by George Orwell
Biographical note: "George Orwell, 1903-1950, was the pen name used by British author and journalist Eric Arthur Blair. During most of his professional life time Orwell was best known for his journalism, both in the British press and in books such as "Homage to Catalonia," describing his activities during the Spanish Civil War, and "Down and Out in Paris and London," describing a period of poverty in these cities. Orwell is best remembered today for two of his novels, "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
Description: Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely- and this is vividly and eloquently proved in Orwell's short novel. "Animal Farm" is a simple fable of great symbolic value, and as Orwell himself explained: "it is the history of a revolution that went wrong." The novel can be seen as the historical analysis of the causes of the failure of communism, or as a mere fairy-tale; in any case it tells a good story that aims to prove that human nature and diversity prevent people from being equal and happy, or at least equally happy.
"Animal Farm" tells the simple and tragic story of what happens when the oppressed farm animals rebel, drive out Mr. Jones, the farmer, and attempt to rule the farm themselves, on an equal basis. What the animals seem to have aimed at was a utopian sort of communism, where each would work according to his capacity, respecting the needs of others. The venture failed, and "Animal Farm" ended up being a dictatorship of pigs, who were the brightest, and most idle of the animals.
Orwell's mastery lies in his presentation of the horrors of totalitarian regimes, and his analysis of communism put to practice, through satire and simple story-telling. The structure of the novel is skillfully organized, and the careful reader may, for example, detect the causes of the unworkability of communism even from the first chapter. This is deduced from Orwell's description of the various animals as they enter the barn and take their seats to listen to the revolutionary preaching of Old Major, father of communism in Animal Farm. Each animal has different features and attitude; the pigs, for example, "settled down in the straw immediately in front of the platform", which is a hint on their future role, whereas Clover, the affectionate horse" made a sort of wall" with her foreleg to protect some ducklings.
So, it appears that the revolution was doomed from the beginning, even though it began in idealistic optimism as expressed by the motto "no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers." "When the animals drive out Mr. Jones, they create their "Seven Commandments" which ensure equality and prosperity for all the animals. The pigs, however, being the natural leaders, managed to reverse the commandments, and through terror and propaganda establish the rule of an elite of pigs, under the leadership of Napoleon, the most revered and sinister pig.
"Animal Farm" successfully presents how the mechanism of propaganda and brainwashing works in totalitarian regimes, by showing how the pigs could make the other animals believe practically anything. Responsible for the propaganda was Squealer, a pig that "could turn black into white." Squealer managed to change the rule from "all animals are equal" to "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." He managed to convince the other animals that it was for their sake that the pigs ate most of the apples and drank most of the milk, that leadership was "heavy responsibility" and therefore the animals should be thankful to Napoleon, that what they saw may have been something they "dreamed", and when everything else failed he would use the threat of "Jones returning" to silence the animals. In this simple but effective way, Orwell presents the tragedy and confusion of thought control to the extent that one seems better off simply believing that "Napoleon is always right".
Orwell's criticism of the role of the Church is also very effective. In Animal Farm, the Church is represented by Moses, a tame raven, who talks of "Sugarcandy Mountain", a happy country in the sky "where we poor animals shall rest forever from our labors". It is interesting to observe that when Old Major was first preaching revolutionary communism, Moses was sleeping in the barn, which satirizes the Church being caught asleep by communism. It is also important to note that the pig-dictators allowed and indirectly encouraged Moses; it seems that it suited the pigs to have the animals dreaming of a better life after death so that they wouldn't attempt to have a better life while still alive...
In "Animal Farm," Orwell describes how power turned the pigs from simple "comrades" to ruthless dictators who managed to walk on two legs, and carry whips. The story may be seen as an analysis of the Soviet regime, or as a warning against political power games of an absolute nature and totalitarianism in general. For this reason, the story ends with a hair-raising warning to all humankind: "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."
Free download, in PDF format, of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm" is here: