“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – Animal Farm
When I first laid eyes on my assigned reading list for this school year, I was not very excited – hardly any of the books looked interesting (that is, except for Pride and Prejudice and The Hobbit). As my eyes traveled down the page examining each title and its author, I became more and more discouraged. Wow, I’m definitely in for some thrilling reads this year, I thought to myself. I just can’t wait to get started.
And then something caught my eye – a book called Animal Farm by George Orwell. I’d heard of Orwell and his political fiction novels before, but had never read any of them. Since I thoroughly enjoy reading and studying books of that genre, I figured Animal Farm would be right up my ally. After all, I loved The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, so I had pretty high expectations for this book.
And believe me, it did not disappoint. Through this story of rebellion, tyranny, power, and change, this book not only opened my eyes to who it was originally written to, but how it still applies to us today.
The animals on Manor Farm are miserable. Their farmer, Mr. Jones, is an alcoholic, and his treatment of the animals is horrible. The poor creatures are constantly overworked, constantly hungry, constantly beaten, and constantly suffering. They want a change, but they’re not sure what to do.
Then one night, an elderly boar named Old Major calls the animals into the barn for a meeting. The pig then tells them of a dream he’d recently had, where each and every animal was free and totally equal. Old Major then teaches the animals a patriotic song that sparks fire and inspiration within them. The animals are then determined to organize a rebellion to claim the farm as their own, and they soon succeed by forcing Mr. Jones and the other humans off the farm.
The animals initially rejoice at their newfound freedom, and begin to establish their “perfect” society. They rename the property “Animal Farm,” establish a series of rules called “The 7 Commandments,” and set to work running the farm under an equal and just system. Everything they produce is equally divided among everyone, and no animal is better than any other. However, a pig named Napoleon soon takes charge, and under his leadership, the farm soon begins to stray from its idealistic values. Napoleon provides the animals with illusions of a utopian society, and the animals blindly follow him wherever he leads. Through a series of heated arguments, utter lies, and horrible events, the animals are brainwashed by Napoleon and his cronies to believe that their present circumstances are better than before. In reality, the animals are right back where they started – constantly overworked, constantly hungry, constantly beaten, and constantly suffering, with Napoleon now in the place of Farmer Jones. Animal Farm has become exactly what it set out to defeat – a totalitarian society with no freedom or equality for anyone, except for those in power.
WHO WAS THIS BOOK ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ABOUT?
Animal Farm by George Orwell was first published in 1945, the year the Russian Revolution ended. Orwell based the novel off of the events of the Russian Revolution and the primary figures involved in it. For example, Old Major represents Karl Marx, who originally proposed the idea of a communism in The Communist Manifesto. Just like Karl Marx, Old Major plants the seed in the animals’ minds of “the perfect society,” where everyone is equal. Old Major also represents Vladimir Lenin, who was one of the main advocates for communism in Russian. Napoleon the pig represents Joseph Stalin, who was a brutal dictator. Almost all of the characters in Animal Farm and even some of the objects and places represent different aspects of the Russian Revolution.
The book was originally written to satirize the horrible events of the Russian Revolution, and to demonstrate to the rest of the world how truly disastrous they were. During the Russian Revolution, which lasted from 1917-1945, between 9-30 million people died horrible deaths because of the corruption in their leadership system. Today, Russia is still attempting to recover from these awful and horrifying events.
By satirizing the Russian Revolution, Orwell aimed to communicate that a communist society can, and will, eventually stray from the original idea of a blissful utopia to a tyrannical and totalitarian government.
SO, WHY DOES IT STILL MATTER?
Animal Farm turns 75 years on August 17, 2020 (which, coincidentally, is my birthday. Except I won’t be turning 75… yet). Even though this book is nearing 100 years of existence, it is still extremely relevant to us today.
I consider Animal Farm to be a warning. A warning that if we don’t make wise choices about the future of our society, we, too, could end up like the beaten and suffering creatures at the end of Animal Farm. We could very soon be living in a totalitarian society, as demonstrated in stories like Animal Farm or the terrifying events of the Russian Revolution. That is, if we don’t recognize what is happening in our world and take action to change it.
Our goal should be to secure freedom for every individual, not to try and create a “perfect” society. This begins with leadership. We must keep our eyes open to what exactly is going on in our society, and make wise leadership choices based on those events. When electing a leader, we cannot be swayed by grand promises and illusions of a utopian society. As demonstrated by history, it simply won’t work. By placing people into leadership positions, the future of the entire world is in our hands. It’s up to us not only to protect the world we live in, but also to safeguard our freedom. Because if we lose our freedom, we are left with nothing.
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Animal Farm by George Orwell, and that you read and study this book for yourself sometime. If you already have, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments – I’d love to chat with you about it! :)
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!