Friday, 27 May 2011

Animal Farm by George Orwell (4/5)

The back says: Animal farm is regarded in the literary field as one of the most famous satirical allegories of Soviet totalitarianism. Orwell based the book on events up to and during Joseph Stalin’s regime. Orwell, a democratic socialist, and a member of the Independent Labour Party for many years, was a critic of Stalin, and was suspicious of Moscow-directed Stalinism after his experiences in the Spanish Civil war.

The plot is an allegory in which the pigs in a farm play the role of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow and oust the human owners of the farm, setting it up as a commune in which, at first, all animals are equal. The other characters have their parallels in the real world, but care should be taken with the comparisons as they do not always match history exactly and often simply represent generalised concepts.

In other words: The animals take over the farm, tired of being mistreated by humans. Initially they are all equal, but as time progresses, that changes. Epic forbearing.

I say: First allow me to rant on what it says on the back of the book. I truly hate it when they spell out the entire meaning of a novel at the back, before even giving me a chance to read it. And they always do this. I already knew what Animal Farm was about because we were supposed to read it for my English Lit module when I was at uni, but because we didn’t have to write a paper on it, I merely skimmed through it and talked random nonsense during the discussion (as per usual). But, if this was the first time I was picking it up, the last thing I want is for someone to explain it to me beforehand.

This is why I refuse to read Forewords/Introductions because they are just filled with spoilers and they sully my mind with other people's interpretations of something that I really want to discover for myself.

Now, yes, thank you for letting me know that Orwell wrote this as an allegory of Soviet totalitarianism, but this is applicable in so many other states/situations, so just shush about it until I care to know.


So, I really enjoyed this short read, more on a political level than a literary one, because, quite frankly, there really isn’t much to be said about the way it’s written. It’s all very basic, very plain, which, in a way, is nice when there clearly is a point to be made.

But how does one review this without going too deep into it all?

Essentially, I feel like novel should be disturbing, but since I’ve studied political science and conflict resolution, it isn’t, since I’m already so familiar with the process. Correction, this novel is disturbing. The animals start up believing that ‘all animals are equal’ and sharing the labour. It’s not long before a hierarchy is set up with the pigs on top, soon enough declaring that

‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’

Initially the pigs point to the fact that they are the ‘thinkers’ and therefore are the hardest workers and deserve more and better food. As time progresses, with the use of propaganda, the pigs convince the rest of the animals that they are better. They change all the laws, move into the house, and create a line of defence that makes it impossible for the other animals to dare contest. And the rest would be spoilery for anyone who missed the epic forbearing.

But how often have we not seen this happen in real life? And not just in politics, but this pretty much how the girls operated all throughout school. They'd form these cliques that lasted about a school year, and during summer when someone would go away they would bad-mouth them and create a new clique.

Rinse and repeat until graduation.

I’m giving this a 4/5 simply because reading Animal Farm at this age it’s not really anything revolutionary. If I had read this in my teens, I probably would have loved it. Although the end is a surprise to no one (I sincerely hope, because, seriously…) it is really, really good.

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