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Before 1984, there was Animal Farm. Also set in England, be it on a much smaller scale, Animal Farm takes readers through a rebellion by the farm animals against their human masters. This is achieved through comradery and the desire of a common goal; to overthrow the human race.
Orwell is famous for his authoritarian settings and dictating leaders, but Animal Farm doesn’t begin this way. We are led from a group that is happy with its freedom from slavery (once the rebellion is complete), to a situation which continually worsens.
To dwell on the plot would be unnecessary; the novella is only 141 pages long and can be consumed in one sitting. It is the arising themes and unfortunate events that make the session diminish too quickly.
Don’t be fooled by the title or the fact animals can communicate with one another: the paragraphs of death, torture, fear and realisation create a challenging read.
The language and style isn’t horrifying in comparison to his later works, but Orwell’s implications are enough to illuminate the situation. Instrumental use of language, inferior workers and the use of ‘the windmill’ demonstrate so much of our history.
The pig domination and the way this evolves is strangely relatable. The issue of power to the most intellectually driven species is nothing new, with the author drawing on personal experience to reinforce the confusion of the other animals. Take note of Boxer, physically the strongest yet still easily controlled.
The key to the book is the change from the beginning to the end. The dominance and leadership shown by the pigs is allowed due to the mental inferiority of the others, which eventually transforms into pure fear. The creation of rules and slogans serves to rule the hard workers.
The goats cry “Four legs good, two legs bad”. Boxer announces “I must work harder!”. They are slaves of the regime.
This book remains a ‘must read’ because this tale about animals tells us more about war, dictatorship and totalitarianism than any other ever published.
The rule initially states that ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL.
Soon enough, without the farm knowing it had been altered, it reads ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL. BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
“Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
There is no other ‘short read’ as influential and thought-provoking as Animal Farm.