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A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

A Psychoanalytic Reading of Animal Farm: Napoleons Desires and Causes


Psychoanalytic criticism was first introduced in the 1930s. This criticism revolves around
Freudian Psychological theory by Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis (Purdue
University, 2013). Psychoanalytic criticism deals with a characters unconscious mind believing
that the unconscious is a primary driving force to all behaviors. It includes exploring the motives
behind the characters action, his desires, his fears, his problems, and his past traumatic
experiences. In the psychological aspect, Animal Farm is an interesting and challenging literature
to analyze. The reason is because the main characters were animals. Though they appeared to
have conscious mind and human-like behaviors, George Orwell, the author, still left animals
traits in the characters. Therefore, by analyzing the characters in Animal Farm, one are applying
human psychological theory to animals and examining both races at the same time. Orwell had
created a new point of view that is neither human nor animal which is rarely seen in modern days
literature. In Animal Farm, Orwell revealed Napoleons desires that he unconsciously shown
through his actions throughout his rise of power.
Napoleon craved for comfort and pleasure. As one of the members of the animals in
Manor Farm, Napoleon was tortured by Mr. Jones and the other farm workers just like other
animals. The animals in the farm were treated badly. They were undernourished. At the end of
the day, Mr. Jones would always lock the animals away in their respective pen. Moreover, they
would get whipped from times to times when they showed resistance. For Napoleon, as one of
the pigs, he lived every minutes of his life in the farm constantly fearing of the day he would be
butchered. The pigs were well aware that they would turn into hams at some point. According to
the book, Some hams hanging in the kitchen were taken out for burial (Orwell, 1996, p.23).
The pigs recognized those hams as their deceased comrades, and treated them accordingly. The

A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

days living under Mr. Jones became Napoleons trauma. The trauma altered his ego. The term,
ego, was introduced by Freud in 1923 along with the other two terms: id and superego. Ego is
believed to be the balance between id and superego. Id is defined as the source of passion, desire,
greed, and natural instinct. On the other hand, superego is seen as what uphold order, rules, and
moral standards (Segrist, 2009, p.51). Hence, human behavior is a result of combining ones
desire and moral standards. What happened to Napoleon was that his traumatic experience of
being in constant fear destroyed the balance between his id and his superego. The id started to
overpower the superego. As a result, Napoleon only favored his own comfort. He started to
reveal his selfishness after driven Mr. Jones out of the farm. When the superego still had some
influence over Napoleon, his actions of making himself more comfortable was in secret. It
started with the mysterious disappearance of the milk (Orwell, 1996, p.26). However, after time
passed, the id gained more power and it had become more visible how he was leading him into a
more comfortable life. It got to the points that the amendments he made and other animals
welfares were none of his concern. Napoleon would manipulate, torture, and terrorize other
animals in exchange for getting what he wanted. He altered and violated the rules. The chickens
were forced to abandon their eggs to afford Napoleons luxuries (Orwell, 1996, p.114-115).
Other animals were overworked and underfed all the while the pigs and Napoleon prospered. The
trauma during Mr. Jones days was enough to fully repress the superego in him. Therefore, he
continued his tyranny onwards. Still, the rise power did not come solely from this cause alone.
Napoleon had a strong desire to succeed. What gave him inspiration and motivation was
Old Major, the prize boar. Before Old Major died, he gave the speech to all animals about his
dream; the day animals would conquer the land and be free. Napoleon was greatly inspired by
the speech. He saw Old Major as his role model. After Old Majors death, the pigs, along with

A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

Napoleon and Snowball, started to develop Animalism. The book mentioned, They saw clearly
that it was their duty to prepare for it (Orwell, 1996, p.15). They believed that they were the
chosen ones, who would lead the animals to prosperity. This belief is referred as messiah
complex. Messiah complex is a state of mind where individual believes that they are superior and
are chosen as a savior (Weis). Stephen Diamond once claimed that all humans have messiah
complex deep in them, but the different is whether or not they are possessed by it (Luftig, 2015).
In Napoleon case, he was possessed by narcissistic messiah complex. Narcissistic messiah
complex is slightly different than normal messiah complex. Weis explained, People with this of
malediction may not necessarily proclaim themselves to be a Savior, but exhibit self-importance
over others. Napoleon established dictatorship within Manor farm gaining power over other
animals. The farm was turned into a place solely for Napoleons purpose. Every Sunday, he
would give out orders to other animals as an act of guidance. He held himself high like other
people with narcissistic messiah complex. They prided themselves on the belief that they hold
power from god or secret knowledge (Weis). Whenever the other animals questioned Napoleons
guidance, Squealer would be sent out to suppressed those thoughts. At the same time, he
implanted the idea that Napoleon was always right. Boxer was greatly absorbed by the idea he
accepted it as a general truths (Orwell, 1996, p.56). Napoleon also isolated himself from others
to give him the sense of being unapproachable turning him into a holy figure. When he did
emerge, it was in a ceremonial manner claimed the other animals (Orwell, 1996, p.75).
Napoleon was unapproachable even when he was right in front of the other animals because of
his dogs. Due to Napoleon being possessed by messiah complex, he turned himself into a holy
figure believing he was far superior to anyone as a savior of all animals. Despite being so full of
himself, Napoleon still had a weakness.

A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

Napoleon wished to hide his weakness. As mentioned above, Napoleon admired Old
Major, and saw him as a respectable figure to follow. He was plotting and leading the rebellion
along with Snowball. The rebellion was a success, and he achieved the first step to animals
freedom, but that alone was not enough. As the believer of Old Majors will, Napoleon felt the
need to live up to Old Major or even surpassed him. When he rose to power, he sat upon the
raised portion where Old Major used to be (Orwell, 1996, p.54). He was eager to be on the same
level as Old Major. However, with Snowball still being in the picture, he saw flaws within
himself. Napoleon saw that Snowball had been winning respect and love from other animals.
Fonseka (1999) said, Snowball represents a milder and subtler version of it developed by a
clever somebody connected to a lower class (p.4). It also was mentioned in the book, At the
meetings Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches (Orwell, 1996, p.47).
Snowball was good at speech like Old Major. He also well respected like Old Major. Comparing
to Napoleon, Snowball was a lot more alike to Old Major. Old Major was what Napoleon
supposed to live up to not Snowball. Napoleon was jealous of Snowball and of how much he
resembled a strong figure like Old Major. Napoleon, which did not resemble Old Major,
identified himself as a weakling. He soon projected the weakness he felt on to Snowball, and
tried to get rid of Snowball as a way of getting rid of his weakness. Projection is one of defense
mechanisms within the mind. Defense mechanism serves to keep pain and undesirable thoughts
away from the conscious mind (McLeod, 2009). Projection happens when people attributes their
unacceptable thoughts upon other (GoodTherapy.org, 2016). To keep away the thought of him
being weak, he attributed that thought upon Snowball seeing Snowball as a weakling instead of
himself. Napoleon plotted the plan to get rid of Snowball, his weakness. His plan started way
back to when he separated the puppies from their parents, and personally educated them in

A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

seclusion (Orwell, 1996, p.35). This is done in order to organize a special task force against
Snowball that is a matter that he has always overlooked, agreed Fonseka (1999, p.5). The dogs
were trained to act hostile even towards Snowballs name. They would start growling
menacingly if any animals mentioned Snowball. Napoleon used his troop of dogs to chased away
Snowball and exiled him forever. Yet, these dogs did not only serve as a tool to get rid of his
weakness alone, but to also hide his weakness. The dogs always followed Napoleon around
threatening and keeping other animals away from questioning Napoleons power. Napoleon
trained the dogs to do so to make the animals believed that he was strong and invincible. There
was no need for the animals to look deeper into his power and his leading capacity because they
may discover his weakness. Napoleon plan was a huge success. No animals dared to question his
leadership nor doubted his power.
In conclusion, by observing Napoleons behavior, his desires and the causes of those
desires can be analyzed. Throughout the rise of Napoleons dictatorship, he showed three major
desires: his longing for comfort, his aspiration to succeed, and his determination to conceal his
weakness. The traumatic experience caused by Mr. Jones had tuned Napoleon into an individual
who craved for comfort. His messiah complex led Napoleon into establishing himself as a holy
and superior figure. At the same time, his admiration towards Old Major had caused jealousy and
weakness in Napoleons heart. As a result, Napoleon attributed his weakness on Snowball, and
got rid of him as a way to get rid of his weakness. It is clear that human behaviors come from a
cause, and that cause is not what we are conscious of or we choose to not be aware of. If
Psychoanalysis was to be accept as the truth then, is our choice, which is believed to be made by
us, conscious or it was actually the unconscious that driven us to decide so?

A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF ANIMAL FARM

References
Fonseka, G. (1999). How Swnish! Yet A Critical Analysis of George Orwells Animal
Farm. The General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy Journal 1998-1999, 1-13.
GoodTherapy.org. (2016). Projection. Retrieved from
http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/projection
Luftig, D. (2015). Calibrating the Messiah Complex: a Success and a Failure. Hoktoen
International Journal.
McLeod, S. (2009). Defense Mechanisms. Retrieved from
http://www.simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html
Orwell, G. (1996). Animal Farm. New York, NY: New American Library.
Purdue University. (2013). Psychoanalytic Criticism (1930s-present). Retrieved from
https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/04/
Segrist, D. J. (2009). Whats Going on in Your Professors Head? Demonstrating the Id, Ego,
and Superego. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 51-54. doi:10.1080/00986280802529285
Weis, M. S. P. (n/d). The Christ Complex. Retrieved from
http://www.gnostic.org/articles_teachers/christ_complex.htm