Before I start I would just like to point out that this is my first “book review” or sorts and so bare with me and any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated. So Animal Farm by George Orwell was published in 1945 and written to reflect the events of the Russian communist Joseph Stalin and his time in office. Orwell, who was a firm believer in democracy, heavily criticised Stalinism and the “anti-revolutionary” approach affects he imposed on Russian society. Orwell’s opposition to communism is very apparent in Animal Farm and has shook me thoroughly to the core.
It has taken me just under a year to complete the book because every time I picked it up and attempted to progress through it, I felt disheartened by the book’s dark themes and it has only been through the determination to finish it that I actually have. From the very beginning, a dark scene is set where the animals at Manor Farm were oppressed and cruelly treated by a drunk and unjust farmer by the name of Jones. From the very offset a feeling of great resentment is present and it is the so-called “wisdom” of an ancient pig prophesying a world ruled by animals that causes the resentment to be put into action.
At the death of The Major, the name the pig went by, fellow pigs decided that it was time to take draw up a set of commandments by which to abide by in a new spirit of “Animalism”. However, as the pigs naturally took leadership as a result of a higher intelligence than the other animals and began to embrace this new unfounded power, one by one the commandments were twisted. This occurred to the point that the way in which the rest of the animals were “led” by the pigs became indistinguishable from the way in which they were cruelly treated back in the days of farmer Jones and his men.
It seems to me that the main setback of Animal Farm as it came to be called was a lack of democracy. The other animals failed to complain or argue with the pigs due to their lack of intelligence and the later threat of being executed through clever manipulation by the pigs from which they had adopted from their once human nemeses. I found the description of the way in which the convicted animals were executed to be very graphic and cruel - having their throats ripped out by pig-trained dogs and torn limb from limb. There was very little solace for the dead because the “lesser” animals were led to believe they were traitors of the Animal Republic.
I know very little about Stalinism in itself but if it was anything like the events described in Animal Farm, I shudder at the thought and am very grateful to be living in a democratic, if not slightly too right-wing for my tastes, society. I mourn for both the victims and the animal characters of the book that suffered under a prosthetic government that tricked good people into thinking that they were being led to progress but were instead being led to their deaths.