George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” in 1943, but had trouble finding a publisher. Stalin’s Soviet Union was quite popular in Britain and America that year. Many British socialists even idealized the Russian Revolution.
Orwell, who had fought in Spain years earlier against Stalinists, understood the totalitarianism that rose out of communism. He had witnessed first-hand the disappearance of those who opposed the Stalinist brand of communism.
Orwell finally found a publisher for “Animal Farm” in August of 1945. Orwell was a socialist, and did not intend to harm the socialist movement. He was however a man who despised hypocrisy and could not resist being honest. He wrote about the dangers he saw in subscribing to socialism and communism.
I just finished reading “Animal Farm.” It was the first time I read it…in many junior high school classes it was assigned reading. Classes in my school read it, but it was not assigned reading for my class. Same with Orwell’s “1984.” Both are important books that shed light on the dangers that are present when “equal” societies are managed by master planners.
A few things that stuck out in “Animal Farm” for me was the changing, in the secrecy of night, of the 7 rules that all had agreed on at the start when the animals removed the tyrant human Jones and began the utopia named Animal Farm.
Some of the animals thought they remembered the rules being different…for example…”No animal shall sleep in a bed” was changed to “No animal shall sleep in a bed ‘with sheets’” That rule was mysteriously changed when some of the leadership pigs started sleeping in beds in the farmhouse, which had been prohibited. The animals accepted the change…thinking they had misremembered…
At one point in the book, the song “Beasts of England” which was beloved by all the inhabitants of Animal Farm and had become a National Anthem, was forbidden from being sung! The animals of Animal Farm obeyed, and stopped singing the song that united them. As you can guess , as time went by, the other 7 rules were also modified to suit the leadership’s desires. (All modifications were done in the dead of night, when the residents of Animal Farm were asleep.)
The self-appointed leader of Animal Farm was a boar named Napoleon. Boxer, a horse of unearthly strength of body…but no so much of mind, was a never doubting supporter of Napoleon and all Napoleon said. In fact, Boxer lived by these words he adopted for himself when things didn’t seem quite right. Boxer’s maxims were “Napoleon is always right,” and “I will work harder.”
Boxer lived faithfully by those mottos, but when he was injured, his reward after years of strenuous work was not what he had been promised by Napoleon. There would be no resting and whiling the day away in a lovely field supposedly set aside for the animals when they grew old…no, Boxer was instead, unknowingly, sent to the glue factory!
The book is a quick read, and quite chilling…especially in the age we are currently living in. The promises Napoleon made to the animals were not kept. In the end, even the new name of the farm…”Animal Farm” was changed back to its ordinal name…”Manor Farm.”
Take the time to read it, and encourage a youngster in your life to read it. I have a feeling it’s not required reading these days…it should be!