Book Review: Animal Farm

‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell is an allegorical novel set on a farm in England, where the animals revolt against their human masters to live as equal and free. Led by the clever pigs they decide to run the farm themselves on unbigoted principles. Ultimately, however, the pigs themselves become corrupted by power, and new repression is established under their leader Napoleon.

The characters and events of this classic novel are parallel to those of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Stalinism. It tells us how power and authority can become the quintessential story of greed, corruption, betrayal, and destruction.

*Spoiler Alert!*

Inspired by a boar named Old Major, the animals of the Manor Farm carry out a successful rebellion and chase out Mr. Jones, owner of the farm. The farm is renamed Animal Farm and the Seven Commandments of Animalism are inscribed on the farm wall, the most important being “All animals are equal”. The two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerge as the leaders and supervise the farm. Snowball is intelligent, eloquent, and less devious than his counterpart, Napoleon.

Initially, the farm prospers. There is harmony and a good harvest. But as time passes, a power struggle arises between Snowball and Napoleon. They disagree on nearly everything. Napoleon opposes Snowball’s idea of building a windmill, but when the farm animals vote in Snowball’s favor, Napoleon summons a pack of ferocious dogs, who attack and chase Snowball off the farm.

From thereon Napoleon becomes a totalitarian dictator. The lust for power absorbs him, drives him to commit crimes, and ill-treat those who defy his rule. The novel illustrates numerous examples of oppression by a despotic ruler, that none of the animals can resist. The sore circumstances of Boxer, the cart-horse, give the reader a glimpse of a jarring realism. These downtrodden animals symbolize the lower classes of society.

Towards the end, the reader is captivated by the ironic turn of events, as the animals transform into the one thing they tried to escape. Animalism’s seven Commandments are narrowed down to one maxim “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. The farm animals realize that they can no longer tell the difference between the men and the pigs.

The novel is full of many engaging characters – Squealer, the pig, who serves as Napoleon’s Minister of Propaganda, and often uses rhetoric and language to twist the truth and maintain control. Boxer, the cart-horse, valued for his strength and loyalty. He is very naive and trusts the pigs blindly to make all his decisions for him. Benjamin, the donkey, is realistic and believes that life will go on as it has always – that is, badly. Mollie, the mare, is a materialistic character who loves being groomed.

‘Animal Farm’ is a deceptively simple tale, which holds timeless truths. It is a satirical and parodical short novel. Orwell’s work in this novel is characterized by lucid prose, which conveys a strong message. It gives a vivid description of how a hierarchical society works. All the political manipulations of the novel are visible today. It paints a sordid picture that resonates with the realities of class, inequality, power, and control. It is undeniably a brilliant profound novel. This book is one of my memorable reads, and I recommend it to everyone.

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