The Role of Violence

By: Soundarya Daliparthy, Haemin Chong, & Anita Kalangara


Heads Up:
Divide the classroom into two teams, Team A and Team B. From each team, send two volunteers.
In the app, Heads Up, there's three categories: Role of Violence 1, 2, and 3. The two people from Team A will go first and pick a category. One person will (without looking) put card after card to their forehead while the other person tries to describe and act out the word on the card on the forehead without actually saying the word or phrase that's been given. Your time limit is 60 seconds.
Team B then repeats.
The last round is one new person from each team.


Violence is any behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. It is utilized in multiple ways such as to bring people together, to survive, and to hold control over others out of fear. Violence has taken to these roles throughout history and all over the world.


Violence is not solely a means for punishment. In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the role of violence evolves from a unifying factor to a survival method, and finally becomes a tool of political oppression, as the animal regime starts to resemble Stalinist Russia.


"And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural span... No animal escapes the cruel knife in the end. You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within one year. To that horror we must come- cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone... Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the fox-hounds" (Orwell, 8-9).


In this scene, Old Major, the respected boar, rallies together the animals of the Manor Farm to bring to light the atrocities they have lived under. He uses the violence inflicted on him and the other animals to unify them as a community of like minded animals who have suffered together. The shared experiences of suffering and violence is the framework Old Major uses to instigate the start of a revolution which he argues will need every single individual.


"Without halting for an instant, Snowball flung his fifteen stone against Jones's legs. Jones was hurled into a pile of dung and his gun flew out of his hands. But the most terrifying spectacle of all was Boxer, rearing up on his hind legs and striking out with his great iron-shod hoofs like a stallion" (Orwell, 42).


This scene depicts the beginning of the Battle of the Cowshed. In it, without hesitation, the animals use violence to harm and scare away Mr. Jones. They use violence as a means of survival and it is almost instinctive. Although their violence is almost just as bad as the violence done unto them by Mr. Jones himself, their actions are taken in self defense. The animals’ acts of violence could almost be viewed as necessary; without it, they would have all died at the hands of Mr. Jones and his recruits. Their actions were executed in order to defend their lives as any human or living thing would naturally do to protect themselves when threatened.


"....with his 9 huge dogs frisking round him and uttering growls that sent shivers down all the animals spines. They all cowered silently in their places, seeming to know in advance that some terrible thing was about to happen. Napoleon struts sternly surveying his audience; then he ordered a high-pitched whimper. Immediately the dogs bounded forward, seized four of the pigs by the ear and dragged them, squeaking with pain and terror, to Napoleon's feet. The pigs' ears were bleeding, the dogs had tasted blood, and for a few moments they appeared to go quite mad... Presently the tumult died down. The four pigs waited, trembling, with guilt written on every line of their countenances. Napoleon now called upon them to confess their crimes... Without any further promoting they confessed that they had been secretly in touch with Snowball ever since his expulsion, that they had collaborated with him in destroying the windmill, and that they had entered into an agreement with him to hand over Animal Farm to Mr. Frederick." (Orwell, 82-83).


This quote shows the role of violence is being used as a controlling method. In the scene, Napoleon uses the huge nine dogs to seize and torture four pigs in which he suspects are secretly in touch with Snowball. Furthermore, Napoleon emphasizes his character is being an utterly correct opportunist. Throughout the entire book he never shows interest in the strength of Animal Farm itself, but rather only shows interest in the strength of his power over the farm. Because of this, the only project he truly invests in has to do with him using violence to control the farm and those in it: the training of the litter of puppies. These puppies eventually become his own secret police and army; they impose his will through extremely violent means, with this being an example of one. The role of violence has changed from unifying many to controlling those who were once unified.


Violence in society is used for a multitude of reasons. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't only used to instill fear into others. It is a useful and versatile tool used by leaders all throughout history and literature in order to unite people, survive, and triumph over others.


1. Napoleon commits and executes such extreme acts of violence, yet all the other animals remain convinced that what he's doing is right and good for the farm. How and why is this?

2. Why do we consider an animal's life less than a human's. Why do some humans value the lives of other humans less?

3. Do humans have the prerogative to take away another human's life? Are there only some situations when this is permissible? Consider Ferguson, Oscar Pistorius, War, the death penalty.


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