Jun 13, 2008

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm

This is how you do it. There's a reason Animal Farm is a classic of both literature in general and political satire specifically - it's damn near perfect. The allegory is simple enough for a literate child to grasp, even if they have no information about Stalinism or Soviet Communism to base it on, and for those who have studied history it maintains its worth as a fable.

The telling of the story itself can scarcely be criticized. You know what's going to happen. It's obvious from Napoleon's first appearance that he'll soon be as much (or more) of a tyrant as the original farmer. Heck, I'd read it before, back in middle school, but I still felt the rush when the animals drove out their owner and burned the whips, seethed with anger at Squealer's endless propaganda (swallowed whole by the mostly-illiterate and trusting workers), shared Benjamin's rage and horror as Boxer is sold to the knackers to pay for the pigs' carousing.

I believe it was Terry Pratchett who said something like, "There's a reason they're called revolutions - it all just keeps coming around to the beginning again." What I found interesting, though, was that the book really isn't a flat out condemnation of socialism or even communism - it's about a promise broken, power seized, and ideals twisted into a horrible shape. I think that's part of why, even while USSR-style communism fades into history, you can apply the Animal Farm allegory to any number of political situations. It's not strictly tied to the obvious.

final thought: This book scared the crap out of me as a preteen. (I was already fairly paranoid and antigovernment way back then.) These days I find it less frightening, but I think it maintains a current of power found in very little political writing.


Anonymous said...

my hubs loves that book big time. as a kid it always scared me- couldn't handle all that back then.

by the way, totally tried to post on your blog a while back, but I think I might be retarded (or else over baked) and it didn't seem to work.

But big ups on the L'Engle in middle school gifted thing. We woulda been two peas in a little antisocial pod, we woulda :)

Mr Pineapples said...

My kids read it last month (well two of them at least) - and then 1984.

I have just re-read Down and Out in Paris and London (third time).

All good stuff

All good

Mr Pineapples said...

Bleedin Moderation!

1984 all over again

Mr Pineapples said...

Just been browsing your blog..It's very good...so be prepared for contris from The Famous Mr Pineapples

downtown guy said...

quietgirl: good to hear from other gifted class survivors. Didn't do much for my social life, but it gave me a good grounding in paranoid literature.

mr. pineapples: good to have you on board. Your kids sound like good eggs.

runiteking1 said...

The problem is that my parents are really frugal and though they protest, they still shop at Wal-Mart...


I was one of the few people who enjoyed Animal Farm and 1984 when we read just last year in school.

Well, maybe I didn't really like 1984, just enjoyed warning.


p.s. How did you stumble upon my blog?

downtown guy said...

Howdy. I just sometimes browse for Tallahassee mentions in blogs - that's where I live, too. Just thought I'd comment.

What did you enjoy about Animal Farm?

Kylie said...

I think Animal Farm is the most technically brilliant book I've ever read. Not a pointless sentence in sight.

downtown guy said...

You're right, and I think that's why I'm always so impressed with it.

Mr Pineapples said...

Ah! Mr P spotted a useless sentence in Animal Farm last week:

page 160 - fourth paragraph down - 3rd sentence in.

Oh Gawd....that sentence is just hopless isnt it?

runiteking1 said...

Animal Farm was just... funny. I don't really know how to describe it.

Maybe because we were doing Soviets while reading Animal Farm and I thought the animal portrayal was cute. Maybe because I find Animal Farm so believable.

I'm really not sure, one of the few books I truly like.

Orwell just did a great job.

downtown guy said...

I'd agree with that.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to re-read a book decades after that initial read and see how it compares to memory and changes with time.

downtown guy said...

I was glad Animal Farm didn't suffer compared to my memory. There's nothing more disappointing than rereading a beloved book and realizing that it's trash.