Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: Animal Farm

For whatever reason I just can't seem to shake this flu, which means I spent the majority of the weekend in bed or on the couch. I watched some terrible TV and movies (have y'all seen I Know Who Killed Me starring Lindsay Lohan? Wow, that's two hours of my life I'll never get back), watched the Hawks barely beat the Bears (hello, anxiety attack), and finally got around to reading Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Now, the only thing I previously knew about Animal Farm was that for most other people it was required reading in school at some point. I must have somehow missed that assignment, but I don't like to be left out of the loop so I thought I'd better check it out.

Animal Farm is an "allegorical novella" by George Orwell published in England in 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union.

The story starts with the old boar on Manor Farm calling all the animals for a meeting where he compares the humans to parasites and teaches the animals a revolutionary song. When the old boar dies, two young pigs assume command and prepare the Rebellion, during which the animals revolt and drive the farmer and his men from the farm, renaming it "Animal Farm." The animals learn to read and write, food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly for a while. But although "all animals are equal" under their commandments, the pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and enjoy lots of special privileges like more food and less work.

Things basically slowly unravel from there and the farm turns into a dictatorship ruled by the pigs, but the other animals are too stupid and gullible to understand what is happening or stand up for themselves. In the end, they are really no better off than when the farm was run by humans.

The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders but also how wickedness, indifference, ignorance and greed corrupt the revolution. It also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen.

It was pretty easy to identify the parallels that Orwell was trying to achieve, and in the meantime I found the story and the characters themselves pretty entertaining. The whole book is less than 100 pages and I read most of it while watching the Seahawks game, so it's basically zero commitment. So I guess I'm glad I read it, should any references to Animal Farm pop up in the future.

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