“Animal Farm” by George Orwell

Prior to this independent reading session, I had been wanting to read Animal Farm for quite some time. Also, in history recently we learned about the Russian Revolution, which made the timing even better. Off the bat this book was so intriguing and well written that I didn’t want to put it down. I had to though, because of the length. The book is so short that stopping so soon was hard, but I did it so that I could be fairer with the blog.

To me, the whole idea of comparing the Russian Revolution to animals on a farm is amazing. Every single animal in the story is tied to a real person or idea from the revolution. For instance, the competition between the two pigs Napoleon and Snowball is a direct correlation to how Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky fought for power after Vladimir Lenin, portrayed by another pig – Old Major, died. The way that every character represents a real “character” from the Russian Revolution is so mind bogglingly perfect that it makes the experience of reading Animal Farm so much better.

Another way that Orwell conveyed his comparison was through the setting.  He describes the buildings as, “dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted roofing, the hedges were neglected and the animals were underfed” (15%) (I am reading on a kindle and there aren’t page numbers). This description gives the impression that the farm is old, broken down, and in terrible condition. This is the exact same state that Russia was in prior to Stalin’s Five Year Plans. Russia had just started industrializing, and was perhaps forty years behind more modernized countries such as Great Britain and the U.S. (other farms in the novel). All of Russia’s machinery was way behind the others and the state of their nation was in shambles, just like the farm.

One last comparison that took me more time than the others was how all the pigs wanted the milk and apples produced on the farm. I understood their motives – as they are the smartest and believe that they deserve the milk and cookies – but for a while the correlation to real life didn’t show. I realize now that this is much like how Stalin started collective farms. He took all of the crops that peasants labored for and sold them to other countries to fuel the industrialization in Russia. The pigs in the novel are saying that they need the food to keep the humans (royalty) from coming back, while Stalin wanted the crops to strengthen Russia. Both had the similar goals, and that is how I figured out that comparison.

The one thing that I don’t like about this novel is the fact that I know what will happen. I have learned about the Russian Revolution, which sort of spoils the plot of the book for me. My hopes as the I continue to read are that I keep enjoying the correlation between real life and the story, and to be able to communicate with others about the book through this blog.

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6 responses to ““Animal Farm” by George Orwell

  1. Ever since Old McDonald had a farm, kids had grown up enjoying the company of animals and the noises they make and how the illustrations of the animals are so cute in picture books. George Orwell’s book puts a dark twist onto our children’s tale as our old farmer is violently chased off the farm by his own livestock and the farm animals (not so cute now) begin to form their own social anarchy. Welcome, to Animal Farm.

    Like Andrew stated, I too was both surprised and excited by George Orwell’s clever satire to the Soviet Union and the Russian Revolution. The pigs on the farm are the real “brains” of the whole operation and the two contrasting personalities of Snowball and Napoleon cleverly parallel the two Russians that are hungry for power. Eventually, Napoleon (Stalin) the pig is able to exile his rival Snowball (Trotsky) and push him away from the farm that they had taken over together. This mirrors real life and how Trotsky was forced to flee to Mexico after the majority of the “party” sided with Stalin. However, I would like to bring up the point that Orwell never personally experienced the Russian Revolution personally. He passed away in 1950 and published this novel in 1944, which concludes that his interpretation of the novel contained no first person experiences. He could only write based off of the facts that were offered to the public and his own opinions. Again, like Andrew mentioned, the parallelism to the Russian Revolution created a very predictable plot which was somewhat disappointing.

    So disappointing, that in fact I would have much rather had “Animal Farm” be completely secluded from the Russian Revolution. However, after the clever parallelism was found, I found my interest in the book loosening ever so slightly. Even the seven commandments that the pigs created were closely linked to the philosophical ideas set by the communist leaders in Russia during the mid twentieth century. The Seven commandments were (and try to spot the nationalistic views):
    1. Whatever Goes upon two legs in an enemy
    2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend
    3. No animals shall wear clothes
    4. No animal shall sleep in a bed
    5. No animal shall drink alcohol
    6. No animal shall kill any other animal
    7. All animals are equal
    (16)
    Like Lenin’s ideal form of government, the rules were created with good virtues in mind, like the ones we see above. However, after Stalin (Napoleon the pig) obtains power, the farm begins to show major change. As mentioned in the post above, Napoleon’s “five year plan” flips the farm over onto itself as the animals set their sights on a powerful windmill. However, like Stalin’s five year plan, the cost of the windmill and the industrialization of the farm could possibly harm the farm in more ways than it could help it.

    Even in the first quarter of the novel, my opinions over it have changed considerably. At first I was eager to pick up the book and laugh whenever I spotted a clever parallel to our History class material. But now that I have gotten over my initial rush of excitement, I find the satire almost boring as George Orwell has created, under further inspection, a “Kids” version the Russian Revolution

  2. As I keep reading through the amazingly complex allegory to the Russian Revolution, it doesn’t cease to surprise me. George Orwell did such an amazing job with Animal Farm that I can’t think of any ways to make it better. Although my one negative point still stands and will stand throughout the rest of the novel, I think that I will still appreciate it and have a great time reading.

    The way that Orwell characterizes the pig Napoleon (Stalin) is amazing. He goes from a pig with an opinion to a pig with the only opinion. Napoleon takes the children of the dog Clover in order to make his own “Secret Police” of sorts. This police takes down his enemies, namely Snowball (Trotsky) and a little later in the novel they conduct executions. In effect, Napoleon has become who he was fighting against in the first place. He rules over the farm, slaughters innocent animals (an allegory to the show trials that took place in Stalinist Russia) and has basically turned into Mr. Jones – the old man in charge on the farm.

    The animals struggled to build a windmill, something that was originally Snowball’s idea. After a storm one night, the whole thing falls down due to a flaw in the way Napoleon drew out his “blueprints.” Napoleon will not take the fall for this though, just like Stalin. Instead, he comes up with a lie, saying that Snowball came back and knocked down the windmill. Napoleon then goes so far as to force many animals against false accusations just to keep order in the rest of Animal Farm society. Many governments have done this throughout history. In the case of Russia, Stalin always spoke of the looming threat that was Leon Trotsky even after his murder. Other countries who fought against communist regimes spread word that if the citizens didn’t fight back, the plague of communism would trickle into society and take it down. The main reasoning behind this was to take the citizens eyes off of the cruelty that the government using itself. In Russia, it made it look like each murder of a citizen and each man sent to a work camp was for the good of the people, but alas, it was not.

    One character in the book that I thought was interesting was a pig named Squealer. He was a supporter of Napoleon and was the one who conveyed Napoleon’s ideas to the people. After a while, I figured out that Squealer wasn’t modeled after a specific person, but rather after the propaganda that circled around Russia during Stalin’s reign. Squealer always preaches about how Napoleon is a great leader, how he knows about the needs of the people, and so on. There are other characters throughout the novel who act in the same way as Squealer, representing an idea rather than a figure, but this was the most prominent to me.

    Although I know what is to come, I still find Animal Farm to be a very well written enticing book. I look forward to reading more.

  3. As Andrew stated earlier, Napoleon has really begun to fully exhibit both totalitarianistic and Stalin-like attributes. The dogs that belonged to Clover become identical to government enforcement such as the Red Guards from the Chinese Revolution, the Chekists from the Russian Revolution, and the Gestapo from Nazi Germany. They heavily enforced Napoleon’s rule and as a result Napoleon “goes from a pig with an opinion to a pig with the only opinion” (Gates 8). As the story has spanned over two years at this point, Napoleon has successfully created an authoritarian government that even leaders from the twentieth century would be jealous of.
    However, in contrast to Andrews claim in an earlier post, I think that Napoleon has not been using Snowball, but instead been using the ever-threatening presence of Mr. Jones as the scapegoat for all of the farm’s troubles. All it takes is the very mention of his name to scare the rest of the farm animals into doing whatever Napoleon, or his little henchman Squealer desired. Orwell’s parallelism remains consistent even as the characters have been finalized and the book has stayed historically accurate throughout the development of the book’s plot. Even the most unimportant characters in the novel such as the ducks, who do not even once have a piece of dialogue, symbolize the party members in the Russian revolution who would clap and cheer for everything that left their leader’s mouth. Boxer the horse symbolizes the hard working communist citizens that firmly believed that their involvement with the government was truly helping themselves when in reality, it was only separating the social standings of the two even more. In both the Chinese and Russian Revolution, thousands of farmers and land owners slaved and starved themselves in order to mass produce grain for the government. However, the government simply took the produce and used it all for themselves. Oblivious to the real intentions of their leader, Boxer as well as the proletariats of the Russian Revolution found themselves working away their lives with the promises of a brighter future held just outside of their reach by Napoleon/Stalin himself.
    Animal Farm has provided limitless parallels to history and is much more enjoyable to read than a textbook. I hope that the story continues to progress and create connections in the same manor

  4. First off, I would like to clear up a few things about this post. I read all the way to the end because Animal Farm is very short and the last blog post will be a review, not analysis of the plot or in depth anything. Also, thanks to Quincy for quoting me; I appreciate it. Also, more spoilers if you’re another kid in class roaming around the blog with nothing to do.

    First, I’d like to write a little about the ending. In the end, the pigs start to walk upright and act like humans. This is ironic because the whole reason the animals rebelled and the commandments first written were in order to get rid of every human aspect of life on the farm. The pigs even change the name back to “manor farm” and invite humans over to play cards. After Napoleon (Stalin) and Mr. Pilkington both play an ace of spades, fighting breaks out and, “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.” (Orwell). This ties back to the Russian Revolution in that Stalin had become the man who he had initially rebelled against, but even worse. The Russians realized that Stalin was a terrible person who had only brought their country harm.

    I’d like to go back to how the pigs started walking on two legs again and show the ludicrous change in Animal/Manor Farm. Near the beginning of the novel, after the revolution, there were sheep who would always yell out, “Four legs good, two legs bad” to drown out Snowball and Napoleon’s competition. When the pigs learn to walk on two legs at the end, Squealer teaches the sheep to bleat, “Four legs good, two legs better.” It blows my mind that the rest of the animals just watched as the pigs dressed like humans, carried whips to whip the workers, and act in all ways like humans. Than, I realized that that was what happened in real life, so Orwell couldn’t stray off of the point. Also, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” What? It doesn’t make sense, but the animals go along with it just the same.

    Animal Farm has really opened up my eyes to the way that peasants acted in the Russian Revolution and has made the whole real life story clearer. I know that I will give it much praise in my review.

  5. By the end of the novel (and yes I too read ahead), my thoughts on the books theme changed drastically. In the beginning I originally thought that the purpose behind this book’s publication was simply to inform youths of the Russian Revolution and the dangers of totalitarianistic societies. However, now I firmly believe that what Orwell was trying to tell his readers is that it is the qualities in a creature that make them dangerous, not their physical appearance. Mr. Jones the farmer was feared and hated by the animals because he was a human and they were not. Once the animals freed themselves, Napoleon became their adored leader. However, from the very start of the novel Napoleon had qualities such as dishonesty, greed, and gluttony that would end up ruining the lives of all the animals on the farm in an attempt in his own personal gain. Orwell beautifully uses parallelism throughout the book to reference historical events and people. It was originally meant to be interpreted as the Russian Revolution. However, I personally saw a connection between this novel and the Chinese Revolution. Napoleon became Mao Zedong and Mr. Jones was Chaing Kai Shek. The fear of the nationalist party kept everyone under Mao/Napoleon’s control and they all did whatever he wanted despite the repercussions that they would be forced to face.

    As Andrew stated, by the end of the book the pigs, in fact, were able to walk upright with only their two back feet. This monumental point in the book finalized the change from pig to human. The very things that were a bane on the farm had once again become the leaders of it. In the last scene of the book farmers and pigs alike were playing poker together on the Manor Farm (yes they switched the name back as well). When Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington play an ace of spades simultaneously, a fight breaks out. And in Andrew’s last post he quoted the end of the book where the animals watching the whole event could no longer tell the difference between the pigs and the humans. Napoleon’s sinful characteristics have eventually made him indistinguishable from humans and their own.

    Animal Farm was truly an intriguing book that I have been curious about ever since my Dad informed me about it a few years back. The character development in the story was, in my opinion, second to none and it will receive full marks in the upcoming book review

  6. When I started reading Animal Farm, I knew that I was in for a ride. I was looking forward to a cool parallel to the Russian Revolution, but I got much more than I was looking forward to. The way that each piece of the story is so intricately put together really amazed me. I have to give George Orwell’s great piece of literature a 9.5/10.

    Much like Quincy stated in his last post, the character development was one of the pieces that really made the story go from good to great. The way that Napoleon was getting darker and darker behind the cheerful smile of Squealer was very interesting to read. Also, the way that the animals couldn’t remember their lives from the past perfectly paralleled real life. After a few years under Stalin’s regime, the Russians couldn’t actually remember their past life well enough to say whether or not there life was better with a communist regime. Also, the huge amounts of government propaganda and censorship in every aspect of life kept the Russians in a peaceful state during the totalitarian regime. Also, the way that Napoleon got more and more human like towards the end was very interesting and a great way to connect to how Stalin turned Russia back to a single party dictatorship.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Animal Farm. The ties to the Russian Revolution were what made the book good, and then the character development as said before gave it the extra push to the top. Throughout the whole novel, I wanted to read more and more even though I knew what was going to happen in the story. I knew that Snowball would be chased out and I knew that Napoleon was going to turn into a totalitarian leader before too long. This didn’t stop me though. The book was still so riveting and interesting in the way that every single passage could be analyzed and connected to the real life event. This complexity is what made the book truly great and a classic that everyone should read. I believe that Animal Farm deserves a 9.5/10 for its great plot connections and character development.

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