Monday, May 7, 2007

Animal Farm

Animal Farm, by George Orwell
$7.95 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0451526341
Orwell is a great writer for the beginning reader, or for someone who's been reading pop fiction for a while but is looking for something with more substance. This is probably his most famous work, and also the shortest and easiest to read. It's a fairy-tale setting in which the animals on Manor Farm decide they've had enough of working for the farmer and stage a revolt. When he's gone, they throw the whips into the fire and decide to run the farm themselves. It sounds almost childish, but things take a dark turn as soon as their liberty is proclaimed.
The animals on Animal Farm resemble the citizens of virtually any country. Boxer, the horse, is not too bright but he's a hard worker. He's devoted to the cause of liberty, in so far as he's able to understand it, and is convinced that everything will be great if he just works hard enough to keep the fledgling republic alive. Molly, the pony, is less motivated: she had a pretty soft life under the human masters, and she doesn't find all this talk of hard work too inspiring. My favorite character, Moses the raven, is a symbol for the religious leaders. He shares tales of a mysterious place called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which animals allegedly go when they die. The pigs had a terrible time convincing the other animals that there is no such place.
Most of the story revolves around the pigs. As the smartest animals, it's decided that they should be the leaders. With the farmer gone, all animals are now meant to be equals, but as the pigs quarrel amongst themselves and make frantic grabs for more power, it quickly becomes clear that some animals are more equal than others.
Experts will tell you that this book is about communism, a growing threat during Orwell's time that culminated under the regime of Joseph Stalin. I found its message applied equally well to democratic societies. Good intentions and lofty words about freedom are soon replaced by rule under the tyrannical pigs, just as brutal as the human farmer they replaced. It's a sad story, but you'll find yourself nodding your head in agreement: yes, that's exactly how democracy works. Replace one despot with another. Only 139 pages and easy enough for a 9-year-old to follow, yet profound, sensitive, and even darkly funny at times; Animal Farm is a classic relevant to any nation and is therefore not to be missed.

1 comment:

I thought I did this already said...

Will def put it on my summer reading list, thnx.

Read 1984 a while back - great story, just his style was a little... particular for me, if you know what I mean.