Top positive review
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Brilliant piece of bitter political satire.
on 12 December 2000
Since its publication in 1946 Animal Farm has been hailed as one of the most influential pieces of fictional political writing in the twentieth century, an accolade that the novel thoroughly deserves. The first time I read it was as an A Level student studying the Russian Revolution. I was amazed at how simply but effectively Orwell delivered such a powerful message. In a career spanning many brilliant works, including Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Road To Wigan Pier and Coming Up For Air, this is quite simply one of his best. The book centres around the themes of revolution and how communist ideals of justice and equality give way to totalitarianism. Using a farm and its inhabitants to represent the places and main characters of the time, it tells the story of the Russian Bolshevik revolution. Orwell explores the evils of power, money, propaganda and terror to bring us a shocking tale of greed and tyranny.
The story revolves around a group of mistreated farm animals who fight for control of their home. The farm's prize pig, Old Major, insights revolution when he tells all the animals of a dream he had about how "the Earth will be when Man has vanished." The animals confront their exploitative human owners and force them out of Manor Farm. They then set up their own society renaming it "Animal Farm". A new set of laws they are to abide by is then decided on and these are written as seven commandments, the most important being that "all animals are equal." Unfortunately this commandment is the first to go when Old Major dies and the intelligent Pigs take over. The new leaders succumb to the temptations that power provides and become dictators of the farm. What ensues is a vivid description of how power corrupts and leaves the animals in no better a position then when they were under the rule of the humans.
Orwell paints a masterfully bleak picture of Soviet Communism and the fat cats (or pigs in this case) of the twentieth century. One amazing thing about the novel is that we can easily relate things that happen in Animal Farm to events that have occurred since the book was published. The air of prophecy in Orwell's writing is eerily apparent. This however, is by no means the story's only plus. As well as the stark political message we also get a completely engrossing story. The satire is compelling but at the same time it is quite easy to feel compassion for some of the characters in Animal Farm. The vast majority of people who have read the book cannot help but feel sympathy and respect for Boxer the work-hoarse as he strives to do the best he can for his fellow citizens. Boxer is not used in Orwell's novel to represent a single person, but to represent a group of people, in this case the tireless workers caught in a totalitarian regime. The animals in the book and their main characteristics are often used in this way. For example the growling dogs are used to represent some sort of secret police that would terrorise the people. Orwell has said that he often wrote because there was some lie or injustice he wanted to expose. This is the main reason he used the literary technique of allegory in Animal Farm. It works because it allows Orwell to bring our attention to those events during the Russian revolution that concerned him the most. His feelings on Stalin's cruel regime are not hidden, suggested, or argued about, they are there for all to see. Orwell is quoted as saying that he had tried to write "less picturesquely and more exactly" and this is precisely the case. He uses a distinctively straightforward and simple style to create a very linear tale. This makes everything seem almost light, but at the same time it is effective and powerful. The end result of Orwell's prose style is a brilliant piece of bitter political satire, crossed with remarkably accurate historical allegory, that still manages to remain serious and deliver a telling reminder of how revolution went wrong. There is no wonder this novel is considered world wide to be a real classic of the twentieth century. True appreciation of the book does come with an understanding of the Russian revolution but those without can still interpret its message, which continues to be relevant to this day. I cannot recommend this book enough, I thoroughly enjoyed every page.