Animal Farm by George Orwell
Reviewed by Jacqueline
The novel begins when all of Manor Farm’s animals meet at the request of Old Major, a prize-winning white boar. We are introduced to most of the farm animals: Benjamin, the cynical donkey; Boxer and Clover, two dumb, yet hard-working horses; Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer, three cunning pigs; and Jessie and Blue Bell, two dogs.
Major starts off the meeting by sharing his vision of a world where animals existed without man. Starting off by saying that he knows that he won't be around much longer, he tells of a dream he had in which Man is the root of all animals’ problems. He says all animals should fight for a rebellion against Man and that everybody must tell future generations about their hope for freedom. Finally, the animals rally together and sing a song called “Beasts of England”, a song that sings the praises of a world without Man. The animals sing it three times before going to bed that night.
Major dies shortly thereafter and the animals start to secretly plan for rebellion against the owner of the farm, Jones, and the farmhands. The rebellion starts after an incident where the farmhands neglected and starved the animals for two days. The cows kick down the barn door and every animal starts to go crazy. When Jones tries to whip the animals, they chase every human off the farm, therefore igniting the rebellion.
After a day of frenzied excitement, order resumes. The pigs are put in charge and the farm is renamed Animal Farm. Seven commandments are put on the side of the barn, along with the motto, “Four legs good, two legs bad”. The commandments are as follows:
1.Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2.Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3.No animal shall wear clothes.
4.No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5.No animal shall drink alcohol.
6.No animal shall kill any other animal.
7.All animals are equal.
Despite this last commandment, the pigs position themselves as the intelligence behind the whole operation, and therefore convince the other animals that they need special handling. As an example, they don't help the other animals during the annual harvesting of hay and they take all of the apples and milk for themselves. Squealer, the lead pig, convinces the other animals that it is for their own good.
Things did not run smoothly on the farm. Snowball warns all the animals that Mr. Jones and his men will be back soon to try and reclaim the farm. He holds a “rally” to rile everyone up. When Jones and his men do come back, all the animals easily kick them out. Snowball is minorly wounded while charging into battle and gives himself an award: Animal Hero, First Class.
Another example of chaos is the feud between the two head pigs. Snowball and Napoleon cannot get along; they disagree on everything from rations to age for retirement. Snowball proposes the idea of building a windmill on the farm, but Napoleon doesn't like the idea. He makes his vicious, angry dogs (who were once Blue Bell’s and Jessie’s puppies and who had been secretly trained to be Napoleon’s personal killers) chase Snowball off the property and banish him.
Napoleon decides to build the windmill after all, and he cancels the weekly meetings he has held since the rebellion. When other animals are upset by this, Squealer is able to convince everyone that Napoleon canceled the meetings for their own good. He paints Napoleon as a hero.
Things on the farm continue to deteriorate . All animals except the pigs work like slaves. Napoleon starts to trade with neighboring farms and the pigs move into the farmhouse. The animals are confused as to why the pigs are breaking the rules about trade and sleeping in a bed. Squealer, once again, convinces the animals that this inequality is for their own good.
The partially-constructed windmill is blown down in a gale, and Snowball is put at blame. Squealer says that Snowball was teaming up with Jones from the very beginning. In a public display of shocking violence, Napoleon holds a meeting with all the animals and has his dogs rip the throats out of anyone who he thought to be loyal to Snowball. Everyone is distraught, and Boxer is especially disturbed. Everyone thought that the sixth commandment said that killing other animals was not allowed, but now when they read it, the commandment read “ no killing without cause.”
At one point in the story, the pigs even have a celebration by wearing clothes and drinking alcohol.
The humans destroy what is left of the windmill since they don't like the thought of Animal Farm succeeding, and Boxer is injured in the battle. It's in the middle of a bitter winter and the pigs are taking extra rations, so everyone is starving. Boxer’s strength has greatly diminished, and the pigs say that they're sending him away to a hospital to get better. The carriage that arrives for Boxer, takes him to a glue factory. The pigs use the money made off of Boxer to buy whiskey.
Many more nasty surprises await the reader in the final chapters of this novel.
Animal Farm represents the Russian Revolution of 1917. Old Major represents Karl Marx, Snowball represents Leon Trotsky, Napoleon represents Josef Stalin, Squealer represents propaganda, and Boxer is a representation for all the Russian laborers and workers.
Old Major’s dream about equality is a stand in for Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Both speeches talk about how laborers and workers produce all the product, but the heads of the organization take everything for themselves. In Animal Farm’s case, the laborers are the animals and the head of the organization is Mr. Jones and humans in general.
The rebellion of the animals is similar to the overthrow of Russia’s Tsar, Nicholas II. Both rebellions happened without much planning and were achieved fairly easily. The overthrow of Nicholas happened when he sent military out to stop some protestors. The military sympathized with the common people, and instead turned on Nicholas.
Napoleon taking charge of the animals and working them harder than ever is symbolic to how Stalin had a “Five Year Plan”. Both of these plans only worsened famine and both Stalin and Napoleon used tricks to make the outside world think that they were thriving.
Boxer’s death doesn't represent any specific event in the Russian Revolution, but represents it as a whole. Boxer was the poster child of a perfect worker: he worked relentlessly, was eternally loyal, and never doubted the morals of the pigs. Instead of being rewarded for his years of service, he was sent off to be made into glue. This represents how Stalin and his men broke the principles of communism they set at the beginning and are just as bad as Nicholas. Instead of an improved society, everything is the same as before.
Squealer represents propaganda throughout the revolution. When the animals are skeptic of the pigs’ intentions, Squealer is able to twist things in a positive light so the pigs’ actions are justified. During the revolution, propaganda was sent out to ease the minds of laborers.
I love this book. The diction is simple and enjoyable. The story is fast-paced and Orwell is able to pack a lot of action into a few words. I like how this is written in third person, leaving most the thoughts and feelings of the characters up to the reader’s interpretation.