Saturday, November 24, 2007

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is the allegorical tale of how a group of mistreated animals successfully revolt against the human occupants of a farm and set up their own state where "all animals are equal". However, it does not take long before a new hierarchy is established and the pigs take over the daily running of the farm, quickly becoming corrupted by luxuries such as television, beds and alcohol.

This is a wonderful satire of extreme left-wing ideology and remains as relevant today as it was on its publication in 1945 employing a plot which is engrossing and surprisingly simply told considering that it deals with fairly complex political issues. The characters are equally as memorable as the plot, with only the hardest reader failing to be moved by the demise of Boxer, the hard working horse who tries his hardest to increase productivity. Similarly, the dictatorial Napoleon becomes a loathsome character backed by his secret police of the guard dogs and his "minister" of propaganda.

While the story was originally based on the way the Soviet states were being run, unhappily, we find that the allegories depicted in this novel are not limited to these and can serve as a warning to all those who desire a more equal society to remember the root of their ideals and not to create a society where one group that is discriminated against just turns the table. There are lots of scenes in the book that illustrate the ways in which well-meaning idealism can be manipulated but for me, the best of these is when the working animals stage a protest over who gets the milk and apples, this protest then being quelled when the pigs order the guard dogs to drag the television into the barn. This symbolism is reflected across most of the world where mobile phones and other gadgets distract people from thinking about the things that really matter.

While this book has very serious messages it is easy to enjoy the story on a more superficial level; it is simply an interesting story about a group of animals on a farm that evict the farmer and try to run it fairly themselves.

Quite frankly this is one of the best books I have ever read. Its overwhelming strength is the simplicity with which it makes its point; simple enough for it to be a bedtime story for children aged as young as seven or eight. Quite brilliant which is why people are still reading it today.

I would recommend this to all readers and with a book of this quality and accessibility it should be far more widely studied in schools. If you have not yet read this book do so; if have read it before, read it again - one read good, two reads better!

Score: 10/10

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