In his introduction to an edition of Animal Farm, Hitchens sweeps the issue aside, albeit with a sense of reluctance:
‘Uncharacteristically for [Orwell], then, and possibly for the sake of simplicity, he seems to have decided to let this evident contradiction remain unaddressed.’
Rather than shooting an elephant, Orwell appears to shoot a pig, arguably at the cost of the credibility of his allegory, and it is surprising that few appear to have noticed this apparent flaw in his work. However, there is an explanation that befits Orwell’s astute character and his propensity to value simplicity over sophistication.
It seems that Lenin is part of the text after all.
We must look to historical evidence to plausibly suggest how Lenin’s character and actions are embodied in Animal Farm. Out of all the novel’s characters, it seems clear that the pigs are the likeliest animals to contain aspects of Lenin’s character. They share much in common with humanity and are always the leaders of the other animals. But which pig is Lenin?
It has been suggested by Barron’s Animal Farm: Literature Made Easy (and the ever dependable SparkNotes) that Old Major embodies not only the character of Marx, with his uncut ‘tushes’, but also Lenin. This is because Marxism and Leninism, in theory, were very similar; both teaching that capitalism restrains societies from breaking down rigid class structures and thereby preventing equal citizenship. However, a historical fact puts this argument in doubt. Old Major dies before the farm animals rebel against Mr Jones. This is incongruent with Lenin’s life as he, along with Trotsky, led the October Revolution – which is represented by the overthrow of Mr Jones.
It is also hard to believe that Snowball’s character could incorporate both Trotsky and Lenin. Snowball is clearly the organiser and schemer – described as being ‘quicker in speech’ – aligning his character with Trotsky. It is Snowball who leads the attack against the returning Mr Jones, as Trotsky did with the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. Snowball is also not the charismatic leader that Lenin was: ‘Snowball was a more vivacious pig than Napoleon […] but was not considered to have the same depth of character.’ Furthermore, it is notable that Lenin and Trotsky became increasingly hostile towards one another, making it highly unlikely that the well-informed Orwell would have combined Trotsky and Lenin into one character.
My suggestion is that Lenin is found in the character Napoleon. One of the the most noticeable narrative indicator which supports this interpretation in my opinion is Napoleon’s training of the puppies Jessie and Bluebell as his secret police. This points to Lenin’s Cheka rather than Stalin’s NKVD, as the training occurs before the farmer’s counter-revolution (i.e. the Civil War). The year would therefore be 1917; the same year that Lenin created the Cheka. In addition, it was Lenin who turned Russia into a Bolshevik led one-party state in the same way that Napoleon turns the pigs into the leaders of the farm as they ‘directed and supervised the others.’
Image: By Branch of the National Union of Journalists (BNUJ). (http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons