There are many ways in which Orwell uses rhetoric to persuade the audience (the farm animals). For example, old Major wants to create an animal utopia, which encourages rebellion within the farm. Techniques such as pathos and rhetorical questions are used effectively with a wide variety of other techniques, e.g. antithesis, anaphora and ethos, being used, though perhaps not as widely or as well as the two devices mentioned previously (pathos and rhetorical questions). The other primary persuasive method was via structure, which was also used successfully.
Pathos and emotive vocabulary are used extensively in the speech. For example,’…our lives are miserable, laborious and short…’ this phrase is perfect because he (Old Major) refers to himself as one of his audience, making them listen to him. This is also an example of dynamic vocabulary because Orwell could have written, ‘our lives are sad, tiring and short.’ Still, he didn’t use his vocabulary to make the reader think about what he was saying.
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The broken repetition of the word ‘man’ also adds to the vibrant atmosphere, and as old Major becomes more and more heated throughout the speech, he begins to repeat the word more and more whi8ch, by the end, perhaps even evokes the word as a ‘bad word’ a word that should not be uttered, not even under one’s breath. In this instance, ‘Man’ also becomes an emotional scapegoat as it were, with criticisms beginning as ‘man serves the interests of…but himself’ and ending with, ‘all habits of men are evil,’ which could be described as leaving earlier criticisms and becoming an enemy.
Ethos has already been covered earlier in the book. ”…prize Middle White boar’, ‘with a wise and benevolent appearance’ and, in a way, old Major already has respect from the other animals because he is a pig, and therefore clever, because he uses words like we, use, our to identify himself with his audience and also because of his age Old Major dies shortly after this speech. Orwell has used those quotes as indicators that he is well respected on the farm. The animals are especially interested in what he has to say because of the bizarre dream he wants to tell the other animals about.
Old Major makes excellent use of rhetorical questions in this speech, making references to the animals’ hard life, such as a politician my do during election time. A good example is, ‘Now comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Note how he uses the word ‘comrades’-it is used extensively and is one of the linguistic points at which one can identify this speech and the rest of the book with the communist Bolshevik revolution. We may even compare Old Major to Lenin.
With the question mentioned, Old Major is inviting discussion on the subject, but also see how there is no talking during the speech as well as showing high respect for the pig; it also shows that Orwell means all the questions to be rhetorical and Old Major answers many, if not all, of them himself. The use of exclamations often follows rhetorical questions, ‘But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it this land of ours is so poor that it cannot afford a decent life to those who dwell upon it?
No, comrades, thousand times no!’ In this case, Orwell builds up to the climax of the speech with more and more rhetorical questions he then proceeds to answer in one sentence. This sentence is exclaimed because, in it, all the injustices that old Major feels he has been served are let out, and the animals begin to realize what their lives are; before the speech, it is expected that they didn’t particularly question their lives and assumed it simply was ‘…the order of nature as Old Major puts it. So this climax is not only an emotional ‘ending’ for Old Major but an emotional ‘dawning’ for many other animals about how they will live and eventually die.
The structure in the speech is very definite but is still flexible enough to let different people group the speech differently; many points overlap, which seems to be a good idea. Subtitles, such as ‘The Dream,” Wisdom,’ and ‘Self-pity and revenge against man1 could be cited. The subtitles mentioned above are names for a commonly used structure called dispositio. This method was used by writers in rhetoric such as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian2.
Exordium, which is mostly the first paragraph, Old Major shocks the animals into listening to him by stating that he has not much time left and that he has had an exciting dream. This is followed by Narratio, which could easily be the second paragraph with its basic ideas and rhetorical questions. Proof (confirmation) is harder to identify, but the sentence beginning, ‘The soil of England is fertile…’ is generally seen as ‘proof’.
Refutation is when Old Major states that ‘Man is the only creature that consumes without producing.’ This is also the fourth paragraph of the speech. The refutation continues for approx. Two more paragraphs before Major old sums up his argument has a vote, and then sings ‘Beats of England’. This speech is booming, and the rebellion occurs soon after. Unfortunately, (drawing parallels with Lenin) after his death, there begins a power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball.
This speech is successful because firstly, Old Major is old and wise, which makes the animals want to listen to him, he has a point which is highly relevant to his audience, he uses natu8re to justify his claims which can be very opinionated, especially in the context of the natures versus nurture debate which encompasses issues like GM food and its ethical implications etc. Refutation and Peroration are also quite relevant; it is relatively easy for Old Major to reject a pro-human argument because the animals have only experienced Mr. Jones and so already hold an anti-human view. Perforation is also relatively easy to do because, again, this is highly relevant, and the song is a perfect ending to the argument because it is a practical summary.