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Tale of Two Cities

"Social Criticism in Literature, As Found in George Orwell's Animal Farm and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities." Many authors receive their inspiration for writing their literature from outside sources. The idea for a story could come from family,
personal experiences, history, or even their own creativity. For authors that choose to write
a book based on historical events, the inspiration might come from their particular
viewpoint on the event that they want to dramatize. George Orwell and Charles Dickens
wrote Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively, to express their disillusionment
with society and human nature. Animal Farm, written in 1944, is a book that tells the
animal fable of a farm in which the farm animals revolt against their human masters. It is
an example of social criticism in literature in which Orwell satirized the events in Russia
after the Bolshevik Revolution. He anthropomorphises the animals, and alludes each one to
a counterpart in Russian history. A Tale of Two Cities also typifies this kind of literature.
Besides the central theme of love, is another prevalent theme, that of a revolution gone
bad. He shows us that, unfortunately, human nature causes us to be vengeful and, for
some of us, overly ambitious. Both these books are similar in that both describe how, even
with the best of intentions, our ambitions get the best of us. Both authors also demonstrate
that violence and the Machiavellian attitude of "the ends justifying the means" are
deplorable. George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, ". . . to discredit the Soviet system by
showing its inhumanity and its back-sliding from ideals [he] valued . . ."(Gardner, 106)
Orwell noted that " there exists in England almost no literature of disillusionment with the
Soviet Union.' Instead, that country is viewed either with ignorant disapproval' or with
uncritical admiration.'"(Gardner, 96) The basic synopsis is this: Old Major, an old boar in
Manor Farm, tells the other animals of his dream of "animalism": " . . . Only get rid of
Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we would
become rich and free.'" (Orwell, 10) The other animals take this utopian idea to heart, and
one day actually do revolt and drive the humans out. Two pigs emerge as leaders:
Napoleon and Snowball. They constantly argued, but one day, due to a difference over
plans to build a windmill, Napoleon exiled Snowball. Almost immediately, Napoleon
established a totalitarian government. Soon, the pigs began to get special favours, until
finally, they were indistinguishable from humans to the other animals. Immediately the
reader can begin to draw parallels between the book's characters and the government in
1917-44 Russia. For example, Old Major, who invented the idea of "animalism," is seen
as representing Karl Marx, the creator of communism. Snowball represents Trotsky, a
Russian leader after the revolution. He was driven out by Napoleon, who represents
Stalin, the most powerful figure in the country. Napoleon then proceeded to remove the
freedoms of the animals, and established a dictatorship, under the public veil of
"animalism." Pigs represent the ruling class because of their stereotype: dirty animals with
insatiable appetites. Boxer, the overworked, incredibly strong, dumb horse represents the
common worker in Russia. The two surrounding farms represent two of the countries on
the global stage with Russia at the time, Germany and England. Orwell begins his book
by criticizing the capitalists and ruling elite, who are represented in Animal Farm by Mr.
Jones, the farmer. He is shown as a negligent drunk, who constantly starved his animals.
"His character is already established as self-indulgent and uncaring." (King, 8) Orwell
shows us how, "if only animals became aware of their strength, we should have no power
over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the
proletariat."(Gardner, 97) What was established in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution
was not true communism ("animalism"), which Orwell approved of, where the people
owned all the factories and land. Rather, "state communism" was established, where a
central government owned them. Orwell thought that such a political system, "state
communism," was open to exploitation by its leaders. Napoleon, after gaining complete
control, did anything he wished - reserved the best for the pigs, and treated the animals
cruelly. The animals could not do anything, unless they again realized their strength in
numbers against their own kind. Unfortunately, they were too stupid to realize this and
accepted the "status quo." It began when the milk and apples were appropriated to the
pigs, and continued to when the pigs could drink and sleep on beds, until finally the pigs
were the "human masters" to the rest of the animals. Orwell criticized Germany,
representing it as Pinchfield Farm, which betrayed Animal Farm by paying for lumber with
counterfeit money. In real life, this represents the Soviet-Germany non-aggression pact
during World War II which Germany eventually broke. Eventually, towards the end of the
story, the term, "absolute power corrupts absolutely," is proven, as the pigs, who retained
all the privileges for themselves, have evolved into a different caste from the other animals.
Orwell's implication is that "real" communism cannot exist in the countries which claim to
be communist. The ruling class - politicians - own everything and ironically are therefore
in total control. A Tale of Two Cities is a love story which chronicles the lives of
Charles Darnay, a Frenchman who renounced his link with the aristocracy, and Sydney
Carton, a wastrel who lived in England. Both these characters fall in love with Lucie
Manette, the daughter of Dr. Alexandre Manette, unjustly imprisoned in France for 17
years. Though Lucie marries Darnay, Carton still loves her and in the end, gives his life to
save Darnay for her. Dickens, who was fascinated with French history, especially the
French Revolution, begins by criticizing the aristocrats' treatment of the poor people of
France. In the seventh chapter of book two, the Monsieur the Marquis had accidentally
driven his carriage over a young child, killing him. Instead of worrying about the child's
welfare, the Monsieur's reaction was to worry about his horses: "One or the other of you is
for ever in the way. How do I know what injury you have done to my horses."(Dickens,
111) He deemed their lives inferior and insignificant, as illustrated when he threw a gold
coin to the child's devastated father as compensation. The Monsieur the Marquis revealed
his true sentiments to his nephew: "Repression is the only lasting philosophy. . . fear and
slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip. . ."(Dickens, 123) Dickens
makes it abundantly obvious that the aristocrats are to meet doom, with symbolic
references to fate and death. For instance, as the Monsieur the Marquis rides through the
country, a glowing red sunset appeared over him, signifying his bloody death. In the words
of the author, ". . . the sun and the Marquis going down together. . ."(Dickens, 114)
Madame Defarge's knitting is also a symbol of impending doom, as she records the names
of all those who are to die when the revolution takes place. Dickens also expresses his
disillusionment with some of the outcomes of the French Revolution. He believed that the
people did not just liberate themselves, but also took vengeance towards the aristocracy.
This is confirmed in the conversation between the revolutionaries: " Well, well, but one
must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?' At extermination,' said
madame."(Dickens, 341) Madame Defarge embodies this attitude, as she wants to have
Charles Darnay killed, not because he has done something wrong, but because he is related
to the Evrémonde family, which killed her relative. Though "Dickens seems almost to
regard violence as the one way to bring about social change,"(Lucas,288) he then began to
denounce the actions taken by some of the revolutionaries. The citizens let their righteous
cause turn into vengefulness. Even servants and maids to the aristocrats were beheaded,
although they had not really done anything wrong. Animal Farm and A Tale of Two
Cities were written to express their authors' disenchantment with the state of evolution of
human nature. They seem to be saying, that even when we begin with honourable
intentions, there will be some of us who will let their base instincts take control. Orwell, in
Animal Farm portrays this nature by parodying events in real history. Given the right
conditions, those events could happen anywhere - a leader becoming overly ambitious, to
the point of harming his people for morepower. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
examines the inner soul, and shares with us how people are driven to the valley of human
emotions, where desperation and anger reign, and what could happen afterwards if we let
these emotions build up inside. Every human being is capable of becoming a ruthless,
opportunistic being like Napoleon or Madame Defarge, if placed in the right place, at the
right time. --

Works Cited Coles Editorial Board. Coles Notes: Animal Farm. Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1996. Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. London: Orion Publishing Group, 1994. Gardner, Averil. George Orwell. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987. Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Bibliography. New York: William Morrow & Company, Ltd., 1988. King, Martin. Students' Guide to Animal Farm. Scotland: Tynron Press, 1989. Lucas, John. The Melancholy Man: A Study of Dickens' Novels. London: N.P., N.D. Orwell, George. Animal Farm. London: Penguin Books, 1985. Shelden, Michael. Orwell: The Authorised Biography. London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1992. Written in Toronto, 1996.

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