Date of Publication: 1946
“When the downtrodden beasts of Manor Farm oust their drunken human master and take over management of the land, all are awash in collectivist zeal. Everyone willingly works overtime, productivity soars, and for one brief, glorious season, every belly is full. The animals’ Seven Commandment credo is painted in big white letters on the barn. All animals are equal. No animal shall drink alcohol, wear clothes, sleep in a bed, or kill a fellow four-footed creature. Those that go upon four legs or wings are friends and the two-legged are, by definition, the enemy. Too soon, however, the pigs, who have styled themselves leaders by virtue of their intelligence, succumb to the temptations of privilege and power. ‘We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of the farm depend on us. Day and night, we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.’ While this swinish brotherhood sells out the revolution, cynically editing the Seven Commandments to excuse their violence and greed, the common animals are once again left hungry and exhausted, no better off than in the days when humans ran the farm. Satire Animal Farm may be, but it’s a stony reader who remains unmoved when the stalwart workhorse, Boxer, having given his all to his comrades, is sold to the glue factory to buy booze for the pigs. Orwell’s view of Communism is bleak indeed, but given the history of the Russian people since 1917, his pessimism has an air of prophecy.” -Joyce Thompson
Review (may contain spoilers):
I picked this book up last night, and read it in one sitting. It was obvious that the story was a satire of Communism (all the animals call each other “Comrade”), and at times it was very funny in its ridiculousness. But there was a disturbing grain of truth throughout the book which can make the reader uncomfortable. Here is a revolution that starts from a common spirit of cooperation and a desire to make things better for the whole group. But when one group takes control, and uses lies and intimidation, or even murder, to keep that control, one is reminded sharply of oppressive governments around the world that are very real. The ending was definitely a slap in the face: as the “common” animals look on, they find that they cannot tell the difference between their pig leaders, who now go on two legs, and the evil humans they had overthrown. This story is incredibly funny, sad, and scary all at the same time, and it amazes me that Orwell had the foresight to write it back in 1946, just after the Iron Curtain had fallen.
Reviewed by Sarah