Saturday, February 9, 2008

Animal Farm

Comrades,

I finished "Animal Farm" by George Orwell in this week. I had read it in my childhood and had also seen the movie, but probably understood the novella in its truest sense this time.A fantastic book and a MUST READ for everyone.

The book is a satire of the Bolshevik revolution that took place in Soviet Russia in 1917 and the events that then folded up. A farm called Manor Farm owned by some Mr. Jones (Tsar of Russia) has many animals who are living in misery and suffering under the monarchy of Mr. Jones. An elderly boar on the farm, the Old Major (resembles Marx as well as Lenin) gives a passionate speech and incites the animals to fight for their freedom. As a result, the "Rebellion" takes place and Jones is driven out of the farm. Two pigs Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin) then unite and lead the other animals. In the course of time, the rivalry and power struggle between these two increases and finally Napoleon captures the power. How does then the beautiful dream of Freedom, Self-governance, Equality and Happiness crashes is better to be read actually from the book than from me. The torment of the Proletariat (the lowest class of citizens) really astounds us. A glimpse of this can be seen from how the commandments that the animal originally decide for themselves are changed to suit the dictatorship of Napoleon.
The Original Seven Commandments
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Written originally by Snowball, the Seven Commandments were the "unalterable" principles of 'Animalism'. Since not all of the animals can remember them (or read them), they are boiled down into one basic statement: 'Four legs good, two legs bad!' (with wings counting as legs for this purpose).

All of the Seven Commandments are eventually broken by Napoleon and his pigs for their own personal gain. Squealer (Napoleon's media manager) constantly changes the Commandments to the pigs' benefit, taking advantage of the other animals. For example:

  • No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets
  • No animal shall drink alcohol to excess
  • No animal shall kill any other animal without cause
  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
In the end, the pigs learn to stand on two legs and regard the four-legged populace as inferiors. They start to wear Mr. Jones' clothes, sleep in beds and drink alcohol. They brutally order the killings of all of the confessing animals who try to oppose the despotism (who are forced to confess to crimes they did not commit)

The Commandments' summation "Four legs good, two legs bad!" is changed to 'Four legs good, two legs better!' as the pigs become more human. Finally they start dealings with those humans whom the animals have been hating all through the course of their revolution. (Socialism kneeling in front of Capitalism may be)

I will definitely say that the allegory is extremely subtle and just too good. Reading the document attached with this mail will give you a detailed overview of the book as well as the real life significance of characters in the story which is very interesting.

I will definitely like to discuss various issues that are raised in the book. Anyone interested, please communicate.

In the end, a must read. Just go for it!!

- Amrut

3 comments:

Sagar said...

Have you read 1984?

amrut said...

Not yet, but its in the pipeline.....scheduled next after the one which I am reading currently. Wanted to take a short break from the Orwellian satire!!!

Sagar said...

Btw, the book was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005) and was number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels.

At the end of 1984, I had stopped reading newspapers for a month. I was so taken aback with the Orwellion concept, and the truth about it, that the issue of trusting the government, media and likewise ceased to exist.
Very revealing.

On different lines, I have begun Crime and Punishment. Lets see where this journey takes us.