Book #7 of the 2015 Reading Challenge – Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Read a book with nonhuman characters. Read a book you can finish in a day.

It’s been 3 weeks since I read this novella, and I got so completely wrapped up in the next novel (The Jungle by Upton Sinclair) that I completely forgot about it. Nonetheless, Animal Farm by George Orwell is a fantastic read. I’d never read it before and was surprised that it was that good and entertaining.

It’s a really easy and quick read that you can enjoy in a couple of hours. I read it sitting in my garden with a glass of white wine by my side. However easy it is to read, don’t be fooled. It’s full of deeper symbolism drawing back to the Russian Revolution of 1917, the beginning of the Soviet Union, Communism, Socialism and all of the characters (human as well as nonhuman) represent real life (historical and political) figures (e.g. Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, etc.).

At a glance “Animal Farm is George Orwell’s satire on equality, where all barnyard animals live free from their human masters’ tyranny.”¹

The story starts out well for the animals on Manor Farm who are at the cusp of rebellion and soon manage to overturn the humans, their rule and tyranny.

Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. (…) That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!

(…) And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades. (Kindle, location 103)

The animals’ spirits are high, their dreams of freedom and equality are big. Manor Farm becomes Animal Farm and the animals organize themselves to create a society where everyone is free and reaps the benefits of their own work. Slowly, but surely, though there is a shift in this society of equality. A hierarchy is soon formed where the pigs place themselves at the very top and gain more and more human-like qualities. It’s actually very funny and interesting to read.

The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership. (Kindle, location 292)

It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and took up their residence there. (Kindle location 670)

Nevertheless, some of the animals were disturbed when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing-room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds. (Kindle location 674)

All of the rules that were initially established by the animals in their seven commandments (representing the essence of animalism) are slowly changed and their society becomes one of stark inequality, much like it was before, with the pigs assuming the role of the ruling class while the other animals become the (starving) working class.

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. (Kindle, location 1317)

To gain a deeper understanding of the story and its characters, I suggest reading about the novella before or after – e.g. Spark Notes or Cliff’s Notes or whatever you can find online. Or you can just read it and enjoy it as a funny and entertaining story – it works well either way!

If you haven’t read Animal Farm in school (or even if you have), I definitely recommend (re-)reading it now. It’s one of those classic reads that you can easily find online (e.g. http://www.george-orwell.org/animal_farm/index.html). I found another site online where you could open the novella on Kindle. Read it. I know I will probably read it again sometime in the future.

¹ http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/a/animal-farm/animal-farm-at-a-glance

 

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