Sunday, November 8, 2009

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Although written more than half a century ago, George Orwell’s stories have a remarkable ability of reflecting present day politics and culture, be it 'Animal Farm' or '1984'.

This is the story of Manor Farm – a farm consisting of numerous animals. The animals are overworked and the owner of the farm Mr. Manor is a drunkard who treats the animals cruelly. There is an old boar called Major who has a vision of a rebellion after which there would be no more humans on the farm and the animals would rule themselves.

The animals do manage to overthrow the humans, and have their farm to themselves. After Major’s demise the animals create their own constitution, and code of conduct for the farm. They make Major’s song ‘Beasts of England’ their anthem and define their own commandments. The farm is renamed Animal Farm, and all the animals take enormous pride in managing the affairs of the farm by themselves.

The pigs are the most intellectual of the animals and form the decision makers. Snowball and Napoleon are two most intelligent pigs, and they form the think-tank of the farm, but they have disagreements on every issue. Napoleon gets rid of Snowball from the farm and becomes the sole leader of the farm.

All the other animals are good workers, but not good when it comes to intellectual ability. They cannot differentiate between right and wrong, and are easily manipulated by the pigs for their gains. Napoleon uses violence, deceit and false propaganda in order to gradually transform Animal Farm into a new system of oppression. Old Major’s message is also distorted, and his commandment "All animals are equal" is replaced with "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

Orwell concludes the story with Napoleon’s coterie negotiating with humans on how to manage the affairs of the farm. The animals who are watching this argument realize that it is impossible to tell apart from the pigs and humans, and the rebellion to overthrow humans was in fact a futile effort.

There are several characters among the animals, which represent different sections of society:

Boxer: He is a horse who is loyal and dedicated to his work, and represents the working class of the society. He works hard all his life for the betterment of the farm, but when he is old and no longer useful, he is sent to a slaughterhouse by Napoleon.

Benjamin: He is an old donkey having a pessimistic view of life. His oft repeated words are: "Life will go on as it has always gone on - that is, badly".

Moses: A raven who tells tales of a place in the sky called Sugarcandy Mountain, where he says animals go when they die — but only if they work hard. Napoleon knows that the stories are false, but lets the raven stay on the farm so that the animals have their minds on a bright future and do not have thoughts of rebellion.

The sheep: They have no judgment of their own, and their minds are tuned by Napoleon according to his wishes.

The novel is essentially about the absolute power that Napoleon and the pigs command over the farm and how it corrupts them gradually. They deceive the animals on the farm by making amendments to the commandments in order to justify their actions. Finally, the commandments are abolished and the replaced with the classic line:

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’

Animal Farm was greatly inspired by real events that took place during the communist era in Russia, using animals as actual people. Whenever Orwell describes a vision of a society in which the conditions of life are characterized by poverty and oppression, it comes as a surprise to the reader that the situations described are so relevant even to this day. ‘Animal Farm’ is a classic, which tells us about the harsh realities of life and blends the narrative with satirical humor.