Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

All Men Are Enemies

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 23, 2011

In Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, Major — one of the main characters — espouses the belief that rebellion is the path to freedom.  In fact, he is convinced that overthrowing the human race would instantly make all animals “rich and free.” Well, perhaps not all animals as Major is unsure as to whether wild animals count with regards to the rebellion.   He rallies the animals with cries that the animals must be united in order to overthrow man, stating clearly that, “all men are enemies. All animals are comrades.”

It’s an interesting point of view and certainly not an original concept created by George Orwell.  The concept of all men being enemies has been explored with that exact verbage in a number of books.

The Montreal Gazette reported on Richard Aldington‘s then most-recently published 344-page book, The Romance of Casanova.  The article began:

Richard Aldington is, indisputably, one of the most important of contemporary writers in English.  Death Of A Hero, was one of the most significant books of its era: The Colonel’s Daughter, All Men Are Enemies — even, Very Heaven — are fine examples of modern English prose, generous in concept, original in idea, brilliant in execution.  His current volume, The Romance of Casanova, is an annoyance, doing the author a literary disservice, and providing a source of considerable distress to his enthusiastic admirers.

Of course, the novel All Men Are Enemies was made into a film by Fox Films and went into production January 16, 1934 and wrapped up exactly one month later.  Hugh Williams, Helen Twelvetrees and Mona Barrie as the principals in the movie.  The story, published two years earlier in 1932, was described by movie critics as being a tedious but tasteful romance about a young Englishman who marries the wrong woman.

In fact, when the Los Angeles Times reviewed the movie, journalist Philip K. Scheuer wrote:

Beyond a perfunctory introductory caption explaining that “to the man who sets out on a brave and solitary way, all men are enemies,” there is nothing about the new film at Loew’s State to make its title particularly applicable.

Nearly a century before that, in the book, First Footsteps in East Africa or An Exploration of Harar, written by Richard F. Burton of the Bombay Army and published by Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans in 1856, this is written:

One of these events throws the country into confusion, for the vendetta is rancorous and bloody, as in ancient Germany or in modern Corsica. Our Abban enlarged upon the unpleasant necessity of travelling all night towards the hills, and lying perdu during the day. The most dangerous times are dawn and evening tide: the troopers spare their horses during the heat, and themselves during the dew-fall. Whenever, in the desert,—where, says the proverb, all men are enemies — you sight a fellow creature from afar, you wave the right arm violently up and down, shouting “War Joga! War Joga!”—stand still! stand still! If they halt, you send a parliamentary to within speaking distance. Should they advance, you fire, taking especial care not to miss; when two saddles are emptied, the rest are sure to decamp.

The concept that all men are enemies, however, comes from Colossians 1:13 where the concept put forth is that all men are enemies in their minds until God transforms them through the work of salvation.

While George Orwell has the character Major state, “all men are enemies” in Chapter 1 of Animal Farm, the sentiment is one that has made itself well-known before and after the publication of this book.

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