A Sunday Update
My first George Orwell book. 1984 was too thick for my liking and I was spoiled for the sad ending of 1984, so I decided to pick the much shorter Animal Farm.
And damn do I have no regrets.
I’d like to start my review by saying I’m looking at Animal Farm purely as a work of fiction, as George Orwell’s idea of how the farm would run given his beliefs on Communism, Capitalism, Dictatorship etc. Sure the wiki page says the book reflects on events that led up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. But I don’t want to look at this book in that way, mainly because I have no idea what happened in the Russian Revolution. I was reading the book and thinking of how there are similar situations that could arise in a society no matter what political belief one has. I was actually trying to put what was mentioned in the book within Singapore’s context. Heheh.
But let’s just get to the story.
Animal Farm tells the story of farm animals who overthrow their human owner who had treated them badly and then take control of their farm animal society. A democratic animal society is formed but it soon gives way to a tyrannical dictatorship and leaves you wondering if it could have been prevented.
My advice to anyone who wants to read this book, write a note. Write down the names of the animals as the animals are being introduced. Because at some point I was confused which name belonged to which type of animal (pigs, hens, horses, cats, sheep, etc).
I’ll tell you what I love about this story: the way it is written. It is to the point. And at no point, did the narrator take a side. The sentences were all neutral toned no matter how low the dictator stooped to ensure he is kept in power and no matter how much the other farm animals suffered under the dictator’s leadership. And that’s really forceful. If you’re reading this book to get an idea of the lead up to the events of the Russian Revolution, you’ll want to believe the dictator was awful and that the farm animals were unfortunate because it almost feels like the narrator is telling you ‘this is what happens on both sides, you get to pick a side, which side are you going to pick?’ It’s really forceful writing despite being so succinct. It’s a talent, yo. It’s-mygawd-is it a talent!
And despite its brevity, character development was really good. Not to forget all these farm animals are chosen such that they show the character we associate them with. Like you expect dogs to be loyal, that’s what they are in this book. Sheep follow blindly, that’s what they do in this book. So this book having animals as its characters actually works wonders. It allows the reader to make the necessary association to the animal and to its characteristics without much effort by George Orwell. My favourite character has to be the ass, Benjamin. He really is an ass (donkey). At some point in the book, the two leaders of the animal society – both pigs – Snowball and Napolean are arguing about where to focus their resources between building a windmill (championed by the former) and increasing food production (championed by the latter). They take a vote with the residents of the Animal Farm. And you know what Benjamin says?
‘Windmill or no windmill, he said, life would go on as it had always gone on – that is, badly.’
Can we all take a moment to appreciate the morbid humour?
I can feel Benjamin’s soul on a soul to soul level. Is it bad that I relate to Benjamin’s character in the book? Lol.
Notwithstanding any similarity or the lack thereof with what happened in the Russian Revolution, I actually think the flow of the story is very probable. The things Napolean did to stay in power are very understandable. The ploys he did, his attempt to rewrite history, everything really. The other farm animal’s characteristics are also very apt for the story. The plot of this story had a natural succession so it was quite enjoyable. I say enjoyable but I’ve also annotated this book with a lot of curse words.
Squealer (also a pig and Napolean’s right-hand
man pig) is obviously trash. I don’t even want to talk about him. Napolean might be terrible but Squealer is the worst thing to walk the face of the Earth. He’s a charismatic speaker? Sure, he’s also a damn good liar. Ever seen liars? Yes or no, you haven’t seen Squealer. Get ready to be pissed.
I also want to mention my next favourite scene in this book. At some point, the humans attack this Animal Farm. And the animals are outnumbered and outgunned. They are all afraid. But the moment the humans obliterate the most important thing to these animals, these animals who were initially filled with fear become enraged. They charge towards these gun-wielding men with no fear. And I just like this scene. I like how poetic this is. When you have nothing to lose anymore, you have nothing to be afraid of. These farm animals are not incapable of overthrowing the tyrant. They don’t want to because they’re still afraid, because they still have something to lose. Whether they really have something to lose or if it is just a figment of their imagination – an illusion created by those in power- is a more interesting issue, isn’t it? You can bring this idea into real life, no matter your political opinion. Do you really have what it is you think you will lose if you rebel/speak up? Hmm.
Well. This was a savage read actually. And that ending doe.
This is a 5 star read for novelty, brevity and its thought-provoking ability.