Occasionally I look up various “Must Read Classics” lists and check out one that I’ve never gotten around to reading before. This time, it was Animal Farm.
Is it possible to spoil a classic? Oh well, spoilers are below.
Major the boar has a dream, and in that dream he realizes the truth about animals and their lives on farms. Everything they make is given to man and Major claims this isn’t how they should live. The animals rise up and take the farm back from Mr. Jones - changing the name to Animal Farm - and celebrate their victory by creating a new government, with the pigs in charge. Everyone on the farm happily agrees to a set of rules that end with this declaration:
"All animals are equal."
Over time, however, the pigs begin to fight amongst themselves and one of them, Napoleon, takes all power for himself. He keeps food from the other animals, intimidates them, lies to them, and changes the rules all the animals agreed upon. The book comes full circle when the main edict quietly changes to reflect the pig’s new society:
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
I think the thing I liked the most about this story - at its face value - was the personalities all the animals had. The cat could only be found when it wanted to be, the horse was loyal and hard working, and the pigs were impressively smart. The interactions between the animals were exactly like you’d expect and perfectly natural. Boxer the horse was my favorite of all the farm animals (I especially loved his friendship with the donkey) so when he was taken away I was bummed.
Going deeper into the story - and the real reason Orwell wrote it - I loved the ease with which I knew what Orwell was saying, even though animals were the characters. I’m no history buff and I don’t know much about Soviet Russia, but it’s not hard to see the warnings. Power corrupts. It corrupts everyone who has it. Animal Farm’s system worked at first, and then was subtly changed and one day the animals realized they were just as bad off as when man ruled.
Animal Farm is not my new favorite classic but I appreciate it because it’s a living, breathing story that keeps showing truth to new generations of readers. Read it, stop and think about the events of the world around us today, and take the time to wonder who’s really in charge...is it the animals? We The People?
I think even Orwell would be surprised at the current world affairs.
(Side rant: Why do some vegans and vegetarians think this book proves people shouldn’t eat animals or animal products? Not all of them obviously, but I’ve seen vegans basically treat this as their Bible. Did they actually read the book? Do they realize it’s one big political metaphor...and not actually about farm animals? I'm all for animal rights but this isn't the book for that.)
This was a solid read and I’m happy I finally made time for it. I often stopped to re-read parts and fully soak in the great satire, so it’s a 4 out of 5 for me.