Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thoughts: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Since Shiloh—a book about a beagle—made me cry like a baby in the fourth grade, I’ve been suspicious about books with animals as protagonists. I stayed away from Marley & Me like it was the plague, and The Call of the Wild has been in my to-be-read pile for about eight years. Me + books about animals = NO. So, I surprised myself when I read and LOVED Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Animal Farm is about the animals in Manor Farm who are treated cruelly by their master, a farmer named Jones. Led by the intelligent pigs, the animals—an eclectic combination of horses, goats, chickens, and even a donkey—manage to overthrow Jones, and declare themselves free. For a while, the animals live in peace, but things go awry when they decide to build a windmill. The animals soon discover that although they agreed that all animals are equal, some animals believe they’re more equal than others.

First off, I’m glad to say that this book wasn’t depressing at all. At first glance, Animal Farm seems like an intimidating book, because a) it’s a classic and b) it’s satire—ooh, big word, satiiiiire. The funny thing is, Animal Farm isn’t intimidating at all. It was actually pretty funny, and it never took itself too seriously. All the animals had little quirks. For example, there’s a raven named Moses who keeps telling the other animals about a place called Sugarcandy Mountain where “it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges.” Also, there’s a dictator/pig named Napoleon. ‘Nough said.

I fully understand now why Animal Farm is considered a classic. The book’s message is pretty deep once you think about it, but the story itself is pretty good. I wanted to know what atrocious thing the “dictator” was going to do next, and what the other animals were going to do once they realized they were being abused. Reading Animal Farm was a lot like coming across a car wreck. You know it ain’t gonna be pretty, but you just have to see it anyway.

Animal Farm is obviously satire, but it’s not the confusing/ambiguous kind. As a reader, you know what Orwell is trying to tell you, and you end up wondering whether you agree with him or not. I love Animal Farm because it made me care about the characters. I laughed at them until I realized what was happening to them happened to real people before, and could happen again in the future. It was definitely a sobering afterthought to a very humorous book.

Rating: 5/5

If you’ve read the book, can you tell me if Moses the raven really stands for organized religion? What do you think?


If you haven’t read the book, are you interested in reading it? Why or why not?

15 comments:

fatbooks.org said...

funny that you posted this because i just finished "animal farm" yesterday, though my review's not going up for a few days. it's interesting to me that although we both liked the book, we got pretty different reads of it; like, i would label it an allegory rather than a satire, and although i was pretty horrified when they took boxer away, i saw the characters as not super individualistic but more representations of types. i'm glad i finally read it, and also that i had the chance to read your thoughts on it so soon after finishing.

-- ellen

Kristi said...

I read this about 15 years ago so the details are fuzzy. I remember enjoying it though. I have it on my shelf. Maybe I'll read it again later this year.

I love your comment about satire being so funny, yet at the same time sobering once the reality sinks in. So true!

Shelley said...

Uh-oh! I don't even remember anything about Moses the raven! I guess it's time for a reread!

Amanda said...

I've read this one twice, the first time before I was familiar with Russian history and the second afterwards, and while I liked the book both times, I think I appreciated it more knowing who each of the animals were meant to represent in Communist Russia. I've read several novels by Orwell and I think this one's my favorite.

Zibilee said...

I read this such a long time ago that I don't think I could answer your question. I do remember being impressed with it even though I was rather young. I am glad to hear that you liked it, and am thinking that I might have to pick it up again sometime.

Teacher/Learner said...

I read this in high school but did not enjoy it, probably because my teacher was less than effective in covering the novel. I want to read 1984 and see what I think, then maybe re-read Animal Farm some day. Perhaps an adult perspective will enlighten me to its themes that didn't click with me years ago. Thanks for the review :)

Red said...

I didn't get around to reading Animal Farm until about a year ago because I was intimidated by it but loved it once I finally read it.

I've read the interpretation that Moses was organized religion, promising a paradise you'd have to behave to get to, although I don't know that I would have come to that conclusion on my own.

lisa :) said...

It's been a few years since I read this one too but I think I remember reading an analysis that Moses was supposed to represent the Church. I think there was a lot of symbolism in the fact that - if I remember correctly - the raven was the only animal that did no work. I think Orwell was criticizing religion as a pawn of government used to control the people.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was that it is a well told story in itself but it also has a lot of layers of social, historical, and political commentary in it.

L.L. said...

I read this in high school and I remember not liking it very much, but this may be in part because we had to watch a movie of it and the pigs were really creepy.

And I'm kind of with you on the not reading animal books thing - In dog books the dog always dies, and I don't want to go there! Although I have heard Marley and Me is a good book.

Vicky said...

This is my favorite George Orwell. It is so genius and beautifully written. I've been thinking about reading it again, so I read it years ago.

Sam said...

I loved this one too. I think Moses stands for the Russian Orthodox Church - I first read this one in a history class at school where we were studying the Russian Revolution. Some of the links Orwell made are amazing.

Andi said...

Glad you liked this one! I tend to avoid books with animals like the plague, so it's heartening that you liked it!

mel u said...

I think the Raven is a representative of organized religion as seen as a tool of the masters to control the people-religion is seen as a pacifier-I think Animal Farm is a great work-it teaches us a great deal about power structures everywhere not just 20th century politics-great review

Brenna said...

This is one of my favorite classics. It's totally accessible and I feel like its one of those books everyone should read at some point. Nice review!

Nymeth said...

I also really loved this when I read it as a teen. I think I should revisit it, though, as I'd be sure to get more out of it now.

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