Animal Farm

by George Orwell

Animal Farm CoverIt’s been a while since I picked up Animal Farm, last in tenth grade, when they forced my class to read it. While I recall enjoying the story, I forgot about most of the finer details, so it seemed appropriate to revisit it. I hoped that, given my increased exposure to literature and deeper knowledge of the historical events that underpin the fairy story, it would all hold up after all this time, and it most certainly did. Now, to actually bring something useful to a review of a book as well known and widely discussed as Animal Farm, I feel I should throw up a ***SPOILER WARNING***, as I will be briefly talk about some specific plot points. If you have yet to read this marvellous story, stop here and take the small investment of time you’ll need to get through this short book.

Animal Farm is Orwell’s famous allegory of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union. The animals of the Manor Farm revolt against its owner, Mr. Jones, kicking all humans out to build a utopian society in which animals work together for the benefit of other animals. Things start out wonderfully––with everyone happy, better fed, and more productive than before––but gradually worsen for the majority as Napoleon, one of the pigs, does everything he can to gain and maintain power. While there’s plenty to praise, such as Orwell’s succinct prose and his marvellous pacing, I want to draw specific attention to the superb characterization of the animals, especially relating to who or what they symbolize. Obviously, there are many standouts, but I was particularly interested in Boxer, the horse, by the end of it all. I have heard talk of Boxer representing the working class, but I would interpret him as being a grander socialist ideal. He’s a powerful force, a ceaseless worker, is unquestionably loyal, and he’s the one that keeps everyone going no matter how hard the work becomes, no matter how low the rations get, no matter how terrifying the farm becomes. Nothing can break him down for the majority of the tale, even Napoleon when he unsuccessfully sends his army of dogs to tear Boxer apart. But, there’s only so much a horse––or ideal––can withstand, especially when carrying more than its own weight attempting to keep the farm functioning; I find it quite interesting that the pigs wait until Boxer is sold off and slaughtered––the hope of the people is finally dead and gone––before showing their true colours.

Animal Farm is a stirring account of greed and evil hijacking the ideals that people worked so tirelessly to achieve. If you ignored my earlier warning and got here without having read it, seriously, do it now; it won’t take you long.