George Orwell (English 246: Fall 2011)

Power in Discourse? Affirming Napolean’s Position through Speech

December 11, 2011 · Leave a Comment

axiom [ˈæksɪəm]
1. (Mathematics) a generally accepted proposition or principle, sanctioned by experience; maxim
2. a universally established principle or law that is not a necessary truth the axioms of politics
3. (Philosophy / Logic) a self-evident statement

The use of dialogue can be used to construct one’s identity and thus, one’s perception of reality. The usage of reinforcing dialogue is similar to the use of axiom markers by abusive, authoritarian men in their relationships. For example, Peter Adams, Alison Towns, and Nicola Gavey published “Dominance and Entitlement: The Rhetoric Men Use to Discuss their Violence towards Women” which analyzes the discourse of men who had been violent towards women. They found that men used a wide range of rhetorical devices such as “reference ambiguity, axiom markers, metaphor, synecdoche and metonymy.” Their paper explained how the men used rhetorical devices to discuss male dominance and entitlement to power and how the men used such phrases to reinforce their violence towards women. Adams, Town and Gavey hypothesized that men’s word choice “camouflage and maintain positions of dominance within relationships with women.” Similarly, Floretta Boonzaier studied how partners in authoritarian relationships discuss their lives. Her research showed that participants’ narratives of self, other, relationship and violence” can exhibit “narrations of violence as a mutual endeavor and all-encompassing narratives of power and control.”
From the abstract of her article…“However, little research has focused specifically on both partners’ constructions of their relationships. This article is based upon a study that examined how women and men in intimate heterosexual relationships attribute meaning to the man’s perpetration of violence against a woman partner. Narrative interviews were conducted with women and men who constituted 15 heterosexual couples. In this study participants’ narratives of self, other, relationship and violence included ambiguous constructions of victims and perpetrators; constructions of violent relationships as cyclical in nature; constructions of woman abuse as a problem of the self; narrations of violence as a mutual endeavour and all-encompassing narratives of power and control. This study provided insight into the subjective, relational and gendered dynamics of abusive relationships, illustrated the significance of the context in shaping the ways in which experiences are narrated, and showed the value of poststructuralist theorizing to feminist psychology” (Floretta Boonzaier, If the Man Says you Must Sit, Then you Must Sit’: The Relational Construction of Woman Abuse: Gender, Subjectivity and Violence)

I hypothesize that axiom statements in Orwell’s Animal Farm function similar to the use of axiom markers by the submissive partners in human relationships that help to reinforce the power of a dominant other over the speaker.
Snowball- “War is war. The only good human is a dead one”(37).
Sheep- “Four legs good, two legs bad”(41)
Boxer- “Napolean is always right” “I will work harder”(48)

Categories: Animal Farm · Power

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