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Thursday, February 22, 2018

George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's Animal Farm is one of those books you often have hanging around and forget that you do. I needed a short book to add to my purse for my commute that day (you know the drill -- I was thisclose to finishing another book and didn't want to carry two thick books...), and I was reminded why it's a classic.

The animals of Manor Farm are tired of being overworked and under appreciated by the humans, so they revolt. Snowball and Napoleon, a donkey and a pig respectively, co-share leadership following the takeover and renaming of Animal Farm. They have a list of egalitarian rules that someone writes on the barn wall, but unfortunately, most of the animals can't read. No worries, as life goes on and all is well. That is, until Napoleon realizes that sharing power is for the birds. After banishing Snowball, the pigs begin to rule the roost, rewriting the rules everyone had agreed upon and making life and work so difficult for the animals that it suddenly seems not so egalitarian anymore. Will Animal Farm even survive? Or was everyone right -- a farm should be run by humans, anyway?

Ah yes, Animal Farm. The old allegory about the Russian Revolution, and Napoleon is supposed to be Stalin. It's thinly veiled if anything. However, this story is so often told that it's not hard to see timely parallels to our current situation in the United States at present. Oh sure, we don't have a dictator (ahem...cough...yet...), but the nature of the animals working hard and being told that they aren't worthy and that they have to work harder just to make the same amount of money food smells suspiciously like capitalism a couple centuries later. It makes you wonder, is this possibly just human nature?

That's not for me to answer, or at least, not in this blog post. I enjoyed the book, and it was surprisingly short for what I was expecting. I can't remember whether or not I had to read this in high school -- I'm quite confident that I didn't -- so it was interesting to pick it up now, in 2018. I think it home more than it would have in 1995. I was thoroughly entertained while still being absolutely horrified. I could see so much of the world I know in the world of this book, right down to the defamation of Snowball after he chooses to leave the farm once he figures out Napoleon's game. I'm glad I picked up the work when I did, at this point in my life, and I'm looking forward to revisiting 1984, too. This also has me ruminating on the role of the classics in our world, and why it's a shame that it took me 30-something years to get around to reading this. It's also made me seek out more books that I ignored skimmed Cliffsnotesed read in high school.

I leave you with a famous quote from the book, but one that I hope you sit with for a while. It is one of the rules that was rewritten after Snowball leaves Animal Farm and Napoleon begins his dictatorship.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."


  1. I taught Animal Farm for six years in a row to three classes of high school sophomores at a time. Due to its short length, we listened to the audiobook version. It's so deep in political and societal implications that spark great debate.

    1. I agree! I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during those discussions; high schoolers can have such interesting insights into that debate.