Name: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Publication Date: 17 August 1945
Genre: Political Allegory/Dystopia
This short story is a satire of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and contains a brutal attack on Stalin’s ruling era. Since it’s an allegory, each of the characters and events symbolize real life events and personalities.
The story starts with Old Major (Karl Marx), an old boar on Manor Farm who calls upon all the animals of the farm and tells them of an upcoming rebellion. He tells them that all Men are parasites that need to be exterminated, and if that is done, then all the animals would be able to live in peace and with dignity. After his death, two pigs; Snowball (Leon Trotsky) and Napoleon (Joseph Stalin) take command, and under their leadership, the animals rebel and drive away the humans from the farm.
After the ecstasy of the rebellion dims, it becomes clear that Snowball and Napoleon are struggling for leadership. Snowball attempts to teach the animals how to read and write, but in secret, Napoleon raises puppies and teaches them about the principles of Animalism (Communism). The Snowball-Napoleon struggle erupts after Snowball announces his plan to construct a windmill. Napoleon unleashes his puppies, now grown dogs (Security Force), who attack and drive away Snowball.
Before anyone realizes it, Napoleon appoints himself as the supreme leader, and starts changing the Seven Commandments of Animalism to suit his needs. The songs of revolution become songs honoring Napoleon, and the animals find themselves in even worse conditions than they were in the Humans’ time. Even important events in their history become more blurred and uncertain thanks to the propaganda of Squealer, who was appointed by Napoleon to influence the public opinion.
Under Squealer’s influence, Napoleon becomes god in their eyes, without him, the Humans would be back and all their sacrifices would go to waste.
Years pass, and the animals realize how eerily the ruling pigs are starting to resemble the Humans that once ruled them. The Seven Commandments become one single law: All Animals Are Equal/But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.
I had a hard time putting my thoughts on paper, namely because I didn’t want this piece to be just a review. This book did not tell me anything I did not know before, yet seeing these facts right in front of me on print gave me chills. I had to pause when reading some passages, take a breath, and continue.
I had no expectations when I started this, but I was drawn in from the first chapter and could barely put it down. When Orwell first wrote this, he had a hard time getting it published; this was mainly because of UK’s alliance with the Soviet Union at that time. One publisher stated that if the book had been about dictators in general, then publishing it would have been easier.
But as I was reading it, I realized that this book is not just relevant to that period nor is it just attacking Stalin. It IS in fact attacking all dictators, because essentially all the dictators in history have had the same methods and followed the same paths.
Animal Farm made me think about my own country, Algeria, and what happened to it post 1962, after it won its independence from France. Wasn’t that revolution stolen from its people by power hungry “pigs” as well? Aren’t we still suffering from their evil 52 years later? I probably wouldn’t go as far as to compare it to Russia of the past century, but it really is the same concept when you think about it.
The Illusion of Freedom and Happiness:
The propaganda used in Animal Farm is eerily similar to what we see nowadays, this brainwashing made the animals look at the truth straight in the eye and deny it. Anyone who questions Napoleon’s ways is a traitor who wishes to destabilize the farm and bring back the Humans.
The two main propaganda speeches that Squealer composed in the book were about freedom and happiness. He succeeded in convincing the animals, that their horrible conditions were a hundred times better than they were under the Human rule. This, according to him, was because their hard labor was benefiting THEM, they were producing their own food, and not doing it for the Humans.
Never mind the fact that the animals barely saw any of the food they produced as it all went to the pigs who had the “heavy burden” of managing the farm. If it wasn’t for the pigs, then the Humans would be back, and the animals would find themselves once again under their rule….or so said Squealer.
Under Napoleon’s rule, more speeches, celebrations and processions took place. The animals enjoyed these celebrations and found comfort in them, they made them remember with pride that they were no longer under the rule of the Humans, they were “free” and “happy”, and this made them forget the hunger for a while.
Its Relevance to our Time:
How many times did the dictators of our time use historical anniversaries and shallow successes to distract the masses? Don’t they always use stability as an excuse for them to retain the ruling power? Once again this made me think of Algeria; of the times when the Algerian government used football for example to distract its people. It made me think of the times they tainted our martyr’s memories and manipulated our history to serve their needs. It made me think of their propaganda that has succeeded in convincing the people that their situation, no matter how dire it gets, is better than what it would be if we get plunged back into the civil war of the 90’s. They taught us to be happy with the minimum.
My point here is that they all have the same method, they’ve been doing the same thing for centuries, so why do we keep falling for it over and over again? This idea in itself is so terrifying! At what point are these revolutions going wrong? All these revolutions did was change the hand that held the whip, so where is the solution?
This book is a true eye opener, and if I have to summarize what it taught me, I would summarize it in two points. First of all, I believe it emphasizes the importance of education and knowledge, if the animals managed to read and write like Snowball wanted them to, then they would have realized earlier on that Napoleon was slowly manipulating the Seven Commandments, they would have been able to think for themselves and not swallow whatever Squealer was telling them.
This brings me to my second point, which is the importance of questioning and looking for answers instead of believing everything that media, family, traditions etc…tells us. Losing the freedom of thought is a very dangerous thing, if we don’t think for ourselves then how are we any different than sheep? Making us lose that power, is essentially what all dictators attempt to do.