Reading the Classics: Animal Farm

Reading the Classics: Animal Farm

After reading Pride and Prejudice I decided to read something a little lighter. The next book in my ‘Reading the Classics‘ series is George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm.

This review includes spoilers!!!!

Animal farm is a rather short book (my copy contained only 94 pages) and is an excellent starting point for those wishing to read their first classic.

When I review a book, I don’t normally include spoilers, but Animal Farm has a relatively well-known story line and plot. Coupled with the fact it only took a day to read, I thought this post might be better devoted to a bit of an analysis or interpretation of the text. And for those who want to know a little more about the text without actually reading it, well this is also for you!

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Plot

A summary of Animal Farm would be:

  • An old pig, Old Major, tells the animals on Manor Farm of a socialist utopia. He dies but not before inspiring the animals to rebel and teaching them a song (Beasts of England).
  • Mr Jones is a rather neglectful farmer. He often forgets to feed the animals of Manor Farm.
  • Old Major dies.
  • One night, the animals revolt and take over the farm. They rename Manor farm ‘Animal Farm’.
  • The animals (led by the pigs) establish a code which the animals are to live by in the form of 7 commandments.
  • All animals are to be equal.
  • As the story progresses, the pigs break these 7 commandments.
  • A pig named Napoleon becomes the leader of the farm.
  • The animals work hard, in particular, to build a windmill, the purpose of which is to reduce the time the animals spend labouring on the farm.
  • Meanwhile, the pigs are evidently the new aristocracy on the farm.
  • The windmill proves not to reduce the labour of the animals.
  • Eventually, the pigs are more human than animals and replace the 7 commandments with:

‘All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others’.

The 7 Commandments

Established at the beginning of the story, the 7 commandments offer the reader and the animals on the farm, an indication of the utopia that the animals initially create. The commandments are:

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 another animal.

7. All animals are equal.

Beasts of England

Beasts of England is the song Old Major taught the animals and becomes a symbol of their rebellion. The song is almost a battle cry as the animals remember the glorious revolution:

Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the Golden future time.


Soon or late the day is coming,
Tyrant Man shall be
o’erthrown,
And the fruitful fields of England
Shall
be trod by beasts alone.


Rings shall vanish from our noses,
And the harness from our back,
Bit and spur shall rust forever,
Cruel whips no more shall crack.


Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day.


Bright will shine the fields of England,
Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free.


For that day we all must labour,
Though we die before it
break;
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys,
All must toil for freedom’s sake.

Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken well, and spread my tidings 
Of the Golden future time.

The Significance of the Song

Old Major is revered by the animals initially as the instigator of the rebellion, much in the same way as Lenin was upheld as the father of the Russian Revolution. His remains were exhumed and saluted by the animals.

Eventually, the song is replaced with a song dedicated to Napoleon entitled ‘Comrade Napoleon’. This is the moment when it becomes evident that the memory of Old Major and what he inspired the animals to do has been lost. The use of Old Major and his song, his message, is reminiscent of Stalin’s betrayal of Lenin and the communist ideals and his move towards a dictatorship. Once the pigs begin to ally themselves with humans, Major’s remains are reburied (the humans deem the practice of worshipping the skull barbaric).

Orwell’s Criticism of the Soviet Union

Written in the 1940’s, Orwell uses Animal Farm to criticise the emerging Soviet Union in the East. Orwell demonstrates how easily ideals can be abandoned and greed and corruption can overcome us.

Some Animals are More Equal Than Others

The commandments are symbolic of the ideals of Marxism at the beginning of the Russian revolution. Like the animals, communists initially declared all citizens to be equal. There was to be no individual placed higher than another in this new, communal living. However, as time went on, leaders emerged. Some of these leaders, Stalin in particular, had their own agenda and treated the populace extremely badly. It was, in fact, more of a dictatorship than a Marxist society. The character Napoleon is the chief villain of the text and a metaphor for Stalin.

Similarly, the pigs gradually begin to lose their animal behaviour and act more like the human they had overthrown: they wear clothes, sleep in beds, live in the farmhouse, drink alcohol, kill other animals. They ally themselves with humans and eventually, walk on two legs.

Like Stalin, Napoleon eliminates his enemies. This is no more apparent that in the case of ‘Snowball’. The pig Snowball as been likened to Trotsky – a more idealistic but yet less powerful politician than Stalin. Snowball is eventually expelled from Animal Farm by Naepoleon and the gathering he has acquired. Snowball then becomes the enemy of the state and epitomises all that is corrupt. He becomes a scapegoat for when things go wrong on the farm.

Some Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and all its messages. It is well worthy of a read!

Orwell himself was a socialist. He supported the initial ideals of the Soviet Union in its infancy. Animal Farm is therefore not a criticism of Communism, per se, rather a commentary on the hypocrisy of those political regimes that owe their initially political success to the deposition of a tyrannical power. Only to become tyrannical themselves!

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10 Comments

  1. April 3, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    This is a trip down memory lane – back to high school English class hahaha
    This book may be short, but there is SO much packed in those pages!

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 3, 2019 / 8:37 pm

      There truly is! xxx

  2. April 3, 2019 / 9:06 pm

    Wow, I’ve never heard of this book before but it sounds so interesting! Found the 7 commandements really interesting, as well. I might have to try this book out! Thanks for sharing.

    GABBY | http://www.gabbyabigaill.com

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 6, 2019 / 9:02 pm

      Thank you Gabby xxx

  3. April 3, 2019 / 9:43 pm

    I read this book once many many years ago (15 years ago maybe) and was too young to understand any of the messages in it. I imagine it would be really interesting to reread as an adult and actually understand it. It’s amazing how much is said in such a short book! x

    Sophie

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 6, 2019 / 9:08 pm

      There are just so many messages in this tiny book – it would be interesting for you to read as an adult now xxx

  4. April 4, 2019 / 1:33 pm

    We had to read this in highschool and I hated it so much! Now that I’m older and actually understand it it’s not that bad. 😀

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 9, 2019 / 11:20 am

      I can imagine it would be a drag to read at school – I love coming back to those sort of texts xxx

  5. April 4, 2019 / 1:41 pm

    I don’t think I have ever read Animal Farm. In fact, I have barely touched any Classics. I personally find them difficult to read, though there are some I have been wanting to read for years – like Frankenstein. I think I will add this one to my list to read.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 9, 2019 / 11:22 am

      Animal Farm is such an easy read – it’s a great place to start xxx

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