Book Review: Animal FarmMay 27, 2020
By: April Feng
Animal Farm, a book by George Orwell, tells the story of a group of farm animals in Manor Farm who rebel against their cruel human farmer, working together to create a farm where all animals can live happily as equals. It also serves as an allegory towards the rise of communism. Old Major, the oldest pig on the farm, dreams of a revolution against their farmer, Mr. Jones, who forces the animals to work and does not take care of them; this parallels Karl Marx and his theory of Marxism, which inspired people to pursue revolution in Russia. After Old Major dies, the three pigs Napoleon, Snowball, and Squeaker take it upon themselves to direct the revolution and overthrow Mr. Jones, eventually taking control of Manor Farm. After the animals gain independence, it is declared through the Seven Commandments that all animals are now equal. However, being the only ones who can read, the pigs gain superiority and naturally take up the positions of leaders, often abusing their power and keeping the farm’s fortune for their own use. Soon enough, Napoleon becomes power hungry and exiles Snowball, brainwashing the rest of the animals to believe that Snowball was a traitor who did not wish the best for them. Along the way, Napoleon slowly gains more and more control of the farm, silencing anyone who defies him and intimidating the other animals into following him. The other animals are treated no different from when they were under humans. Similarly, Stalin and Trotsky emerged as two revolutionary figures who led the revolution in Russia. However, after a power struggle with Stalin, Trotsky was exiled to Mexico, and Stalin gained total control of Russia by brainwashing the public with propaganda and state-run newspapers. In the story, Napoleon begins to take on more and more human characteristics and tendencies, turning more human than pig. At the end, the farm animals are no longer able to tell the difference between the pigs and the humans.
Although Napoleon acts as possibly the antagonist of the story, it cannot be denied that he is a likable character. Even though he is certainly villainous and does not always have the other farm animals’ best interests in mind, he is extremely intelligent and level-headed when making the decisions towards fulfilling his want for power. This is exemplified when Napoleon begins to clash with his fellow pig, Snowball. Upon realizing Snowball’s popularity is a major threat to his own rule over the farm, Napoleon craftily turns the farm animals on Snowball, claiming he is a traitor and does not really know what is best for the animals. Then, Napoleon orders a pack of dogs seemingly from out of nowhere to chase Snowball off the farm. In fact, the dogs were “the puppies whom Napoleon had taken away from their mothers and reared privately” from when the revolution had just ended. It is apparent that Napoleon has always had a back up plan or at least thinks ahead far into the future, preparing for any scenario. Obviously, he is not a typical villain, and that makes him all the more interesting to read about. Orwell proves he is not just a simple villain who loves to cause chaos and destruction: his actions in the story are always methodical and well thought out, executed perfectly. With such a complex and intriguing antagonist, the story will draw in the interest of the readers.
On a different note, Orwell’s writing style also plays an important role in both conveying the message of this story and enticing readers. In Animal Farm, Orwell’s writing is very clear, concise, and straightforward; he uses simpler diction and shorter sentences to describe scenarios in the book. For instance, when depicting the equally harsh working conditions the farm animals had to face under the pigs’ rule, Orwell writes, “All that year the animals worked like slaves.” His simple wording and phrasing make the actual book easy to read and comprehend, so readers can understand the deeper satire underneath about the rise of communism that Orwell wishes to convey. The writing style made the book more fun and ultimately less dense to read, allowing readers to enjoy the process and also understand a bit more about the deeper meaning behind Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Since Animal Farm is a satirical novel representing the rise of communism and Stalin, many of the major plot points are based on that. However, Orwell still manages to put many unexpected twists and turns in. One of the most heart wrenching moments is when Boxer, the albeit slightly slow but still lovable carthorse is injured and eventually sent off to be killed. Although Napoleon claims that he was “making arrangements to send Boxer to be treated in the hospital,” it is clear to the readers that Boxer is carted off to be butchered. Boxer is one of the most loyal farm animals, one of his mottos being “Napoleon is always right;” therefore, some readers may have been surprised by Napoleon’s cruel treatment. However, Orwell makes it clear with the way Napoleon acts that the heartless pig is only concerned with making money and the success of Animal Farm. Once an animal becomes disabled, they are only able to offer up small contributions to society, rendering them useless and therefore dispensable in his eyes. Orwell’s plot structure and characters fit perfectly together to capture the reader’s attention unexpectedly at a particularly intense or emotional point, leaving the reader interested and wanting to read more.
Orwell’s Animal Farm is ultimately well worth the read. To start, Orwell creates three-dimensional characters that make readers invest in the story. At first, Orwell’s protagonist, Napoleon, seems to be the typical villain; however, as the reader progresses through the book, it is clear that there is more to Napoleon than it seems, with his intelligence and craftiness becoming apparent. Furthermore, Orwell is a brilliant writer, describing scenes with straightforward, concise, and clear diction and allowing readers to understand the satire behind it all. In addition, the twists and turns Orwell puts in his story keep the reader hooked and ready to devour more. Although everything may seem simple on the outside, there is much more to what it seems with his writing. Orwell’s novel is an insightful satire that keeps readers hooked and intrigued until the very last page.