After reading this article over the weekend and watching the buffoonery of Monday night’s debate, I noticed that our current presidential candidates are strikingly similar to some characters I’ve encountered in fiction- and not characters that we would (or at least should) want as president. Namely, Shift the Ape and Napoleon the Pig.
Shift is one of those especially delightful characters in fiction whose name perfectly summarizes his whole being. He is shifty. He constantly shifts and bends truth in order to take over Narnia.
This is someone who withholds his plans, yet on campaign traipses through his country promising, “We will set everything right in Narnia!”
This is someone who insults those who disagree with him rather than engage in discussion. When questioned on one of his policies, Shift does not explain his reasons; he spews contempt. “‘Baby!’ he hissed, ‘Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk!'”
This is someone who has mastered the art of manipulation. Someone who knows that, by mixing a little truth in, his lie will be infinitely stronger. After dressing up one of his minions, a donkey, as Aslan and then losing the lion impostor, Shift announces to everyone that a horrible creature has been spreading lies, posing as the great Aslan himself. This is true, but what Shift doesn’t mention is that he is behind it. By adding truth to his lies, Shift saves his own skin. “What was the good, now, of telling the Beasts that an ass had been dressed up as a lion to deceive them? The Ape would only say, ‘That’s just what I’ve said.'”
This is someone who goes even beyond distorting the truth- he brazenly denies it. When he feels he is losing respect from Narnians, he tells them he is not an Ape at all. He is a Man. This will gain their respect, if they are stupid enough to believe it.
And sadly, it appears they are.
Under Shift’s control, Narnia is destroyed.
Napoleon, too, has a fitting name. Like the French emperor, Orwell’s fictional Napoleon has a greedy lust for power. He is a pig “with a reputation for getting his own way.”
He too lies to save himself, and he too denies the truth when it benefits him, although he is not as brash and impudent as Shift. His lies are more clever and subtle. He takes advantage of his people because he knows they fear the alternative- being ruled by humans once again. He also thinks they are too stupid to read their own laws and to remember what he has said in the past.
And sadly, it appears he is correct.
When the animals first take control of the farm, they write down 7 Commandments for all animals to follow. Commandment 4 states that no animal is to sleep in a bed, as this is considered a disgustingly human practice.
“You have heard then, comrades,” he [Napoleon] said, “that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed is merely a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which are a human invention.”
Under Napoleon’s control, Animal Farm is destroyed.
These are characters who twist words. They do whatever they can to gain more power. They expect others to blindly follow them, and, tragically, that is often what happens.
Have we cornered ourselves into choosing between Shift and Napoleon?