George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a very short book. Its story, insights, concepts and message will ring true as long as humans come together to work. The fact that Animal Farm is entirely about humans is a sweet irony. That is also its main appeal to me. It provides a glimpse into how good intentions, ideas, ideals and lofty thinking fall apart gradually. I see it as a satirical fable that helps explain the ups and downs of history. Simple in its telling, complex in its content, meaning and relevance.
Central to the story is the slow transformation of the seven commandments of the animal farm and the gradual rise of the pigs into a new upper class.
From the initial list of
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equal.
They are modified to this.
- No animal shall sleep in bed with sheets
- No animal shall drink alcohol to excess
- No animal shall kill any other animal without cause
- Four legs good, two legs better!
And finally replaced with this.
All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
Animal Farm works at many different levels. First as a simple straightforward fable. At this level, it is a bit like Aesop’s fables or the Panchatantra. The second level is as a lesson in the history of communism in the Soviet Union. Napoleon the Pig is Stalin, Snowball is Trotsky, The dogs are the secret police, Squealer is Molotov and so on. At another level, the book is about the different kinds of animals representing the types of people in society, the silent majority too fearful to oppose the injustice of ruthless, corrupt, powerful leaders, gullible people who believe leaders do everything in their best interest, sycophants who wait for their chance to be in power and well intentioned, hardworking people who work for betterment and find themselves in a thankless society are all in the book.
The truth in the book about the constant rise, fall and rebuilding of societies is timeless. The powerful undercurrents of rhetoric, politics, misuse of statistics, propaganda, manipulation and exploitation in the story are facts of society and by extension to most collective human endeavours.
A good book brings to light new and interesting aspects on each reading. This might be because it is multi-layered and frees the imagination to ponder on the subject being tackled. As a person keenly interested in sociology, the mechanics of human society, I find that animal farm is definitely a book that belongs to this category.