January 29, 2015

Animal Farm ~ A Book Review

Animal Farm
Book By George Orwell
Review by Janelle A. Spiers
January 29, 2015


"All that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings." ~ Chapter 6

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

            Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is one of the most famous Orwell novels and for good reason.  The stamp of genius, literary satire, and political fiction wrapped into his short story has left the world with something to mull over and remember.  Though it may be less culturally relevant today, the “Fairy Story” that Orwell wrote is worth the read.
The themes streaked throughout the story of Animal Farm are mainly political.  Orwell was illustrating a satire on communism in Soviet Russia and her rulers.  Politics built the basis of the story and woven between the lines were the problems of an uneducated populace and government taking advantage of the illiterate citizens.  Another, slightly more positive theme was that of loyalty, extreme faithfulness to one’s own countrymen.
Animal Farm is a classic dystopian novel set on the farm of Mr. Jones, a drunken farmer, whose violent tyranny begins to anger the animals on his farm.  Old Major, a large pig who had lived a long, fruitful life, gathered the animals about him to speak of rebellion.  After impressing the animals, Old Major died, but not without leaving the beasts dreams of a future free from humans.  They began to hatch plans of revolting and throwing off the chains of Mr. Jones’s oppression. 
            The animals on the farm succeed in their attempts to uproot Mr. Jones from the farm and so the animal-governed farm was founded.  Right away, a series of seven commandments were founded in hopes they could establish peace and community on the farm. The rules were as follows: “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. No animal shall wear clothes. No animal shall sleep in a bed. No animal shall drink alcohol. No animal shall kill any other animal. All animals are equal.”  Unfortunately, by the conclusion of the short story all of the commandments had been broken by the uprising, tyrannical pigs…
            Even though Animal Farm is not terribly character driven, there are several notable characters Orwell included into his tale.  Boxer, the tall, powerful horse on the farm, is one of much brawn and little brain.  In loyalty to the Rebellion and the prosperity of the farm he adopted the ideology of, ‘I will work harder.’  To the end of his days he worked as hard as he could but was rewarded with a sad fate, when the oppressive pig, Napoleon, sold him to a knacker instead of sending him to a veterinarian. He represents the working class, dutiful and loyal to the system of Soviet Russia, but in the end, betrayed by its government.
            The two, key characters in Animal Farm are Napoleon and Snowball, intelligent pigs in power over the other animals on the farm.  Napoleon is the allegorical interpretation of Joseph Stalin, the leader of Soviet Russia, who put communism into practice.  Napoleon took horrible advantage over the desperate peoples of Animal Farm and placed himself above the rest of the animals with the help of nine vicious puppies.  Snowball was the representation of Leon Trotsky, a man kicked out of the Russian Government by Stalin.  Snowball had disappeared without a trace from Animal Farm and any time an accident or misfortune fell upon the animals after that time, they claimed it was Snowball’s fault; such accusations were inspired by Napoleon.
            The writing style of Animal Farm is simple and easy to understand as a story in itself, but the political jabs that Orwell makes can be hard to interpret, especially for those who are unfamiliar with Soviet Russia.  Animal Farm received no awards, but along with 1984, George Orwell’s other dystopian novel, he has become famous in an exclusive branch of literature.                                  
            George Orwell was the pen name of a man named Eric Blair.  He was born in 1903 and died forty-six years later in the year 1950, witnessing both World Wars and the aftermath of each.   He was wounded in the Spanish Civil War and was found unfit for later combat, so as others fought WWII, Orwell was left behind to write.  He was very strong in his political mindset, and when he first tried to publish Animal Farm many publishers rejected the manuscript.  They were afraid of insulting their Russian allies who were helping to win the war against the Axis powers.  He finally published the book in 1945, at roughly 80 pages long.
            Aside from having the extreme political themes, Animal Farm is an ordinary short story.  There is no swearing or crass language in the book, nor are there any romantic elements.  The pigs on Animal Farm do break the “No animal shall drink alcohol” rule and after the first attempt to drink whiskey, Napoleon is so hung-over that he is feared to be dying.  Eventually, the pigs begin to brew their own whiskey, but none of the other animals on the farm are allowed to drink any. 
            The description is hardly graphic, but there are a handful of scenes in which death occurs, and it can be rather gruesome.  Napoleon’s trained dogs maul several creatures, rip out the throats of others, and also shred the beasts.  For sensitive readers, the deaths can be violent, and the selling of Boxer to the knacker is a sad scene, though death is not shown.  Other mature elements include heavy, albeit allegorical, politics and major governmental lying and deception.  One of the pigs also urinates on blueprints for a windmill because he is disgusted with the inventor.
            The characters of Animal Farm are well rounded and properly developed for the short amount of storyline.  The plot is consistent, and each changing commandment lends itself to the progression of the plot.  The story does end rather abruptly and on an unhappy note, leaving the readers with nothing more than the sick tyranny of the pigs to remember, which may or may not have been Orwell’s intention. 
            Overall, Animal Farm is a fantastically written story, delving into a rare genre of political literature.  Criticizing his public enemies, Orwell was able to leave the world a short, but memorable story of personified animals that illustrate the cruelty and oppressive nature of Soviet Russia.  Animal Farm has left its sharp jab in the side of Stalin and Trotsky through their interpreted characters, and Napoleon’s wickedness and Snowball’s craftiness will not soon be forgotten.

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Negative! (For difficult and political themes)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Original and unique in animal personification)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Positive! (For thoroughness and well executed work)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Some topics may be unsuitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Animal Farm by George Orwell is 4 out of a possible 6 positive points.

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