As most people will know (it was drilled into me as a schoolchild by a very pompous English teacher who seemed very full of his own cleverness and put me off reading the book again for nearly 20 years) Animal Farm is George Orwell's classic satire of the communist system in Russia, reimagining the October revolution, the overthrow of the Tsarist regime and the rise of the despotic and tyrannical Stalinist regime as the struggle of farm animals for independence from their human masters. He shows how, by subtle and plausible steps, the revolution becomes corrupt as the leaders forget about the common good and concentrate more upon their own need for luxury and power. And how this leads to more work and less pay for the masses, followed by purges of dissenters, a feeling of paranoia, and finally the ultimate betrayal of the people whom the revolution was designed to help. Setting it in a farmyard and with animals manages to add more power to the story, the thought of animals being betrayed and slaughtered somehow more abhorrent to the sensibilities than the real stories of humans suffering the same fate in Russia. It's a bitter and biting satire, and one that has real power right up to the final pages where the story comes full circle. 5 stars.
on 11 December 2000
The first of Orwell's great cries of despair was Animal farm, often heralded as his lightest, gayest work. Though it resembles the Russian revolution and the rise of Stalin, it is more meaningfully an anatomy of all political revolutions, where the revolutionary ideals of justice, equality, and fraternity shatter in the event. Animal farm is basically is a science fiction story based on the Russian Revolution, put neatly into a book, where instead of humans, the animals are the main characters. Animal Farm is also a story about how power can overcome people who do not know how to use it correctly and from that consequently comes a revolution.
One night when Farmer Jones has gone to bed drunk, all the animals of Manor Farm assemble in the barn for a meeting. Old Major, the prize pig, tells them in clear, colourful language "the nature of life" as he has come to understand it. Animals toil, suffer, get barely enough to eat and when they are no longer useful, they are slaughtered. Animals are enslaved by man. There is only one solution; man must be removed and animals must be perfectly united for their common goal. Old Major sums up "All animals are friends, Man is the enemy." Animals must avoid man's habits. "Above all, we are brothers. No animals must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal." The work of teaching and organizing the animals for the Rebellion falls on the pigs, thought to be the cleverest animals. One evening, when Farmer Jones has forgotten to feed them for over a day, the animals break into the store-shed and begin helping themselves. Jones and his men charge in, but the animals fling themselves on their tormentors. The surprised and frightened men are driven from the farm. Unexpectedly the Rebellion has been accomplished, Jones has been expelled and what was once Manor Farm is now Animal Farm, and belongs to the animals.
Yet with the revolution secured, there are graver dangers than the threat of invasion and counter-revolution. The ultimate corruption of the revolution is immediately imminent. The mistreated animals that end up overthrowing their human master and driving him out, consequently see the pigs take over rule, becoming greedy and cruel, mistreating their fellow animals. The description of the inevitable and immediate violence foreshadows the fate of the rebellion; reactionary cruelty, the search for the scapegoat, and the perversion of the ideals of the revolution. Orwell concerns himself with the misrepresentation, the falsification, and the distortion of fact that leads unfortunately to disaster and misery. It's the story of a revolution gone sour. Animalism, Communism and Fascism are all illusions that are used by the pigs as a means of satisfying their greed and lust for power.
It is not merely that revolutions are self-destructive. Orwell also paints a grim picture of the human condition in the political twentieth century, what he sees as an end to the very concept of human freedom. All the representatives of the various ideologies are indistinguishable. Communism is no better or worse than Capitalism or Fascism; the ideals of socialism were long ago lost. Everyone, the good and the bad, the deserving and the wicked, are not only contributors to the tyranny, are not only powerless before it, but are unable to understand it. The inhabitants of this world seem to deserve their fate. Animal Farm is a story about rulers and the ruled, oppressors and the oppressed, and an ideal betrayed. The particular meaning you give it will depend partly on your own political beliefs. The book is there to be enjoyed, to enrich, and perhaps change our thinking and feeling about how human beings can best live together in this world.
Animal Farm is easily one of the best pieces of political allegory ever written. The animals take over the running of the farm, and everything is wonderful for a while, until the pigs get out of hand. It is a brilliant description of what happens when revolution goes astray. Allegory is hard to do gracefully, but Orwell manages it superbly. While true appreciation of Animal farm requires an understanding of the history of the Russian Revolution, those without it will still get the point. Animal Farm also, owed largely to its relentless simplicity, can even be appreciated as a story by children, with no understanding of the political message at all.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it!
on 19 April 2006
It is incredible that such a short story can be as meaningful and important in the history of Literature. Much has been written about it, and much better than I could do, so I'll just recommend you to read it: it won't take long, and I am sure you'll enjoy it. Then, if you want, take some time to think about what you have read. You don't need to be an expert in History or Politics to identify the symbols and allegories in the story. And finally, compare it with the world today and come to your own conclussions. I bet you'll find some...and not precisely optimistic.
on 3 March 2016
What is there to say that hasnt been said a thousand times before? Its a great book, thought provoking, a must read for all kids, and for all adults too even if they read it as a child. Definitely a classic that every home should have, and every school should include in its syllabus. My kids have just read it at the ages of 9 and 13, and I would hope they would pick it up again in their later years, as they are too young to fully benefit from it at the moment. The underlying message of the book - that society comprises of the elite who make the laws and are above the laws, and the common folk who are subject to the full force of the law (often unjustly and at the whim of the elite) - is a truth that has never changed and is still applicable today. Anyone today who thinks they live in a fair and democratic society in the civilised Western world has been duped and is living in a fool's paradise. "They" have really done a number on you, and you dont even know it. For such people, perhaps ignorance is bliss, because knowledge requires leaving your comfort zone, and most people are not brave enough to do that.
Unlike other books which you are forced to read at school, or which are labelled classics and which turn out to be wildly disappointing, this book lives up to its hype.
It is a simple political allegory acted out in a farmyard setting with the animals deciding they have had enough of being 'ruled' by the farmer and that they could do a better, fairer job by themselves. Orwell charts their progress with its initial ups and final horrifying downs with a sense of wondrous glee which lifts this book out of the ordinary and well above the usual fairytale standards.
The book is simple, short and yet breathtakingly powerful. It has huge emotional impact and will stay with you long after reading it. I am glad that I didn't read it at school and discovered it later in my adult life when I could really appreciate it properly. This and 1984 are two of Orwell's greatest achievements and given the high standards of the rest of his output that is really saying something.
on 17 July 2007
I had the pleasure of picking it up and reading it in one day without having read reviews beforehand. I had heard it was a good book which had a very clever story line, so i was glad that i was able to figure out for myself the message behind this story. It is a very thought provoking book which HAS to be and NEEDS to be read by every school child (i am actually one myself but read this at my own leasure). Otherwise it is something that just has to be read by everyone. It is not a book which tends to be read for enjoyment, but enyone who reads it will be glad they did. Even though it is up to the point which i wrote this review 67 years old, it does not show age but captivated me to read it in one day.
To wind this up. Get the book and read it, you HAVE to, lol not realy that would be very dictating (how ironic). It surley is a fantastic and very clever book written by a man with a brilliant mind for politics. Thsnkyou.
This book is a ferocious satire of a state with a one party system, built originally on the principle that 'all animals are equal'.
The ideals of the revolution are quickly betrayed and the one party state turns into a work-camp. First, one ethnic group takes control of the system and after, one individual within this group wields dictatorial power.
To consolidate his power, the dictator controls the media (spreading false information and blatant lies), organizes fake elections (one candidate only), creates fear and terror through forced confessions and public executions, puts all internal problems on the back of foreign agents, rewrites history and erases the memory of his old revolutionary companions.
Orwell's perfect model was Stalin's USSR.
The choice of the roles of the different kinds of animals is not less than brilliant.
Unfortunately, this deadly satire is still very topical today. Most of the world's independent states are ruled partially, or even totally, as a copy of Orwell's nation of sheep, dogs, workhorses and pigs, with one pig more equal than all other animals together.
A must read.
on 10 September 2015
I'm not going to go into too much detail, as the allegory was so obvious - even if I hadn't known anything about the book before I read it - that Orwell may as well have written the literal story.
It's very short, very predictable and beautifully written. I prefer to be left wondering what a story was *really* about after I put a book down, so it was a little too obvious for me, although it was fun drawing the parallels between the farm and modern-day politics.
As a piece of entertainment, it didn't really hit the spot for me, but I wholeheartedly believe it should be taught in high schools everywhere as an engaging primer into the reality of international politics for teenagers who might see the world more clearly in Orwell's light; picturing Osama Bin Laden scurrying through a hedge pursued by a pack of American dogs did make me laugh out loud.
on 2 January 2016
Animal Farm is a classic with regards to political understanding and is highly unlikely, to be ever dated. Historically, it provides an appreciation of the over throw of the Tsars, the rise of Lenin and the undermining of Communist Ideals by Stalin.
I particularly like the Audio Edition, which I recommend as a Discussion Topic with my MBA Students. As it also has many lessons for Managers and Leaders too.
It can help in starting discussions around other topics too. E.g. Nationalism, Racism, Sexism, etc. However, you need a well informed teacher, to make these later extensions work well in a Workshop Setting. Remember you maybe opening minds to students who may have been subjected to years of for example Nationalism. Which is a very live topic with awful consequences which are still live in many countries from Cyprus to China.