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Orwell: Animal Farm

6. Tyranny and Circularity

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the connected themes of tyranny and circularity in the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the tendency for Orwell's novels to have 'circular' plots, i.e. where the protagonist finds themselves in exactly the same situation at the end of the novel as they were in at the beginning; (ii) the impossibility of the "golden future time" outlined in the 'Beasts of England' song, and the extent to which this vision is actively perverted by the actions of the pigs; (iv) the extent to which the pigs' slaughter of fellow animals represents a point of no return in the revolution; (v) the extent to which the description of Napoleon as someone "with a reputation for getting his own way" sets up the end of the novel; (vi) the contrast between freedom and slavery, and the extent to which the animals escape the shackles of slavery only to fall back into it ("All that year the animals worked like slaves", Chapter 6); and (vii) Orwell's view of fascism as "a slave-state, or rather the slave-world… a world of rabbits ruled by stoats" (The Road to Wigan Pier, Chapter 12).


In this course, Dr Nathan Waddell (University of Birmingham) explores George Orwell's Animal Farm. In the first module, we think about Animal Farm in the context of Orwell's life and career, before turning in the second and third modules to consider the novel in the context of the Spanish Civil War and Soviet Russia, respectively. In the fourth module, we think about what kind of story Animal Farm is, while in the fifth module, we consider the novel's narrative voice. In the sixth module, we think about the themes of tyranny and circularity in the novel, before turning in the final module to consider the concept of 'decency' in Orwell's work in general and in Animal Farm in particular.


Dr Nathan Waddell is Senior Lecturer in Early Twentieth-Century and Modernist Literature at the University of Birmingham. He teaches and researches early twentieth-century literature, with a core emphasis on the life, work, and controversies of the painter and writer Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). His recent publications include Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism (2019) and (as co-editor with J. Greenberg) 'Brave New World': Contexts and Legacies. (2016).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Waddell, N. (2021, May 12). Orwell: Animal Farm - Tyranny and Circularity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Waddell, N. "Orwell: Animal Farm – Tyranny and Circularity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 May 2021,