Book #4 – Animal Farm (George Orwell)

Having read 1984 for an English class as a teenager, and remembering it as being somewhat brilliant, I felt that I really should give Animal Farm a chance.

I have to say, the name didn’t appeal to me. Reading the first few pages left me even less thrilled about the prospect of enduring the entire book. Its saving grace was that it is so short that I was able to force myself to read short amounts in between more enjoyable novels.

The premise of Animal Farm is, as the name implies, a farm of animals. The animals are treated cruelly by the owner of the farm, Mr. Jones to the point where they plan and carry out an uprising against Jones, taking the farm for themselves, and renaming it ‘Animal Farm’.

The uprising is inspired by Old Major, a boar who has a dream of a farm where there are no humans to control the animals, and the animals are able to work together and create a paradise in which they eat what they grow and are no longer starved and mistreated. He teaches them a song called “Beasts of England” which inspires them to carry out the vision of Old Major after his death. The farm runs well under the hard work of the animals, and the direction of three pigs, Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer, but between the constant threats of Mr. Jones returning, and the secretive behaviour of Napoleon, things become increasingly strained. There is a costly battle, a debate among the leaders of the animals, and a forceful dictator who emerges.

Even with the oddity of animals banding together and taking control of a farm, it would be all well and good if the animals were kept relegated to a world where they could communicate only with one another. By gifting his animal characters with the abilities to speak, read and write in English, Orwell made this novel too painful to take seriously.

Obviously, it is written as a symbolic representation of the corruption of society (and, I believe, Orwell was strongly influenced by a desire to criticise the Communist Party in particular) but I think it needed some greater depth as a novel in order to carry such a strong message. Animal Farm shows the corruption and cruelty of the humans, and the gradual transformation of the most intelligent animals, the Pigs, into something so close to their human counterparts that they can no longer be distinguished. Despite this being somewhat clever, the “aha!” moment that it may have intended to elicit simply wasn’t there – the ending was far too obvious to cause any small amount of surprise.

All in all, once I got about half-way through the book, it was easy enough to finish, and it did make some good, albeit obvious, comparisons and observations. I felt it was highly predictable, but, if nothing else, very original.

I’ve read worse… Two stars.

★★☆☆☆☆

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