and regardless of the race and class to http://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm=GALE%7CH1420056283==5=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM]
Literature Resource Center – Print which they belong, have had their history obliterated, their words suppressed and forgotten, their position in society confounded by the doublethink of “All men are created equal,” their legal rights denied, their labor in the home and outside of it expropriated and controlled by men, their reproductive capacities used against them, their desire for knowledge thwarted, their strivings turned into dependence–all of these under the single pretext that they are not “by nature” equipped to do the valued work of society, defined as what men do.
When read as a feminist fable, however, Animal Farm has another important message. The origins of the Seven Commandments of Animalism lie in Major’s warnings against adopting Man’s ways: “And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. ” Source Citation: Patai, Daphne. “Animal Farm Exposes Orwell’s Sexism. ” Readings on Animal Farm.
Ed. Terry O;Neill San Diego, Calif. : Greenhaven Press, 1998. 116-126. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Joseph Palmisano. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 116-126. Literature Resource Center. Gale. MIAMI DADE PUBLIC LIBRARY. 3 Feb. 2010 . Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420056283 http://go. galegroup. com/… sicSearchForm=GALE%7CH1420056283==5=[2/3/2010 2:28:13 PM]