From the Scribd book page:
George Orwell’s classic satire of the Russian Revolution has become an intimate part of our contemporary culture, with its treatment of democratic, fascist, and socialist ideals through an animal fable. When the animals of Mr. Jones’s Manor Farm revolt against their human rulers, they establish the democratic Animal Farm under the credo, “All Animals Are Created Equal.” Out of their cleverness, the pigs, Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball, emerge as leaders of the new community. In a development of insidious familiarity, the pigs begin to assume ever greater amounts of power, while other animals, especially the faithful horse Boxer, assume more of the work. The climax of the story is the brutal betrayal of Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: “But Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.”
Almost everyone I know had to read this book in high school. For some reason, my english class didn’t, and it’s always left me like I’ve missed out on something important and valuable. Quite frankly, now that I’ve finally taken the time to read it, I’m glad I didn’t read this in high school. Not only was I in my “OMG I HATE THE CLASSICS!” phase, there is also so much in Animal Farm that would’ve gone so completely over my head. I wouldn’t have appreciated the book as I do now.
Because there’s a lot of books considered classics that I’ve never read, I’m trying to remedy that and am slowly going back to reread them. It is, however, just a coincidence that the previous classic I read was also by Orwell… It suits, however. Whether intentional, or just because they were both so distinctively Orwellian, these two books had a lot of similarities in themes and overall pervasive oppressiveness of atmosphere in the book.
Animal Farm is a short novella that tells the story of a farm where the animals have kicked out all of the humans and have decided to run things how they want to. The animals believe this is the best way to go – after all, the farmer who runs the farm doesn’t actually do any of the work, and yet he gets all of the rewards. The animals believe they should be the ones who get the rewards since they believe they do all of the work around there. And at first it really seems like it could work out for them. When the wrong pigs start calling the shots, however, everything start progressively getting worse and worse until things were better for all of the animals when the humans were running the farm.
This is a short allegory and political satire of the Russian Revolution, and helps to illustrate what happened when Stalin came in to power. I will fully admit that my knowledge of Russian history and politics isn’t the greatest, so found much help getting the meaning behind everything that happened from a couple of online resources, as well as John (who is a huge political junky). The different barnyard animals are based on different Russian figures and classes, making it a great tool to help understanding the cultural and political environment during the Russian Revolution in 1917 – especially how things seemed to get slowly worse and worse for the general populace.
The most chilling part of the book, for me, was near the end of the book, when the pigs (who by this point in time were sleeping in beds, wearing clothes, drinking alcohol, and socializing with humans) had a few of the neighbouring farmers over for dinner. The other farm animals were looking through a window into the farmhouse, and there was one point where they couldn’t tell who the pigs were and who the humans were. It showed how the animals, who had fought so hard to be done with one leader, only to find that in the end, their new leaders were exactly what they had before (only worse, if you consider the fact that they were getting less rations, the fact that some of their kind had died from working too hard, etc).
The Bottom Line
While I am definitely glad that I did finally read this book, I’m not sure I will be going back to read it again. And while I do think it’s a book most people should read, I think that it’s definitely required to know your Russian history first.