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Animal Farm (Orwell)

Animal Farm 
George Orwell
~125 pp. (varies by publisher)


Summary
It has been said that Animal Farm is a byproduct of George Orwell's long-held hatred of totalitarianism. Clearly, in reading Animal Farm, those familiar with history will find pointed parallels to Stalin's dictatorship and reign of terror. In this case, however, the principal characters are indeed animals who, possessed of human or near-human traits and abilities, set out to create a Utopian society devoid of human influence.

In the novel's opening scene, Old Major, the "prized Middle White Boar," and the oldest and wisest of all beasts on Manor Farm, gathers the animals and tells them of a vision that came to him in a dream. In essence, he has foreseen a world in which animals rule themselves, live among one another equally, and work only toward the betterment of their own. Inspired by these words, and chaffing under their human master, Mr. Jones, the animals gather secretly and plan rebellion. Led by two of the farm's pigs, Napoleon and Snowball (for the pigs soon prove the cleverest of all the animals on the farm), the animals mount a successful attack, rid themselves of Jones and his human counterparts, and take control of the farm.

With new found freedom and a sense of optimism toward the future, the animals set forth in re-establishing Manor Farm, now renamed Animal Farm, as their own. Under the leadership of the pigs, farm labor is organized and divided among the animals, and a list of seven commandments is established—deemed unalterable—under which all animals on the farm would adhere. Slowly, however, some of the animals become wary of the pigs, who don't necessarily work, but supervise, and whose pronouncements become law despite little or no discussion. The pigs' usurpation of power continues to the point where their rule is questioned only upon pain of death. Consequently, Old Major's vision of a peaceful brotherhood of animals has mutated into a world where reality and truth are molded and disseminated to support the ruling class.

With biting irony and sharp insight into human nature, Orwell illustrates the dangers inherent in a complacent citizenry and the consequences of unchecked power. To this day, Animal Farm remains a haunting vision—the lessons of which might be heeded by all concerned with issues of self-determination and political process. (From Penguin Classics; cover image, above-right.)




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