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Mortal Engines & Animal Farm Intertextual Study

Compare the ways that Phillip Reeves and George Orwell explore the theme of manipulation in the
novels Mortal Engines and Animal Farm
The temptations of power sow the seeds of manipulation which plague dystopian societies. The fictitious texts of Mortal
Engines, by Phillip Reeves, and Animal Farm, by George Orwell, depict two distinct dystopian realms. Reeves' narrative depicts
a post-apocalyptic world shrouded in conspiracy where locomotive cities tear across the barren countryside, consuming each
other to survive as justified by the ideology of Municipal-Darwinism. On the other hand, the allegorical novella, Animal Farm,
portrays the plight of the Russian people striving to survive at the mercy of the tyrannical totalitarian leadership throughout
the turbulent period of the Russian Revolution. In both texts, the theme of manipulation is explored through ideas such as;
the temptations of power incite manipulative acts, propaganda is an effective outlet of manipulation and exploitation is often
disguised or justified as progress towards the ‘greater good’. Overall, Reeves and Orwell masterfully utilise various techniques
to demonstrate the destruction manipulation may cause in society.
The concept that those pursuing power often resort to ruthless manipulation is unearthed and explored in Mortal Engines
and Animal Farm, particularly through the characters of Napoleon and Magnus Crome. Using the stylistic technique of
allegory, Orwell highlights the manipulative manoeuvring and conniving deeds of the characters leading the 'socialist utopia'.
Napoleon, “a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar…with a reputation for getting his own way,” is an allegory of Joseph
Stalin. Exploiting the farm animals' lack of intellectual capacity, Napoleon influenced his subjects to believe outrageous lies
regarding Snowball's deeds, culminating in his expatriation and vilification, particularly after claiming that Snowball was “the
enemy who [came] in the night and [overthrew] our windmill.” Orwell uses allegory to associate the manipulative actions of
Napoleon with those of Stalin, who after acquiring leadership of the USSR, launched an unscrupulous attack against his
political rival, Trotsky, concluding in his expulsion. Comparatively, in Mortal Engines, the technique of characterisation is
utilised to emphasize the manipulations shrouding the dystopic, locomotive city. Magnus Crome, Lord Mayor of London, “thin
as an old crow, and twice as gloomy,” is portrayed to the reader as an unstable megalomaniac, whilst Thaddeus Valentine,
the medium from which Crome's manipulative machinations were accomplished, is described “as loyal as a dog, so long as
we give him plenty of money”. Throughout the plot, Valentine is entailed to accomplish a variety of tasks for Crome, from
murdering the Shaw family to retrieve a destructive armament to sabotaging and annihilating a city’s entire air fleet.
Furthermore, Valentine details his ‘heroic adventures’ in storybooks, embellishing or eliminating certain details to convey the
specific image Crome desires. Reeves uses characterisation to portray the mental instability of Crome- from his downright
lack of empathy and compassion to his unhealthy desire for dominance- and its concealment from the public eye by
comprehensive layers of deceit and manipulation. Overall, both dystopic texts demonstrate the utilisation of literary
techniques to explore the theme of manipulation and the deeper idea that individuals enthralled by the promises of power
may manipulate others without hesitation to accomplish their agenda.
Orwell and Reeves explore the idea of propaganda as an effective method of manipulation via the utilisation of literary
techniques including dialogue and imagery. Throughout Animal Farm, Squealer, a porker pig known for his ability to "turn
black into white", was Napoleon's regime's mouthpiece. The quick-witted pig's mastery of convincing rhetoric and immorality
is shamelessly employed to manipulate the farm animals. To allay a confrontation, Squealer cries, “You do not imagine…that
we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? … Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health.”
Orwell’s utilisation of dialogue is emphasised as Squealer's manipulative and persuasive explanation immediately alleviated
any doubts amongst the animals. In Mortal Engines, the locomotive city of London views the post-apocalyptic world through
the ideological lens of 'Municipal Darwinism'; described by protagonist, Tom Natsworthy, "it was natural that cities ate towns,
just as the towns at smaller towns, and smaller towns snapped up the miserable static settlements". However, the ethical
implications of the consequences of 'Municipal Darwinism' including enslavement, genocide and persecution were rarely
considered, in part due to Magnus Crome's utilisation of propaganda to manipulate his subjects. In a passionate speech,
Crome announces that, "London will never stop moving. Movement is life. When we have devoured the last wandering city
and demolished the last static settlement we will begin digging. We will build great engines, powered by the heat of the
earth’s core, and steer our planet from its orbit." The persuasive grandiosity in conjunction with visually descriptive language
demonstrates Reeves’ implementation of dialogue, similar to that in Animal Farm, but also imagery which establishes an
aspect of visual sensation. In conclusion, Mortal Engines and Animal Farm, portray the idea of propaganda's manipulative
usefulness through the utilisation of similar and differing literary techniques.
Damiano Pavia 10.4
Compare the ways that Phillip Reeves and George Orwell explore the theme of manipulation in the
novels Mortal Engines and Animal Farm
Within both texts, the concept is explored that manipulation can often be presented in the guise of having a benefit towards
the ‘greater good’. In Animal Farm, Orwell demonstrates this idea via narrative perspective to emphasize the devious deeds
of Napoleon and the farm animals’ ignorance and naivety. Orwell utilises third-person omniscient to depict the narrative from
an all-knowing, unseen narrator’s perspective allowing the actions and inner thoughts of the characters to be described
unbiasedly. Following Napoleon’s triumphant claimant to power, the omniscient narrator describes the conditions under their
new ruler, “…in August Napoleon announced that there would be work on Sunday afternoons as well. [It] was strictly
voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.” The narrative perspective
emphasizes that despite the involuntary toil resembling the animals’ lives under the regime of Farmer Jones, they consented
in belief that they would share in the prosperity of the farm. This idea was profoundly exploited by the pigs. Comparatively,
in Mortal Engines, Reeves portrays the concept of the justification of manipulation as the ‘greater good’ via situational irony.
The finale of the novel describes the obliteration of London caused by a malfunction in the resident superweapon. Magnus
Crome sobbed his dying words, "I only wanted to help London! ... I only wanted to make London strong!" The obsessively
ambitious leader attempts to rationalise his manipulative and exploitive actions as being in the best interests of the city of
London and its people. Reeves uses situational irony as Crome’s primitive philosophy, to form London into the dominant
locomotive city, resulted in the complete destruction of it altogether. Overall, both texts portray that the manipulative often
attempt to justify their deceitful actions under the banner of progress towards the ‘greater good’.
Mortal Engines and Animal Farm explore the profound and multidimensional theme of manipulation. In both texts,
manipulation is explored through concepts such as; manipulative acts are often executed in the pursual of power, propaganda
is an effective distribution method of manipulation and the exploits of the manipulative are often justified as progress towards
the ‘greater good’. The theme of manipulation is established via a plethora of unique literary techniques amalgamated into
the settings and plots masterfully sculpted by Reeves and Orwell. These gripping texts assist us in apprehending the
inescapable comprehensiveness and danger of manipulation in dystopian societies.
Damiano Pavia 10.4