Animal Farm is a short book which I don’t think I can talk about in any sort of depth without giving spoilers, so:
Animal Farm tells the story of a group of farm animals forming a rebellion to overthrow their farmer master. The story is simple enough, but it is the level of detail and realism put into the politics of the story that make it so compelling.
The rebellion starts off well enough. A new free society is formed with a set of seven commandments. These commandments read such as “No animal shall wear clothes” or “No animal shall sleep in a bed” or “All animals are equal”.
With the rebellion in place, the animals hold dreams of one day living in a world where there are no humans to control them. They tend the farm themselves, sing songs of freedom, and hold meetings to discuss decisions that will be made on the farm. That is, until two pigs beginning debating at each meeting and holding differing opinions.
Eventually, a pig named Napoleon drives out the pig with the differing opinion and assumes command over the farm. Though, not in a blatant way. He has to be slow about it. He feeds the farm propaganda that the other pig, named Snowball, is the source of all of their misfortunes. Or that Snowball was a spy for the humans.
All of this goes on for years. Generations come and go and now the farm is full of animals that weren’t around for what life was like before the rebellion. Life is just accepted the way it is and the farm animals are grateful for the life they have. That is, until the pigs are seen breaking the most important commandment: “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.”
The pigs had slowly been making themselves the new tyrannical leaders of the farm, simply taking place of the humans. While the animals worked, the pigs sat in the farmhouse and drank beer. Then, as they walked on two legs, commandments had been scrubbed from the barn door and replaced with “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”
The story ends with the pigs and humans playing cards in the farmhouse with the animals watching through the window unable to tell which are human and which are pig.
George Orwell sure does know how to write a dystopian novel. I read this in an afternoon and by the end of it I noticed that I felt a hint of guilt as I told my cat “No!” at something she was doing (biting my plants). But, in all seriousness this story shows how even in the aftermath of a rebellion a people can be enslaved easily. The animals weren’t one year removed from breaking chains from the humans before they were already beginning to be controlled again. It was slow and methodical, but only a few years later and their history had been rewritten. The young animals knew nothing of the rebellion, memorials and flags from the start of the rebellion were gone and snuffed out. And even the name of the farm went from Animal Farm back to its original name of Manor Farm. The whole farm came full circle with only a couple of animals left who have small memories from before, but once they are gone all would be forgotten.
The Final Thought
It really makes you think about today with statues being torn down, mass media telling the world what to believe, alternate history projects (1619 Project). It shows that even the freest of people can be controlled easily as long as enough people believe it.
Animal Farm is an amazing book that gets straight to the point and what a relevant point it is!