George Orwell is a name that needs no introduction if you’re a fan of literature and Animal Farm is one of, if not his most, famous books. Animal Farm centres around animals rebelling against humans on a farm and rising up as part of a revolution.
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Animal Farm was written in 1945 by George Orwell and as noted above tells the story of a group of farm animals who decide to overthrow the humans that run the farm with the aim of living a better life. However, in typical George Orwell form, things don’t go exactly as planned and there are huge political connotations throughout the book.
Plot – 5/5
One day Old Major, a boar on a farm in the middle of England calls all of the animals of the farm together and tells them that the reason they live in a life that constantly sees them producing and working to only have their produce taken is away is because they are ruled by humans. They then quickly rebel against Mr Jones, the owner of the farm, driving him out and beginning their own rules on the farm. Everything starts out very well, they set clear rules and guides so that everybody is treated fairly, eats well and contributes an equal amount. However, things begin to change as intelligence, importance and hierarchy are brought into force.
Animal Farm is a book that’s been studied in British Schools for decades due to its social suggestions and political education. George Orwell does a fantastic job in this book of exploring how societies collapse into a dictatorship slowly but steadily via careful planning and building of trust. Animal Farm gives us a simple selection of subjects – animals from a farm. It then uses well-known traits about these animals – horses are strong, pigs and dogs are smart, sheep and ducks are dumb etc to give us an idea of how these people would be represented in society. These animals are literal and metaphorical clones of human beings within society. Along with this, we see Orwell write a story that shows us how certain animals (people) make it to the top of their power tree and then use their intelligence and control to stay there via propaganda and lies.
I loved the plot of this book. It was a true joy to follow the adventures of these animals – how they all dealt with one another and how the story progressed so far in so few pages (it’s only a novella). You’re gripped the whole way through as you can see where you’re being taken but Orwell is doing such a great job of explaining things to you that you’re finding it a joy to be taken there.
Characters – 4/5
I’m not really sure how to rate the characters in this book as none of them fit into my usual brackets of being “good” characters. Plus, as with Orwell’s other books, there isn’t a vast amount of dialogue between the characters. It is written with a very passive voice, often writing about the events happening rather than actually having the characters take part in the event as part of the plot. However, Orwell has a brilliant way of writing this where he combines intelligent language but simple prose so it’s very accessible but also intelligent enough to not feel like you’re reading a children’s book.
However, as discussed above, they each have their own characteristics that make them more suited to the new Animal Farm regime or less suited. The Pigs, deemed the most intelligent, essentially end up running the farm as they are accepted to make the best decisions of the masses. Boxer is a horse, he’s hard-working, quiet and well-loved by many for his dedication. There’s Leonard, a boar who becomes the leader, enforcing new rules as he slowly gains the trust of his fellow farm members. There are some really interesting characters here who you feel could represent people you know or political figures from history. Either way, Orwell has done a great job of simply making each of these characters different. However, I have dropped it one point as this isn’t a character-driven book and so many of them weren’t overly fleshed out.
Animal Farm summary – 5/5
Animal Farm is a wonderful book. It’s the first time I’ve read it and I can see why so many people hail it as such a fantastic piece of British literature. I can also see why it’s been studied in British academia – it’s a book about the power of propaganda and social control. It’s a book that puts into simple terms how your personality, intelligence, ethics and even physical build can affect where you end up in life and your importance to society. We’re very lucky in Britain to live in a society that isn’t centred around those mentioned above to allow you to progress in whatever profession or lifestyle you wish to progress in. However, it’s worth noting that Orwell noted that this book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union so its messages are very real.
I’d recommend Animal Farm to anybody who is in political propaganda, anybody may well be into a bit of fantasy (it’s a book about animals forming a society) or people that simply want to read an absolute classic of literature.