Truth and Hypocrisy in Animal Farm and The Scarlet Letter

Truth and Hypocrisy in Animal Farm and The Scarlet Letter

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Truth and Hypocrisy In Animal Farm and The Scarlet Letter

     Lies are often distorted into truth by those in power, who eventually become hypocrites

as they continue to delude for selfish gain. In the process of this distortion, they will do

everything possible to conceal and maintain their hunger for dominance and deference. This

theme of truth ( or lack thereof ) and ultimate hypocrisy is skillfully shown through Napoleon

in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Reverend Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The

Scarlet Letter.

     One of the most notable characteristics shared by Napoleon and Reverend Dimmesdale is

their ability to skillfully twist lies into the truth. In Animal Farm, Napoleon is relentless in his

deception of the other animals. According to Graham Greene ( Bloom, 1996, 21), he is a

“consummate powermonger” who can skillfully undermine any idea that isn’t his own. The first

signs of his dishonesty are shown when he hoards the milk and apples, with a message to the

others that “ It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.” ( Orwell, 52 ) From

there, the lies only increase in frequency and size. It’s easy to compare this to the deceptive

nature of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale of The Scarlet Letter. The young minister veils his sin

from his Puritanical community by “cultivating an image that is far from the real truth.”

( Johnson, 14) From the revelation of Hester’s scarlet letter to that of his own, Dimmesdale

conceals his shame by portraying himself as a “miracle of holiness”. ( Hawthorne, 139) Thus,

both Napoleon and the minister share the negative attribute of fraudulence throughout their

respective novels.

     Another notable comparison between the two novels is that both Napoleon and

Dimmesdale lie for ambition. This is distinctly observable in Animal Farm, where the pigs take

the immediate initiative to establish themselves as the leaders. Napoleon is instantly placed as a

head, being the only Berkshire boar on the farm that has “ a reputation for getting his own way.”

( Orwell, 35 ) From the moment the animals beat Jones out of the farm, it’s obvious that

Napoleon is shrewdly planning to fill the farmer’s position. He envisions plans that will benefit

only himself, yet “make him appear to be working for everyone’s advantage.” ( Allen, 37 ) Thus,

he will rise in the animals’ eyes as a caring and considerate leader. This is exemplified by his

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expulsion of his rival Snowball, and the subsequent slander of the latter’s reputation. Napoleon

then elevates his own reputation as a head by lying about Snowball’s intentions. As the novel

progresses, he “ becomes increasingly sophisticated in justifying his greed” ( Allen, 38 )

for power.

     Reverend Dimmesdale shares this trait by deceiving his townspeople for their respect and

admiration. He desires to be a “ great and revered minister” ( Johnson, 15 ), and will sacrifice

anything to conceal his sin. The reverend seems to be concerned solely with public opinion and

it’s “effect towards his career”. ( Johnson, 32 ) Thus, he lies to his congregation for seven years,

and suffers an incalculable amount of pain and guilt for it. However, he is rewarded with the

desired success, for the townspeople begin to view him as a holy figure: “so apotheosized by

worshipping admirer, did his footsteps, in the procession, really tread upon the dust of earth?”

( Hawthorne, 233 )

     A difference is felt between the novels in that while both Napoleon and Dimmesdale lie

for ambition, Napoleon has no compunctions for doing so, in contrary to the minister, who’s

greatly haunted by his conscience. Napoleon’s greed never wavers throughout the novel, and

only seems to increase to grosser and grosser degrees. ( Allen, 38 ) Not once does he appear to

show the slightest bit of guilt or hesitation in making the animals toil for his benefit. When faced

with doubt or disobedience from any of the animals, he has “no qualms about making them

suffer”( Johnson, 56), or even killing them. Such was the incident with the hens, when their

refusal to give up their eggs led to their food rations being cut off.

     The minister in The Scarlet Letter does seem to feel very deep remorse

for his dishonesty to his townspeople about his affair with Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale knows

that he has committed one of the most contemptible sins in Puritan society. He’s also fully aware

of the fact “that his confession will throw him away from the grace of God.” ( Bloom, 1986, 79 )

So Dimmesdale keeps the truth of his sin to himself. The guilt he suffers from materializes itself

as “slow sickness, insomnia, mental nervousness, and the appearance of a scarlet letter on the

flesh of his chest.” ( Bloom, 1986, 92 )

     An unavoidably noticeable similarity appears between the two characters in their blatant

hypocrisy. From the moment that the pigs begin to take control of the farm, it becomes

distressingly obvious that Napoleon is becoming exactly what he preaches against the most-

human. His hypocrisy is firmly established after his violent expulsion of Snowball from the farm.

With the help of his guard dogs, which are an undeniably human accessory, Napoleon begins to

show all the characteristics of a tyrannical ruler, which is what the Rebellion was against.

( Allen, 38 ) Not only does he begin to assume more and more privileges for himself, but he

actually goes as far as to change the aims of the original vision of Animal Farm. ( Ball, 45 )

These changes are made, for example, to the Seven Commandments, in an attempt to hide his

hypocrisy from the rest of the animals. The end of Animal Farm presents us with the eerie image

of the inability of the animals to distinguish Napoleon from Mr. Pilkington. This completes

Napoleon’s rapid declivity to absolute hypocrisy, and totally annuls the purpose of the Rebellion.
Likewise, The Scarlet Letter presents us with the equally hypocritical figure of Reverend

Dimmesdale. His duplicity is felt from the instant he charges Hester Prynne with the crime of

adultery on the scaffold. It becomes apparent that he shares Hester’s sin as the novel progresses.

However, he cleverly conceals his ignominy by sermonizing about it, for Dimmesdale becomes

renown for his brilliant homilies against adultery and dishonesty. ( Morey, 96 ) His sermons are

so inspiring and convincing that the townspeople begin to view him as a saint. The irony of this

is amazing, since Dimmesdale, by hiding his crime and bathing in undeserved praise, is the worst

sinner in the book. ( Bloom, 1986, 106 ) Thus, the young minister is a hypocrite who uses piety

to conceal his shame.

     However, a contrast can be observed in the direction of Napoleon’s hypocrisy compared

to that of Dimmesdale. One of the main themes of Orwell’s novel is Napoleon’s transformation

from pig to human. This means that in the opening, he genuinely believed and advocated the

spirit of the Rebellion. ( Ball, 55 ) With such examples as the secret revolutionary meetings in

the barn, and the spirit of equality in the original Seven Commandments, ( Bloom, 1996, 48 ) his

starting sincerity is hard to refute. However, Napoleon makes a descent towards hypocrisy as the

novel progresses, noted by such acts as his move into the farmhouse, the Purge of Snowball’s

supposed followers, and finally, the adaptation of human attire. His initial sincerity makes his

decline into dishonesty all the more loathsome to watch.

     Napoleon’s deterioration into hypocrisy is as discouraging as Dimmesdale’s ascent

towards honesty is inspirational. The minister is introduced as the paradigm of duplicity, but

manages, through his suffering and contrition, to finally reveal the truth of his sin at the end.
( Johnson, 141 ) Although his attempts at honesty were weakened by his cowardice, Dimmesdale

escapes his mendacious introduction in the conclusion, where he confesses his crime on the

scaffold to his congregation. His inner struggle for candor makes his ultimate success at the end

of the novel more satisfying for the reader to experience.

     Thus, the characters of Napoleon and Reverend Dimmesdale have done well to establish

the point of truth and hypocrisy in Animal Farm and The Scarlet Letter. The theme seems to be

eternal, which is understandable, since honesty (or lack thereof in this case) and hypocrisy are

irrepressible parts of human nature. Orwell and Hawthorne have shown how ambitious deception

can affect the lives and minds of people in devastating ways. Napoleon, the ruthless Berkshire

boar, and Arthur Dimmesdale, the cowardly minister, will always be remembered for their

cunning dishonesty and blatant hypocrisy in literature.

Bibliography ( Works Cited List )

- Cliffs Notes on Orwell’s Animal Farm, Allen, David, Cliffs Notes, Inc., 1981, USA

- George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ball, David, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1984, NY

- George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Bloom, Harold, Chelsea House Publishers, 1996, PA

- Modern Critical Interpretations: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Bloom, Harold,

Chelsea House Publishers, 1986

- The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Square Press Publications, 1989, NY

- Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to issues, sources, and historical

documents, Johnson, Claudia Durst, Greenwood Publishing Group Inc., 1995, CT

- Readings on The Scarlet Letter, Morey, Eileen, Greenhaven Press Inc., 1998, CA

- Animal Farm, George Orwell, Penguin Putnam Inc., 1996


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