Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

HARDCOVER; 128 P.
HARVILL SECKER, 2010/1945
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Animal Farm is one of the most famous warnings ever written. Orwell’s immortal satire – ‘against Stalin’ as he wrote to his French translator – can be read on many levels. With its piercing clarity and deceptively simple style it is no surprise that this novel is required reading for schoolchildren and politicians alike. This fable of the steadfast horses Boxer and Clover, the opportunistic pigs Snowball and Napoleon, and the deafening choir of sheep remains as unparalleled masterpiece. One reviewer wrote: ‘In a hundred years’ time perhaps Animal Farm … may simply be a fairy story: today it is a fairy story with a good deal of point.’ Over sixty years on in the age of spin, it is more relevant than ever.

Probably one of the most referenced books in my circle of friends, I’ve heard a lot about this book. But for some reason I have never read it. Until now. And dear me, it was good. SO GOOD. However, lets start with the synopsis:

Animal Farm begins on a farm somewhere in England where the farmer, Mr. Jones, is a drunken, miserable old man who neglects his animals. The workers slacken and the animals starve. One night the old boar gathers the animals to hear a prophesy – a dream he has seen of a time when animals overcome the tyranny of humans. Depressed by their current conditions, the animals take well into this idea and an ideology of Animalism is established. The pigs – the intelligentsia – study the thought and teach its ideals to the other animals. Soon the Revolution of Animals takes place and the man is abolished from his farm. Manor Farm transforms into Animal Farm where all animals toil for the sake of common good, following the Seven Commandments set in the beginning of the Revolution. At first things look good for the animal community, but eventually things begin to change.

The book features a plethora of characters from intelligent pigs to working horses to masses of sheep. What I found ingenious was that the story is written as a fable, but what you essentially read is the story of the Soviet Revolution. Although the historical characters are never mentioned in the text itself, I could not read the book without picturing Stalin and Trotsky in the leading roles. The imagery was powerful – especially the sheep that drowned everything with their ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ chant – and it must have made an impact at the time of its publication. Orwell’s satire hits the Soviet government as well as the British one. What Orwell presents in his book is a story that mimics the Soviet revolution but also the Western nations in their role as the humans. In essence, it stabs the cult of Stalin but does not glorify the actions of the Western nation states.My edition of the Animal Farm also included Orwell’s essay The Freedom of the Press which he originally wrote as a preface to the book. Orwell wrote this essay as a response to the publishing houses that turned down his book in fear that it would injure the relations between England and USSR.

I approached this book with high expectations, and luckily they were all fulfilled. It is a gripping story of power, suppression, politics and the relationship between leaders and the citizens. The book truly deserves its place on the classics shelf; it is also relatively easy to get through which makes it recommendable to almost everyone.

5/5

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL

BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

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4 thoughts on “Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

  1. I think that besides being the greatest allegorical story ever, Animal Farm is one of the most important literary works of our time,although it’s been quite a while since it was published.

    I particularly liked how absolutely everything was relevant to the Bolchevik revolution,which was possible only through Orwell’s meticulousness;for instance the birds which resemble humans in that they have four legs, the countless windmills,and the fight in the end between Pilkington and Napoleon,all have a meaning.One of my favourite allegories is Mr Frederick.The name ‘Frederick’ for the allegorical representation of Hitler was not chosen randomly,far from it.The accuracy of the allegories is really mind-blowing.

    It is great that amidst so many great books,you’ve taken the time to read this little book,which to some look a bit ordinary. 🙂

    • Oh yes, allegory is the word! Although I cannot say it is the greatest allegorical story ever written, it is by far the best I’ve ever read. The detail in this book is mind-blowing.
      And I wouldn’t consider Animal Farm to be ordinary by any standard 🙂

      • Haha,I know! I was just referring to some people who don’t know what the big deal is with the book. 😉
        Hmm,I think it might be the best allegorical novel.What other allegorical book is there anyway? Moby Dick,Lord of the Flies,Life of Pi,Lord of the Rings? Unlike these great books,Animal Farm is the only one where absolutely everything is the allegorical representation of something in real life.So as far as allegories are concerned,Animal Farm is the best.

        *I just noticed a typo in my first comment: it’s ”looks” and not ”look”. 🙂

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