George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a remarkable story describing a revolution on a farm suppressed by human overlords. The plot is relatively simple; in it, the animals begin to dream of a farm where they are in charge and they can choose how and when they work. The story, although written as a historical reference based on the events of the acts of the Soviet Union, can be still be read alone and understood for its universal themes, without actually knowing of its origins. Although it was a quick and easy read, I found the book to be very powerful from the actions of the characters, and even more moving from the words that inspired the characters’ actions.
Animal Farm begins just as you would expect it to- on a farm. Late one night, a respected elder pig named Old Major calls them together and delivers a ‘prophecy’ to them that he had dreamt, awakening an inspiration in the farm. The dream was based on overthrowing the cruel farmer, Mr. Jones, who forced them to work. Only a few pages in, Old Major dies, the animals take over the farm and rename it Animal Farm, and the other pigs start to make Old Major’s dream a reality.
Two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, combine his ideas into an outlook on life that they title ‘Animalism’. While Snowball has good motives and progressive ideas, Napoleon wants to carry out the dream through corrupt power. Now, it is important to note the historical significance of this. Animal Farm is written to correlate the situations of the farm animals to the rise of the Russian Soviet Union. In the story, Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin and Snowball is symbolic of Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s main opponent for the crown. Like Stalin, Napoleon is manipulative and can abuse words to sound good to the ears when they’re really not all that they’re cut out to be. The other animals on the farm represent the peasants in the country.
Uneducated and naive, they are manipulated by Napoleon.Snowball, one day, proposes building a windmill to generate electricity, but Napoleon solidly opposes it and chases Snowball out of the camp. Napoleon assumes complete control of the camp and wipes out every shard of Democracy Animal Farm once had. He asserts that pigs alone will make the decisions from that point forward and assures the animals that it is for their own good. Naively, the animals believe him and follow him blindly.After Snowball is gone, Napoleon changes his mind about the windmill and claims to the other animals that it was his idea.
The animals set to work on it diligently, eager to please Napoleon. After a storm one day, the windmill falls due to faulty design, but Napoleon spreads the lie that it was Snowball’s doing, that he had come back to the farm to destroy it. Napoleon begins killing off the ‘members’ of Snowball’s rebellion for the fun of it.The part of the book that touched my heart the most was Boxer’s story. He was an uneducated but unendingly loyal horse who worked the hardest of any of the animals.
Throughout the book, he is recognized by his personal motto, “I will work harder.” When Napoleon comes to power, he gives his heart and soul to him, trusting every lie he speaks without hesitation. Even through his dark days of hunger, thirst, and pain from being overworked, Boxer remains loyal to Napoleon. He takes up a new quote, “Napoleon is always right.” After the windmill falls, a battle breaks out, and Boxer is badly injured. Napoleon sells Boxer away to a glue maker for whiskey without a second thought, and lies to the other animals, saying that Boxer passed away in peace.The story wraps up telling of how the pigs became more like men, their worst, most despised enemies, every day.
Their set of laws, the principles of Animalism, are torn to shreds, leaving only one rule in their place: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Napoleon’s way with words tricked the animal citizens into believing that he was improving their conditions, when he truly was no better than the humans before him.The final line of the book was very powerful to me: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”George Orwell obviously wrote this book to reflect on and criticize the Soviet Union’s moral standards versus what they had originally proposed, and I would argue that he did a very good job of it. The book keeps a neutral perspective and tone throughout the book while still making the pigs seem like the scum of the earth. The characters were superbly well-made in my eyes, and the historical accuracy was a bonus.
It was entertaining and quick, but also very powerful and motivating. Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes animal fiction or history. The words and feelings the book tried to convey were both very clear-cut and powerful, despite its short size and simple plotline. I would rate it a good 5/5 and say that it truly does deserve the title of ‘classic.’