After my failed attempt at reading The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells, I was suddenly stuck with no books in the to-read pile on my desk. I have a few on the way from the library but they haven’t gotten to my branch yet, and one of those I want to read right away, so I don’t want to be in the middle of something when it comes. The other day, I’d quoted Animal Farm in a blog post, and was too lazy as of yet to put the book back on the shelf (thus, it was on my desk). It looked so thin and inviting…a perfect solution to the “I need a short book” dilemma. Of course, it only took me 2 hours to read, so I’m back in the situation I was in earlier in the afternoon yesterday…ah well.
This is the second time I’ve read Animal Farm. I read it the first time either in middle school or early high school. Either way, I knew very little about politics, history, and communist Russia, so as a fable, the book did me very little good. I remember thinking it was an okay book. This time, however, it’s much easier to see the quite obvious parallel going through it. Each character represents a person or a group of people in the making/running of communist Russia. The plot is straightforward and heavy-handed, but it was meant to be that way. A lot of the things Orwell explored in 1984 – falsification of history and figures, poverty, hunger, inequality – were also discussed in Animal Farm, and while this one is more heavy-handed, I actually think it’s far better done. It’s more believable than 1984. Rather than using a dystopian handling, Orwell uses a children’s fable to get across what happened in Russia – and what he believes the dangers of communism elsewhere would be.
Despite having first read it well over a decade ago, I remembered almost everything in this book, even down to change in phrase the sheep bleat at the end (I won’t give it away if you haven’t already read it). Politically-minded or no, the book must have struck a chord with me, even if I didn’t realize it. I’ve read three Orwell novels in my life, and I think that this is my favorite of the three. It is better written than the other two, and had a perfect ending, which both the others lacked for me. It is simple to read, very fast, and universal. Though Orwell specifically concentrated on what was happening in Russia at the time, the book hasn’t lost its universal quality. It is applicable as a warning against all forms of totalitarian government, and it’s a scary look at how easily people can be mislead and misused.
Note: Review date is only an approximate of when this book was read/reviewed in 2008.
Note: Originally read in ~1994-ish.