Seventy-three years after its publication and Orwell’s Animal farm is still regarded as the revolutionary piece it is and still as, if not more, relevant today.
The book, a very well written critique about how socialism has been twisted at the hands of people in power, goes undercover as a simple fable designed for children. The tale highlights the demons inside all of us: the greed, the cruelty, the lies, the laziness… It puts communism into perspective and shows us that while it is idealistic in theory, it is easily turned into a harsh totalitarian system.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The story takes place in an English farm where the animals were inspired by the radical ideologies of a pig, Old Major. Soon after his death, the animals rose up against the cruel farmer Mr. Jones, forced him away and renamed their ranch The Animal Farm. They adopt The Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is “all animals are equal”. The pigs then take charge, and they start changing the rules to suit themselves throughout the book, using Squealer to convince the animals that their memories are faulty. “No animal shall sleep in a bed” becomes “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets”, “No animal shall drink alcohol” becomes “in excess” and “No animal shall kill another animal” becomes “without cause” until eventually the only commandment left written is “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.
The book could be easily enjoyed as the enlightening and interesting read it is for those unfamiliar or uninterested with historic occurrences, however, Orwell clearly meant to depict events that had led to the Russian Revolution as well as those that took place during the Stalinist era afterward. Some of the characters are hard to miss, like Old Major who embodies Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin as well as Napoleon who portrays Joseph Stalin, while others may not be as obvious. Nonetheless, it’s very interesting to read into the other characters such as Boxer, the loyal worker who has complete faith in Napoleon who represents the peasants of the time, Squealer representing the paid press and Snowball representing Leon Trotsky. The full list of characters can easily be found on Wikipedia, I suggest reading through it simultaneously while reading the book, it would add an insightful view on the series of events.
Animal farm is a warning, a historic tale of what once was and what could once again be. Although simple in framework, it’s a thrilling piece that gets you thinking for a while.
Enjoy and always bring a book home. x