Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: ANIMAL FARM


When it is said that Animal Farm by George Orwell is a classic, the statement marks absolute, timeless truth; for the book belongs to the highest literary rank and has a lasting significance. Written by the author during Nov 1943- Feb 1944, this book has endured the test of time with strong meaning relevant even today, unfazed by several passing decades.

I read this book last when I was in class 9 at school. Back then, I hardly grasped its import and Animal Farm to me was more like a fairy tale where animals residing in a farm talked, plotted and planned the ouster of their drunkard and tyrannical master. 

I grabbed this title and 1984 (another book by George Orwell) last year from a retail outlet in a sale on Penguin books and I re read it about two days back. This time the book unraveled a completely new dimension and the impetuous message contained in the book made complete sense.

The book is an allegory depicting Stalin era and his communist regime. Mr.Jones owns the Manor farm where many animals stay and labor - pigs, sheep, horses, cows, geese, hens, mare, raven et al. Jones's drunken revelry, his bacchanal ways stir a rebellion among the animals as they grow tired of not being cared for, not fed for days together and tortured with excessive work and brutal punishments. The idea of a rebellion is ignited in the heads of animals on the farm by Old Major, an old boar who envisions farms free from human parasites, farms where all animals are equal, animals toil for their own good, need not part with their produce for the sake of useless humans, animals eat enough, work enough, rest enough and are most importantly, independent.Old Major does not live long enough to see his ideas materialize but Manor Farm is rechristened as Animal Farm with Mr.Jones kicked out of power by the animals. Two pigs - Napoleon and Snowball frame Seven commandments governing Animalism in the farm, sing Beasts of England taught by Old Majoridolize him and vow to make Animal Farm a heaven for all animals alike.  

Snowball imparts literacy to all animals though equines like Boxer, Clover fail to pick up more than four alphabets. Snowball's  ideals move towards an egalitarian society but they are always in stark contrast to those proposed by Napoleon. Arguments alone ensue between these two pigs and their views are most often least understood by the lesser intelligent animals on the farm except for a wise Benjamin, an old donkey who is too wise and equally pessimistic. The Rebellion seems to bring everything just right for the animals on Animal Farm as they taste success against human enemies in the Battle of Cowshed. But all is not hunky dory.

The idea of rebellion gets lost with leaders losing their sense of rectitude. The novel, thereafter, presents how the concept of revolution is made corrupt by power hungry, wicked, myopic leaders and equally void in its effect by ignorant masses who express profound allegiance to their lords with no discernability. The Seven Commandments are re written with ease, their original intent mortified to suit those in power. Equines like Boxer toil endlessly in servile docility nodding in approval to the leader's hogwash. From "All Animals are Equal", the essence of Animalism effortlessly changes to "All Animals are Equal, But some animals are more equal than others".

A revolution, dreamt of being effectual, lands in complete paralysis and the novel ends with the sentence below - The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. 

A brief note at the beginning of this book quotes Orwell saying that Animal Farm is primarily a satire on Russian revolution but has wider applications. The moral to be was revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job. And true it is as Orwell quotes, his Animal Farm, a grim humored novel, a satire, stands relevant to every word, every alphabet even to this day. 

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