Saturday, February 15, 2014

Animal Farm by George Orwell

In high school we were assigned Orwell's 1984 and I also had to read 1984 again in college. His writings are dark satires of the politics of his time. He saw the horrors of fascism in WWII and the rise of communism in Russia and wanted to show that vigilance was needed to keep democratic countries from following the same path.

I remember the first time I read 1984, I hated it and did not grasp the whole point. Our English teacher was not very happy with the book, but it was one she had to teach. My French teacher on the other hand warned us almost daily that Big Brother is Watching. He was a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but he at least understood Orwell. In college I finally understood that Orwell was writing what he had seen happen and what he was afraid would happen. By that point I was a student of history and loved trying to put together the stories of our world along with how those who lived the times put them together.

I picked up Animal Farm, because that is the current book assigned to the high school honor students, instead of 1984 and for other teens it is their pick when they have to review a classic. When our teen patrons come in, they will sometime ask about the classics and I feel guilty when I can't recommend or really know what the book is about. So when I saw the Back to the Classics Challenge, I knew I wanted to try it and read a few more classics. Animal Farm is my pick for a 20th century classic.

The animals at the farm are tired of the heavy handed rule of the two legged humans. The humans take everything and do not work at all, so Major, the big boar, has a dream that says the animal will rebel and start their own society. Major passes away, but the animals remember the night he told them the dream and the song, "Beasts of England" taught to them by Major. The animals do rebel and win, chasing Mr. Jones from the farm. The pigs take the lead and learn to read and write and come up with the seven commandments to govern the farm. The most important commandment is "All Animals are Equal." As the pigs realize the other animals are not grasping education, they begin to take over the lead and two pigs struggle for power. Comrade Snowball and Comrade Napoleon are two opposite ends of the coin, and when Napoleon takes over he becomes a truly evil dictator killing and condemning animals at will. The pigs even begin to work with the evil humans and walk on two legs. In the end, Orwell shows his condemnation of communism. Not only does he condemn communism, but he shows that by working with Communists, and clinging to the idea of a lower class, the other countries are not any better.

Favorite Quote: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." The need for constant vigilance is something the Founding Fathers preached in our country and something we need to continue to practice.

Favorite Character: Boxer, the workhorse. This character broke my heart. This is the one who believes so strongly in what he is taught and is so full of goodness that he is crushed in the end. 

While I believe democracy is the best form of government we have, I can see Orwell's point of being cautious on how we treat those with little say in our world, whether that is children, the poor, or the uneducated. It is easy to say people should not have rights because they don't understand how to use them and it is so wrong to take another person's say away, because we believe we are in someway superior. I thankfully had teachers and other adults who taught me humility and kindness. Hopefully when people, particularly teens, read these book, they take away the idea that all people are equal regardless of how you attempt to measure a person.  Deep thoughts for a tiny classic book! 5 cups of cocoa!

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