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Laura N. Hooker

Doctor Teuton

Accelerated English 2

3 March 2019

Animal Farm​: Is Inaction In The Face of Oppression Morally Wrong

Sometimes, inaction can be as harmful as inaction. This point is illustrated in George

Orwell’s​ Animal Farm. ​One of the characters, Benjamin, notices the direction Animal Farm is

taking during the course of the book, but does nothing about it, preferring to sit back and watch it

happen. This raises a moral question. Is this type of behavior wrong? Is inaction in the face of the

oppression of others morally right or wrong? This essay will argue that this type of pacifism is as

dangerous as being an oppressor yourself.

Willingly standing by to tragedy comes from a place of pessimism. In ​Animal Farm​,

Benjamin simply does not care about the outcome of Animal Farm, at least until it effects him.

He says on page 16, “Windmill or no windmill, he said, life would go on as it had always gone

on−that is, badly” (Orwell 16). This highlights his pessimistic and dismissive attitude, showing

that he does not truly care for the other animals around him. Morality is based on empathy for

others, so the argument could be made that a pessimistic attitude like Benjamin’s is morally

wrong. This is why standing by and watching destruction is wrong on a ethical level.

Even if someone is afraid to speak out, their inaction is still wrong. This circumstance is

well documented, and often called by ​the​ ​Kitty Genovese Effect​ or ​the Bystander Effect​. Kitty
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Genovese was murdered right outside of her apartment building, within sight of long time

neighbors and friends, but several of these neighbors ignored her cries for help, and even closed

the door on her while she lay on the stairs into the apartment building bleeding out. Even though

the myths around the murder of Kitty Genovese have been debunked, her case is one of the most

famous for claiming a whole thirty-seven witnesses who did nothing to help Genovese while she

was being murdered. An entire psychological theory is based on this case. One of the witnesses

to the crime summarizes the phenomenon well with his statement of “I didn’t want to get

involved” (Editors 1). This idea is based on self preservation, and most importantly, selfishness.

It is inherently selfish to sacrifice someone else to their suffering (or in Genovese’s case, death)

for your own comfort in an effort to pass the responsibility to others.

Others may argue that standing by and doing nothing is a completely neutral route. They

may argue that this inaction takes no one’s side. However, this is completely wrong. In the case

of Kitty Genovese, when one neighbor did not react to the murder outside their windows, it

became acceptable for another neighbor to ignore the problem, then another, and another, until

this complete silence in the face of a crying young woman was normalcy. In ​Animal Farm​,

Benjamin realizes that his “neutral route” could be harmful to others at the death of Boxer. It is

the first time where Animal Farm’s descent into dictatorship directly affects him with the death

of his friend. Those who ignore tragedy often turn a blind eye to the oppression and look back

just in time for it to affect them.

Those who are bystanders to the oppression of others are always taking the side of the

oppressor, whether they realize it or not, and this action is most certainly morally wrong.

Inaction comes from a lack of regard for others, and is supportive of oppressors. The only way
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for a person to combat this effect that can seize anyone is to be aware of their tendency to blind

eye, and to work to fight injustices, even those that don’t affect them directly.
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Works Cited:

Editors, History.com. “Kitty Genovese.” ​History.com,​ A&E Television Networks, 5 Jan. 2018,

www.history.com/topics/crime/kitty-genovese.

Orwell, George. ​Animal Farm: A Fairy Story​. New York, NY : Signet Classics, [1996. Print.