Sunday, June 13, 2010

Animal Farm

Rating: 4 Stars

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Orwell’s “Animal Farm” works on both levels – as a simple fable of greed and corruption, and more specifically, a brilliantly scathing satire on Communism.

The animals of Manor Farm in the English county of Willingdon are spurred to rebellion by the visionary white boar – Old Major. Led by two other boars, Napoleon and Snowball, the farm animals with the stalwart shire horse, Boxer, oust the incompetent, selfish farmer, Mr. Jones, and change Manor Farm to “Animal Farm”, henceforth to be governed by the revered laws of Animalism, and its Seven Commandments. However, venality and brute force subvert the high ideals of Animalism, leading to its ironic culmination, which Orwell sums up in the distortion of the final, and most sacred commandment. No spoilers. Read it for yourself.

History buffs will find delightful parallels in the many personifications of past Russian Revolutionary figures, whether it’s Old Major as Lenin; the gifted, inventive Snowball as Trotsky; or, the brutal, cunning Napoleon as one of recent history’s megalomaniacal dictators – Stalin. Then, there’s the litigious, double-dealing farmer, Foxwood as the United States, and the gentleman farmer, Pilkington as England/Europe. Not to be left out is Religion – “the opium of the masses” – as represented by Moses, the Raven, squawking about Sugarcandy Mountain, and the rewards awaiting hardworking animals. Most moving perhaps, is Boxer. His betrayal by the pigs is ultimately the betrayal of the common man, who is the backbone of any nation.

Orwell’s writing style is masterly, never a word out of place. His sense of social injustice and righteous anger never boils over into melodrama, or cheap manipulation. “Animal Farm” is not a story with a happy ending, but history is a very long story. Unfortunately, Orwell died before the end of the Soviet Empire. But perhaps, he saw it coming anyway. No dictator stays in power forever, just long enough to do maximum damage in minimum time.

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