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Author / Writer Spotlight, Fiction

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animal farm

I picked this book up in memory of an animation adaptation of Animal Farm I saw on TV during my teens. I bet most of you who read this entry now, knows how the story of this book goes. And some of you might exclaimed “I read this for my O-level!” like my co-worker does. But I’m going to tell it anyway…. 

In the Manor Farm, the animals live, well, as animals would. Bluebell, Jessie and Pincher the dogs, Boxer and Clover the horses, and Mollie the vain horse, Muriel the goat, Benjamin the donkey, Snowball and Napoleon the pigs all live peacefully, until one fine day the pigs spark a revolution and plant the idea in everyone’s heads that animals should be free. So on a fine day, the animals rise up and ousted Mr. and Mrs. Jones from Manor farm and farm is renamed simply “Animal Farm”, there shouldn’t be any explicit leadership role in the egalitarian principles of animalism, but the pigs are de-facto in-charge of the planning of the farm. 

So, the 7 commandments are enacted:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy,
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal. 

The first thing the animals do early in the morning is sing “Beast of England” and chant propagated slogans “All men are enemies, all animals are comrades”  and “4 Legs good, 2 legs bad” and celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Cowshed and the day of rebellion. The animals have to sing praise to the leaders, to fight a common enemy, i.e. perpetual threat of possible revenge by Snowball. Snowball, a secret agent of Jones. The propaganda is entrenched, the manifesto is implemented through various symbolic act. 

Snowball came up with a grandeur plan to build a windmill, but he is eventually expelled from the farm. With Napoleon in charge, things became darker as any dissenter risk the danger of being mauled by Napoleon’s dogs. The commandments are air-brushed and amended to suit the convenience of the leader, that is what Napoleon being addressed now “Our leader, Comrade Napoleon”. 

  1. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
  2. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
  3. No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
  4. All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others

More confessions and executions of animals who defy the rule of Napoleon, and the trading with human Whymer of Pinchfiled Farm and Pilkington of Foxwood farm resumed with rigour. 

All these happened while the other animals wilted away in hard labour. Boxer got up earlier than everyone and move boulders to build the windmill only to be destroyed by an over night storm. Food is rationed. Harvest reaped is being sold by the pigs to the neighbouring farms instead of storing for the winter. Animals are dying of famine and disease, but the pig conceal the truth from the outside world. The cruelty persists, yet the animals slog on…. 

By and large the animals enjoyed these celebrations. They found it comforting to be reminded that, after all, they were truly their own masters and that the work they did was for their own benefit. So that what with the songs, the processions, Squealer’s lists of figures, the thunder of the gun, the crowing of the cockerel and the fluttering of the flag, they were able to forget that their bellies were empty, at least part of the time. 

Before they were slave, now they were their own masters, they are free. After all, what matters is that they are free, right?

I almost weep when Boxer died. Poor Boxer, who resolved to work harder and harder “I will work harder!” and had worked himself to death. Boxer’s death disturbed me. It reminds me there are many people who work hard and got nowhere. The world is not short of people who work very hard and barely have enough to eat……

As Animal Farm is renamed Manor Farm, as the pigs dressed in human clothes, live in the farm house, slept in the bed and walk in their hind legs (4 legs good, 2 legs better!), drink alcohol, have dinner and toast with the human farmers of neighbouring farm……

Twelve voices (of man and pig) were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.


Verdict: 5/5

What I like most about the book: I haven’t read a political satire so metaphorical and powerful. I actually felt very, very sorry for the other animals. Short and make a huge impact. Incredible foresight of Orwell to predict half of the world political movement moving towards egalitarian or proletarian revolution (the extreme political model being Communism). When I read the book I can’t help but to draw parable to real life political situation of some countries. I feel pain for those who live under such ruling. Offensive to some it may be (Napoleon is renamed as Cesar in the French edition!), but only a true classic as such can read as recent as it is written 50 years ago. Be sure I am going to read the other works of Orwell. This edition includes two prefaces written by Orwell, one for the Ukranian edition, which is informative and delightful to read.

What I like least about the book: None. But classifying this book as children fable sits badly with me. This is serious stuff, and contains violence (i.e. killing of a farm boy and other animals), and children story it is not. 


George OrwellAbout the writer:

George Orwell was borned Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in Muthali, India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. Orwell entered Eton under scholarship in 1917. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, that inspired his first novel , Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England. at the endf of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia was his account of the civil war. He was admitted to sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. He died in London in January 1950.

Orwell wrote the Animal Farm novel at the end of 1943, but it almost remained unpublished. Its savage atack on Stalin, at that time Britain’s ally, led to the book being refused by publisher after publisher. Orwell’s simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves. Together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) which brought him world-wide fame.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Animal Farm by George Orwell

  1. It’s an excellent book, and the fact that some people can classify it as a children’s fable, just shows the simple power that it contains.

    Posted by sherby57 | September 5, 2009, 2:57 pm
  2. While the Animal Farm has always been Orwell’s allegory of the Soviet Union and communism, in many ways today it is also reflective of the socio-political situation in Malaysia with a certain race more equal than the others.

    Sad.

    Posted by The Reading Monk | September 6, 2009, 7:39 am
  3. Your review is better and more complete than mine. I agree wholeheartedly with this book being a fantastic read and a brilliant satire on communism. Haven’t yet read 1984, but that book (and a few stories by H.G. Wells) are on my to-read list this year. Er, which is growing by the minute 😉

    Posted by Chinoiseries | February 7, 2011, 7:49 pm
    • Chinoiseries, Isn’t it frustrating?! So many books and so little time?? I have Kipps by HG Wells on my pile. I would say when I read both books, Animal Farm and 1984, there are some parts I think, Whoa that is traumatic! 😉

      Posted by JoV | February 12, 2011, 11:10 am

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  1. Pingback: 1984 by George Orwell « Bibliojunkie - December 14, 2009

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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