By George Orwell
George Orwell, born Eric Blair, wrote his classic Animal Farm during World War II and it was published in 1946. Orwell was a renowned and open socialist. He was not however a supporter of communism’s interpretation of socialism in the USSR or in Spain (he saw first hand oppressions in Spain when he fought for the Spain’s cause of independence).
Animal Farm opens in Britain where there is a small to mid-sized farm called “Manor Farm”. The farm is run by a Mr. Jones, symbolizing Czar Nicholas II, along with five other men. The animals work the farm at the human’s command and do so without reproach.
The animal and human coexistence begins to become threatened however when a pig named old Major, the incarnation of Karl Marx, prophesizes a rebellion of the animals that will overthrow Mr. Jones. The animals prepare animals prepare for the coming rebellion not knowing when it will occur. To replace Major, two other pigs find themselves coming to the forefront of leadership for the rest of the animals. These two pigs Napoleon and Snowball, Stalin and Trotsky respectively, start the rebellion when Mr. Jones uses his whip to beat animals away from the food stores. After that incident the animals begin to rule themselves. However, it is not done so in complete democracy, Napoleon and Snowball are pushed into leadership positions by the rest of the animals.
As the story progresses the animals slowly give more and more power to the pigs who are like a ruling class, and begin to bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Jones. This class is split when the issue of constructing a windmill is brought up by Snowball at the farm’s Sunday meeting. Napoleon and Snowball fight with one another until Napoleon drives Snowball away through use of his nine dogs, the secret police of what is now called Animal Farm.
The animals accept the fate of Snowball, because they are told that he was a traitor and in league with Mr. Jones. Soon after, Napoleon announces that the windmill he had so vehemently opposed is going to be built. At this the animals start to become confused and angered that Napoleon appears to be contradicting himself. The outrages do not stop there however, because as the story unfolds the pigs become more and more like Mr. Jones and his men. The animals’ rights are continually reduced until they are working more than they used to for less. Eventually Boxer, the seemingly dull witted strong horse who is the symbol of the proletariat, calls Napoleon on his hypocrisy. As a result, Boxer is sold off to a glue plant when he can no longer work only to be replaced by five other horses. The liberties of the animals continue to be stripped down until the pigs have all the power and freedom while the other animals are little more than slaves. This return to Mr. Jones’ regime is completed when the pigs host some humans in the manor house. The animals creep up to the window to watch the goings on. Soon after an argument breaks out over the card game going on and the animals cannot tell which of the subjects before them are pigs and which are humans, because they all look the same.
This book is one of my favorite books. I thoroughly enjoy Orwell as an author because of his fluid motion of thought through his writing. It is smooth and works well in describing exactly what he hopes to portray. Animal Farm was written as a warning to Europe about the Soviets. The book’s subjects are all representative of some aspect of the Russian society (ie Napoleon is Stalin, Snowball is Trotsky, Boxer is the proletariat, etc). Orwell has an ability to write in a manner that perfectly conveys what happened in Russia. His nonchalant approach to writing about the pigs seeming indifference to their own transformation back to what they were to replace, the czar style government, makes the book. Orwell is able to capture the essence of how the transformation took place and how the other animals were convinced that what was happening was the preferred outcome. Orwell’s ability to portray what was actually going on in Russia is why this book is so good and is why anyone interested in Stalin, Russia, communism, or the history of Europe should read Animal Farm.
Why is this book “dangerous?”:
Animal Farm was written during World War II, when much of Western Europe was very happy with communist Russia for its efforts to beat Germany. This book is a slap in the face to that idea. It was written as a warning to Europe to be on guard against a communist country. Though it was only meant to be a precaution it was immediately met with disapproval from many in the Western World. These people branded Orwell as a fascist and supporter of the Nazi regime for the way that he portrayed Stalin. Slowly, however, this image began to die away as many realized Orwell was a socialist. Also, as time wore on all that Orwell wrote seemingly came true. His feelings about what would happen to Russia as Stalin’s power grew came true. Now, Animal Farm is viewed as one of the best works of the 20th century and Orwell one of its best authors.