Booked & Busy #5: Animal Farm
If you are one of those who immediately connects the name Orwell to "1984", today we'd like to invite you to discover something different from the author. Loved and hated equally, "Animal Farm" is a seemingly innocent fable that reflects on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and onto the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Wait...that escalated quickly.
Well...with Orwell, it kind of always does. George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair was an English novelist, essayist, and critic who devoted most of his writing career to exposing the dangers of totalitarian regimes while advocating for democratic socialism.
As a matter of fact, he did more than just being an advocate. Orwell himself took matters into his own hands and fought against fascism bravely during the Spanish Civil War. His experience through the war is considered the most significant and defining event of his political outlook and what led him to write, in his own words:
“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”
So now that we've hinted that "Animal Farm" is not just a simple children's book despite its title...how does the story go? And why is it special?
Source: Omar Rayyan / suntup.press
The story starts when the animals inside the farm revolt. They are done with being overworked, mistreated, and abused. They seek change.
The enclosure, owned by Mr. Jones (a human), is then taken by force and becomes some sort of socialist organization, where animals are said to be equal to any other species and above all, not inferior to human beings. Animals seize the means of production and are no longer at the orders of anybody but themselves.
The narrative follows the rise and fall of what appears to be some sort of a communist organization, creating a parallelism towards the political history of the USSR, at the time of the Russian Revolution. The literary genre Orwell leverages to explain the story is well chosen - the end result is unbelievably easy to predict, to follow and to understand. It feels just like a kid's tale.
Orwell infuses the story with an unbelievable amount of detail and also succeeds in creating a powerful analogy between different species of farm animals and the different societal groups inside the USSR. Each of these groups would represent the different feelings or attitudes towards the government policies, or the economic system.
It’s important to highlight how precise Orwell was when choosing pigs as the revolution instigators and eventual dominant species inside the Animal Farm.
Pigs are not depicted as particularly strong or skilled; however, they do embody intelligence and the ability to manipulate the population, which clearly appears as the main conditioning factor to gain and retain control. Opposite to the pigs, we are presented with several species (goats, dogs, horses, chicken,…) which are characterized by being naïve, malleable, and in most cases, illiterate.
Not surprisingly, the rise to power is achieved by progressive manipulation, violence, deliberate lying, and an incessant effort to keep the “populace” ignorant and oblivious.
Even though the turn of events were quite predictable (through tiny clues provided since the very beginning of the story), the story and character progression are impeccable. The amount of work poured into developing the characters’ personalities is tangible and clearly one of the aspects which make the fable such a special piece.
The most alluring (or ominous?) peculiarity of this brief story, is that one cannot but get the impression that it has a certain “warning” flair (just like his novel “1984”!).
He showed how the animal revolt against their abusive, selfish human master (the Russian Revolution) ended up developing into a tyranny created by their own kind. The pigs (revolution leads) ended up abusing their power in the same exact ways their masters and tyrants had done so in the past. In his own words:
“What I was trying to say was: You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.”
Throughout the narrative, he pointed out exactly the features of what he described as "a revolution for the few": selfish leadership, greed, and corruption, which might (or not) be an alternative point of view to understanding the Russian Revolution and the events that transpired afterward.
Whether you might agree with his beliefs or not, Orwell took a stand and fought for his ideas in every single aspect of his life. At present, not many people can claim they’ve done so, and that’s what makes him one of my all-time favorite authors.
Reading George Orwell will change the way you see history and politics for good.
Dare to enter the “Animal Farm”?