Are Rats Comrades? Some Readings of a Question in Orwell

2017-05-21T04:59:52Z (GMT) by Robert Savage
“All animals are comrades.” The sentence is to be found in a novel which, despite advertising itself in its subtitle as a “fairy story,” is commonly reckoned to the genre of political satire or allegory. The story, that is to say, intends something other than what it<i> does</i> say, tacitly inviting the reader to engage in a process of substitution at the end of which stands a different story, that of the Russian Revolution. While the blurb assures us that the novel is simple enough to be enjoyed on its own terms by children, we adults are capable of perceiving that it is a question here of human beings and not of animals. This anthropomorphic assumption subordinates animals to humans at the very moment it makes meaning of the proposition which incites them to revolt against their masters. For if the place of the animals in the better-known variant of that proposition, “all animals are equal” is to be usurped by human beings, then the conclusion is unavoidable that some animals – specifically, those who claim to have been granted dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth – are more equal than others. By the end of the novel, one group of particularly intelligent animals has finally accepted this corollary; the others look on dumbly, unable to grasp the fact that they, too, are performing in the roles of human beings in disguise.