The Old Major’s speech as portrayed in the narrative Animal Farm has myriad of similarities and differences to the speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. in his attempt to liberate the black race from discrimination. This essay compares and contrasts the content of both speeches. The Old Major’s speech marks the beginning of the novel.
Although the speech is directly meant to incite the farm occupants (animals) to rebel violently against poor leadership, the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. does not openly advocate for bloody resistance against racism and lack of equality. As Martin King cautions, “let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” (Echols 5). In spite of the racial injustice that had dominated America for ages, King in his speech calls for a peaceful demand for justice. On the other hand, both speeches offer a mirage of bad leadership. In the case of Old major’s speech, it is purely a lamentation of the infamous satirical and totalitarian leadership that dominated the Soviet Union during the Post War era.
Both speeches have been presented as visions or dreams for a better future. In Animal Farm, Old Major encountered a bizarre dream the previous night which he wished to share with the rest of the animals in the farm. Similar to the speech by Martin Luther, the latter asserts severally that he “has a dream”, for instance, that a time will come when the American nation will “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” (Echols 25). The speech by Major is characterized by both Leninism and Marxism similar to the one that brought about Communist revolution in Russia. However, King’s speech was largely embraced by both the discriminate blacks and some whites who strongly felt that equity was necessary for all races.
As already mentioned, the Major’s speech is a complete satire of an unpopular Communist regime that dominated Russia. However, Martin Luther’s speech is not satirical since the orator was directly addressing the concerns of the black race in America. As he observes in his speech, even after one hundred years of independence, there is still no liberty for Negros. On the same note, while Martin Luther’s speech is reiterating the need for freedom for the black race, the Major’s speech is a reflection of poor governance. The speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
makes use of metaphorical expressions and imagery to drive the point home. For instance, Luther refers to unjust treatment of the black people as “a black check… marked insufficient funds” (Henry1). Such a symbolic expression adds not only the flavour but also strength to the speech and arouses the attention of the audience as well. Similar to the speech by Old Major in Animal Farm, the song “Beasts of England” is symbolic of the maltreatment of animals in the farm who must rise the occasion and fight their way to freedom. In Martin Luther King’s speech, there is urgent need for the blacks to enjoy their freedom just like the whites do.
In fact, Luther is calling for equality in all aspects of life, whether an American citizen is black or white. Hence, the final destination for this peaceful crusade is to place all races on the same platform, economically or politically. On the other hand, Old Major is warning fellow animals not to turn into the ways of man after clinching their freedom. According to Major, “no animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade” (Orwell 11).
Echols, James. I have a dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the future of multicultural America, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004. Henry, Charles P. Long overdue: the politics of racial reparations, New York: New York University Press, 2007. Orwell, George.
Animal Farm, Fairfield: 1st World Library-Literary Society, 2004.