Literary Devices in 20th Century Literature

Literary Devices in 20th Century Literature

After WWII and during the beginning of the Cold War, much was thought and much was said about government and about the contemporary culture in general. This is reflected in many of the literary works of the time, and even before that time, as many of the Marxist and socialist principles were well known. Some of the works include symbolism, some include metaphors, some include satire, and some have other methods. Regardless on which device is used, the messages that these books come across with are usually very clear and there is not really any grey area to what the books are all about. They all share similar themes and ideas, most of which are undoubtedly satirical in their form, and all of which include at least some element of the author’s life incorporated into the work. The bottom line of the books usually attacks totalitarian government and government control, but not necessarily just Communist governments; some books aim at capitalism as well.

The novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell, does not have any hidden meaning or symbolism; the book was written in a time of war and was made to make a political statement. Everything that is written in the book was done with a purpose, all of which reflects Orwell’s personal life influences and ideas. Orwell claimed that Animal Farm was the first book he wrote in which he knew exactly what he was doing, joining political and artistic purpose into one literary novel (Brunsdale 122). Some of the story was based on Orwell’s life experiences and exposure, while other parts were based on the political message he was attempting to make. Although it attacks totalitarian governments of the time, this is not to say that Orwell was exactly a fan of the British government either, as he saw the possibly of government corruption and totalitarianism arising in any form of government, not only Nazis and Communists. For this reason, he wrote to attack not only Communism, but also capitalism; but in this case, with Animal Farm, most of the symbols and literary devices lean towards attacking Communism. Most of the characters and events directly correspond with a Cold War figure or event.

Within the book, each character or group of characters has a specific political significance in this allegory portraying Communist Russia. The humans are the capitalists, the animals are the Communists, the wild animals who could not be tamed are the peasants, the pigs are the Bolsheviks, the Rebellion is the October Revolution, the neighboring farmers represent the Western armies who attempted to fight against the Soviets, and the list goes on (Meyers 249). The political structure of the Soviet Union is matched perfectly to the personalities and names of characters that he chose. Major represents Lenin, who sparked the Communist Revolution in the Soviet Union. Snowball is a pig who threw a military coup to remove the other ruling pig, Napoleon, who represents Stalin. Napoleon represents Trotsky, a member of the Socialist revolution who was always accused of vast anti-Stalin plots (Brunsdale 128). This goes for all the characters in the book, all the way from the donkeys to the horses to the humans and everyone in between. The structure of the farm and the environment Orwell created with the neighboring farms also has political meaning.

The patriotic speech that is constantly sung at the farm is called the “Beasts of England.” In the book this song was taught to the animals by Major, who signifies Karl Marx, both of whom sparked a revolution (Brunsdale 128). A portion of the song goes:

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,

Beasts of every land and clime,

Hearken to my joyful tidings

Of the golden future time.

Soon or late the day is coming,

Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown,

And the fruitful fields of England

Shall be trod by Beasts alone (Orwell 32)

That is only a portion of the song, but it continues in the same manner, speaking of the “golden future” and the end of the rule of men. Orwell created this speak to resemble the Communist anthem “l’Internationale” (Brunsdale 129). The lyrics of the Communist anthem are very similar in meaning to the animal anthem. For both of the anthems, the underlying idea is to rise up and