What's the story with 'Animal Farm'? Understanding political allegory in books

Some books force us to read between the lines.

George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm is one such example.

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Animal Farm is an allegory about the evils of the Russian Revolution.

A political allegory is a story or image that has a hidden political meaning, explains author and academic Chris Thurman.

The literary device can be used to illuminate contemporary politics and has, in the past, been used for religious purposes.

Also read: How historical fiction makes the past come alive (and 12 must-read examples)

Thurman says political allegory can be used as a tool against increased censorship, state surveillance and authoritarian rule.

Allegory is driven by a desire to educate, guide or give instruction.

Chris Thurman, author, arts journalist and associate professor of literature at Wits

Allegory, in different cultural contexts, function as a way of teaching people about abstract ideas by turning them into stories.

Chris Thurman, author, arts journalist and associate professor of literature at Wits

Allegory does fucntion as a way around censorship and a means towards satire.

Chris Thurman, author, arts journalist and associate professor of literature at Wits

The fiction becomes a guise or a veil. Once you've hot the key and code, you can transpose the story back onto the historical reality.

Chris Thurman, author, arts journalist and associate professor of literature at Wits

He decoded the book's allegorical characters and events, making links to politics in post-apartheid South Africa.

Take a listen to engaging discussion during the Literature Corner:


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