Study Guide

Moses in Animal Farm

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Moses (a raven)

When the pigs first begin talking up their ideas about Animalism, they have to "counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven" (2.8). Moses is the Joneses' favorite pet, a clever talker who tells the animals about a mysterious country called "Sugarcandy Mountain." One day, he says, their labor and suffering will come to an end and they'll all live happily ever after on Sugarcandy Mountain. (2.8).

During the Rebellion, Moses flies off after Mrs. Jones and disappears for years. But he returns after the Battle of the Windmill and starts spreading the myth of Sugarcandy Mountain again. What's weird is that the pigs still insist that his stories are lies, but they "allowed him to remain on the farm, not working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day" (4.7).

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Some of that Old Time Religion

Stories about an awesome place you go after you die, exemption from work, and contempt from the leaders—sound familiar?

Moses is a symbol for the Russian Orthodox Church. (Quick Brain Snack: the Orthodox Church broke from the Catholic Church in 1054; the Russian Church became independent from the main Orthodox Church in 1448). For centuries, the Russian Orthodox Church was buddy-buddy with the Russian monarchy (the tsars). When the Bolsheviks took over in October 1917, they declared that church and state would be separate for the first time in Russian history.

Bye-bye, Moses.

But Stalin wasn't satisfied with just kicking the Church out of power. Under his reign, the Soviets actively persecuted religion and religious authorities. Priests were executed; churches were defiled. However you feel about religion, it was pretty nasty.

Stalin declared that religion was obsolete; he wanted to replace religion with science and reason. His justification came straight from communism's founder Karl Marx (see Old Major's "Character Analysis" to learn more about this guy). Karl Marx famously referred to religion as "the opiate of the masses." He thought of religion as a drug that kept workers calm so that capitalists could take advantage of them—Moses's "lies" that allow the farm animals to be exploited.

But guess what? When Stalin was attempting to drum up patriotic support for the war effort against Germany in 1941, he re-instituted the Church. Turns out, not only do a lot of people really like religion, it's also pretty useful to a totalitarian leader.

Like Stalin, like Napoleon: when things get worse, Napoleon lets Moses back in. It's easy to be cynical. Now that Napoleon and his dogs have become the oppressors, they once again see a need for the raven to go on and on about Sugarcandy Mountain, and they're all too happy to buy him off for "a gill of beer a day" (9.8).

But most people don't realize that Marx's quotation doesn't end with "the opiate of the masses." It continues: religion is a "heart in a heartless world."

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