Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Classic / Satire
Rating: 5 of 5
***WARNING MILD SPOILERS***
(of course, this is a classic so you probably know the gist of the story already…if you can complete the title quote, you’ll be fine)
This is the February group read for the Dewey Decimators. Given all the talk/fears of totalitarianism surrounding the new president, it was a great choice (I’m also currently working my way through It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis). Also, I am using this as my “Classic About an Animal” in the Back to Classics Challenge.
Orwell is best known for the great/terrifying dystopia 1984, but this book packs nearly the same wallop in about 1/3 the pagecount. Animal Farm‘s scope is a bit more narrow than 1984 as Orwell focuses in on not just totalitarianism in general, but Soviet communism in particular.
In a parody of the Bolshevik Revolution, the animals of Manor Farm revolt and, under the leadership of the pigs, seize control of the farm, rechristening it Animal Farm. The two most prominent pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, play the roles of Trotsky (with maybe a touch of Lenin) and Stalin respectively. The tragic, grotesque, violent history of these men and their politics plays out in miniature on the farm over the following years in a most unedifying spectacle.
Despite being satire of a specific political situation, Animal Farm remains relevant as a warning of how despots come to power. As the pigs slowly morph into overlords who are indistinguishable from the former master, we get to see the steps along the way by which they slowly warp their idealistic vision into something that grants them absolute power. In the end, the animals are left with the memorable slogan that so aptly describes Marxism put into practice:
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS