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Animal Farm

What to say about George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

What to say that has not been said?

Written near the end of WWII, Orwell warns of the evils of communism and totalitarianism in this dystopian allegory where animals throw off the shackles of serfdom and form a collective.

Of course all the predictable things happen and in short order.

And therein lies the problem from my point of view.

It is simply a simplistic and rather childish cartoonish book at best.

It does not stand the test of time.

Closer in time to its publication, I’m sure it was had some value in warning of the world that was coming, of the dangers of a communistic type government that was hybrid to what Marx actually envisioned.

In any case, low these decades later, when the idea of communism no longer holds the fears and knee-jerk reactions amongst most people any more, Orwell’s charges and warnings seem a bit laughable.

Given that he uses animals in place of Lenin and Stalin and so forth, I guess we might guess that in some respect this was all a bit overblown. But, something tells me that Orwell was deadly serious at the time.

Indeed, as the novel ends, we sense the full depressive state to which Orwell thinks the world is likely to find itself it. The animals don’t come to their senses and rid themselves of their new slaves, no they seem forever broken and irretrievably dumbed down for that.

One can imagine, as I did, as I read through the pages, that plenty of parents were placing this book on the “to read” list of their budding teens. One can never been too careful that young minds will not appreciate the dangers inherit in the Red Menace of Soviet Russia.

It’s just that in this day and age, it’s just all too predictable, all to simplistic, and it demeans the entire exercise somehow. Life and political systems are never quite this easy to unweave, or explain.

It seems clear to me at least that George Orwell had a rather dim view of humanity in general, and little hope that it would survive much longer frankly. He paints a picture of such inevitability and ineptness and such evil at the same time, that it becomes difficult to resolve how both can operate at the same time.

How can the pigs be so clear in their maneuverings to secure ultimate power to themselves and enslave the rest of the farm animals, and how clearly stupid can all the rest be that they cannot see it coming, nor lift a finger to stop it? It is clear that some of the animals do have a sense that things are not right. Moses the Raven, playing the part of the Church does. As does Benjamin the Donkey. Yet neither alerts the others.

No, when questions arise, they are fended off with simplistic answers, and changing of the laws whitewashed while the animals are either at work or asleep. Never do those who question gather together in secret to discuss their discomfort, or to confirm that their own memories reflect a different history that the ever changing one they are being confronted with.

It is all too simple, too childishly organized to make a particular point.

It may have had value in its day, but it is hardly a novel for the ages.

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4 comments on “Animal Farm

  1. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I haven’t read it since high school but I really loved the message behind Animal Farm and I think it really is a timeless novel. Obviously as a political satire it addresses issues that might be less topical to today’s society, but the story of greed and a hunger for power and the subversion of good intentions is something that will always ring true. The use of the farm as a simplifying factor makes it more accessible to readers who might be unfamiliar with the basis of the story and makes it easier for me to enjoy on the fictional level.
    Even though I don’t agree I really liked reading your review – it’s always nice to hear from people who read things differently than I do, and I’m really interested in your opinion, so thanks for writing about this one 🙂

    • There would be little point to reviews if they were all the same. I am deeply enmeshed in politics and have a pretty good background in political systems and theory. Perhaps that is the source of my thinking that this is a rather simplistic approach. Orwell seems to me one who is like so many citizens, he has a gut reaction that communism is bad, and has very little in the way of real understanding of how it works. Of course Russia was a poor example, since it really twisted an economy theory into a political one. Thanks for your remarks.

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