I have a goal (more like a dream!) to finish reading the Top 100 Books of the Last 100 Years. This is now my 36th. So here goes!
When I started reading Animal Farm I was very amused. This is the story of Manor Farm where the animals were able to drive away their human farmers and take over. A farm that could run on its own without the intervention if humans was fascinating. The animals created their own rules, schedules and systems that made the farm run smoothly. All the animals were fed, all the cows milked, and all the eggs collected. The pigs, being the smartest creatures, set the rules and managed the farm, while the rest of the animals worked.
|First Edition Cover, 1945|
But as I read on it became apparent that there was an underlying message. Apparently the farm symbolized Russia and the animals the Russians. As time passed the pigs started to pass most of the work to the laboring animals and began enjoying the best food, sleeping in comfortable beds, and drinking alcohol even if these practices were against the commandments they initially set for themselves. The leader pig, Napaleon, symbolized Stalin. This is symbolic of how power eventually corrupts those who have it and how their own rules start to deteriorate. The laboring animals are abused and they are no better off than when the new leaders came to power.
It's something that happens to governments and makes you wonder whether its better not to have a government than to have one that is corrupt. greedy and abusive. This question is subject to debate but what is amazing is how a seemingly unassuming 80-page story about animals can lead us to think as much. For me it shows the brilliance of the author to have been able to drive home the message without any mention of government or policies whatsoever. George Orwell was a democratic socialist and a critic of Joseph Stalin. He was hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism.
Other than government corruption, it also shows how leaders who are corrupt remain so when the people themselves are ignorant and indifferent.
Time Magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005). It also places at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels. Many of Orwell's works have influenced modern pop culture until today, including the terms "Orwellian", "Big Brother", and "doublethink".
All in all, Animal Farm was a great, seemingly light, but in reality a very thought-provoking read. Highly recommended!