Published by Signet Classics on April 6th 2004 (first in 1945)
Reading Challenges: Back to the Classics, What an Animal
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A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible. When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.
See my review here! It’s a long one, and if you’re interested in the following notes, you probably don’t want to miss the full review. Also:
~ spoiler alert ~
Only proceed if you have already read the book, don’t intend to read it, or believe you’ll forget the spoilers by the time you read it.
Let’s get started!
The first descriptions of the animals are fraught with stereotypes; although such diverse character is welcome. The donkey has already amused me with his cynicism.
Old Major’s speech seems to be comparing animals to slaves, and so men to slaves.
Our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.
The produce of their labor is “stolen” from them by the farmers, and I suppose that makes sense for the working man—more appropriately, the farmer—too. Whether it be taken from them by taxes, or simply by having to sell it in order to make a living.
A hurrying factor for the animals might be imminent death at the hands of the farmer, but I see no equivalent for men under totalitarian power. Unless it be weakness in old age that prevents them from working and making money. When their usefulness runs out, they are done for. But that is true of any poor man who cannot save up enough for a comfortable retirement.
It is already determined that I am the cat. I mean, I expected to be, but now it is without doubt. (Does she even have a name?)
Old Major says that no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind. His ideas make sense. But I’m guessing it all goes terribly wrong.
A question that comes up is “Why should we care what happens after we are dead?” If people ask this, does that mean they have no conscience, or morality? Asking for a friend.
It’s interesting to see what Heaven is like for animals, in the form of Sugarcandy Mountain. Even more interesting that it is quickly dismissed.
Already a dictatorship is starting to form. It seemed like what had been proposed was anarchy, which of course cannot last when there is business to be taken care of. So naturally some kind of leadership would form, and even more naturally, the cleverest would come into power. It has already been established that the pigs are the cleverest.
Nevertheless, it is starting to seem like a utopia.
I have been waiting for the animals to start going against the tenets of Old Major’s speech, and it appears they have already begun to do so. One of the points was that the animals must not listen when the men told them that they were both working towards the same goal, but that is basically what the pigs are telling the rest of the animals when they hog—pardon the pun—the milk and apples.
Why is it that when Jones first heard his animals singing the Beasts of England song, he merely thought they were making a racket, but now when the animals sing it, humans can understand it? Additionally, now humans and animals can communicate quite well…
Benjamin IS Eeyore. Also, how did they hold out with democracy this long? Well, at least they’re already forming factions.
I must say, I was rather partial to Snowball’s ideas, although it seemed that they were turning animals into men, and that was rather what Old Major was warning against. But it is clear that Napoleon is the true dictator.
Haha! And now we come into the true evil: “voluntary” work, but if you don’t do it, there will be consequences.
And now we are engaging in trade, breaking another one of Old Major’s rules. (But not the seven commandments.)
I KNEW he would blame Snowball. The little weasel is using every happening to his advantage and inventing rules that the animals believe because they are too dumb to know or articulate the truth.
I scoffed at Mollie at first, but now I rather envy her. This is hell.
So is the point that any tyranny can prosper as long as its subjects—its victims—are too stupid to realize it’s happening?
Would the outcome have been the same if Snowball had taken power?
See my musings and potential answers to these questions in my review!