Animal Farm – George Orwell (Book Review)

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George Orwell’s classic novella has been sat on my shelf for some time now, but I can finally say I have read it:

Animal Farm is the most famous by far of all twentieth-century political allegories. Its account of a group of barnyard animals who revolt against their vicious human master, only to submit to a tyranny erected by their own kind, can fairly be said to have become a universal drama. Orwell is one of the very few modern satirists comparable to Jonathan Swift in power, artistry, and moral authority; in animal farm his spare prose and the logic of his dark comedy brilliantly highlight his stark message.

The story follows an uprising on a farm where the animals, convinced that they would be better off without the rule of humans, decide to overthrow and run the farm under their own commandments. The list include the necessity for all animals to not aspire to be like the humans, and that all animals are equal, summarised as “4 legs good, 2 legs bad”.

As the story develops, the pigs, who are the most intelligent animal, begin to make decisions in regards to the farm, and by propaganda, convince the animals to patriotically accept the long work hours and reduced rations as a better alternative to human rule – all the while the pigs don’t work and get increased food.

The book is an allegory for a political state known at the time of Orwell, namely the Soviet Revolution. The inability for true equality and the consequences of the new order making a good comparison, and is strikingly important even today. The methods employed politically being perhaps similar no matter the political system adopted by any given country.

Overall the story is quite bleak, with the feeling of deception and hopelessness throughout. An important read for everyone, and one some are fortunate to read during their education.

I have discussed before the ideas held by Orwell in contrast to Huxley (see Brave New World and 1984 reviews), but nonetheless I feel that this is an important read. I’m not aware of any modern equivalents tackling our own political systems in the west.

Certainly a book to consider if you have no read already – it something I think everyone should read for the importance of the message within.

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1984 – George Orwell (Book Review)

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After much delay I finally got around to reading the famous “1984” – perhaps it following so closely after Shades of Grey is somewhat telling, but nonetheless it had been on my reading list far too long:

Nineteen Eighty-Four revealed George Orwell as one of the twentieth century’s greatest mythmakers. While the totalitarian system that provoked him into writing it has since passed into oblivion, his harrowing cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate: its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade. In Winston Smith’s desperate struggle to free himself from an all-encompassing, malevolent state, Orwell zeroed in on tendencies apparent in every modern society, and made vivid the universal predicament of the individual.

It is likely that you have heard of this book: in a dystopian reality, there are now 3 major world powers – one of these being Oceania, ruled by The Party and their political head: Big Brother.

Within this state, people believe what they are told and think only what the party allow, or else face punishment from the Thought Police. Winston secretly has anti-Party thoughts, however, and with the similar thinking Julia, begins seeking revolution.

The story is sometimes a difficult one, and I read one person describe it as “an essay”, which I get – many chapters feel like the characters are decoration to something Orwell really wants you to understand. That being said, there certainly is a plot, the conclusion of which will have you squirming.

What is interesting about this book, and is surely intentional, is that it reflects much of society as it began changing and certainly some ideologies held highly now. Not least among this we would recognise as the post-modern thought that somehow we should no longer fight for the reconciliation of subjective thought and external truth, but that we decide what truth is – if we all agree that 2+2=5, then it must. This is something Winston argues against vehemently, and I with him – we don’t determine our external reality, simply because we don’t like it.

As news is fabricated and reports constructed in order for the thoughtless mass to believe anything, the struggle in the society where “Big Brother is watching” is surely a terrifying one. The ending left me feeling a little defeated, and it certainly had an impact.

If this is a classic you have been delaying reading, it may be worth your time. Be prepared though as it isn’t particularly light reading!