A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned - a razor-edged fairy tale against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible. When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell's masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh. (from back cover)
I loved George Orwell's other famous novel, 1984, as it is one of the most revered dystopias. Animal Farm is a little different in that it is a satire of Communist Russia, so any history buff will enjoy all the parallels.
The story starts out on Manor Farm, where the animals are mistreated by their owner Mr. Jones. When an elderly pig named Old Major suggests that the animals overthrow Mr. Jones and rule the farm in harmony, the animals agree and succeed in running Mr. Jones from the farm. Immediately, two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, become leaders and establish Seven Commandments and the rules for the farm. As a mirror to the Soviet Union, Snowball is supposed to be Leon Trotsky and Napolean is Joseph Stalin. What is cool is that everything that happens in Animal Farm can be attributed to a real event in history. Even the characters of Snowball and Napoleon share personality traits with their likenesses.
Even though the animals call for equality, it is obvious, as in any society, that classes will emerge. Since the pigs are smarter than all the other animals, they take it upon themselves to be the leaders. And in leading, the pigs get a lot of perks like more food, no labor, and residency in the farm house. I liked watching the plot develop and to see the similarities between this regime and the one in Communist Russia. George Orwell has definitely mastered the art of satire.
Even if you know nothing about Russia and the Soviet Union, Animal Farm is vague enough that the events and characters can be likened to any totalitarian regime in history. Even without reading the novella, the line "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" is sure to strike a chord with anyone, like it did with me when I first read it.
A short, simple book, Animal Farm is perfect for book clubs or literature classes as it provides plenty of discussion and symbolism. And even if you read it for fun, like I did, I'm sure you will enjoy its message.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from a friend.
1945/Signet Classics/138 pages.