Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm was published in 1945 by Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell. The novel is allegorical and dystopian in genre and Orwell himself describes the book as dealing with the events leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution and into the Stalin era. The novel was completed in 1944 but was rejected by a number of British and American publishers at the time because of an ongoing wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Stalin was also at the time held in high esteem in Britain which Orwell detested.
Animal Farm is a brilliant little book which I enjoyed thoroughly. It is honest and unforgiving. Lev Grossman of TIME said: “No writer has ever been more naked in his contempt for power, or more ruthless in his critique of those who abuse it…” and I couldn’t agree more. This is exactly why it is a great classic novel that everyone should read in their lifetime. It is a very easy read (only 112 pages) despite the weighty message and the allegory of the farm animals was utterly genius in both conception and execution through the characterisation. I personally highly recommend this book.
Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in the Soviet Union. (read more on GoodReads)
In an article by the New York Review of Books entitled Animal Farm: What Orwell Really Meant there is an excerpt from correspondence between Orwell and Dwight McDonald soon after the novel’s publication wherein MacDonald talks about anti-Stalinist intellectuals as having interpreted Animal Farm as conveying that revolution always ends badly for the underdog and so there’s no point to revolution and the status quo should simply be accepted. Orwell’s response to MacDonald clarifies the important message that Animal Farm holds for the people/underdogs about revolution and leadership:
“Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so much that I meant that that kind of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job. The turning-point of the story was supposed to be when the pigs kept the milk and apples for themselves. […] If the other animals had had the sense to put their foot down then, it would have been all right. If people think I am defending the status quo, that is, I think, because they have grown pessimistic and assume that there is no alternative except dictatorship or laissez-faire capitalism…”
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I loved this book and although I did not get the opportunity to read it at school I got to read it later while I was an English tutor and one of my students had it as their setwork. A great book!