Saturday, October 24, 2009

Animal Farm - George Orwell

"All animals are equal, But some animals are more equal than others"

A breezy read, George Orwell's Animal Farm is one of the well known satires on the former Soviet Union's political state under Stalin. This book was written around the time of the 2nd world war and covers the fall of the Tsars and the rise of Stalin. Each powerful leader who influenced the former Soviet Union is represented by an animal, with 2 main characters - Snowball, a pig, alludes to Trotsky and Napolean, another pig, interpreted as Stalin. Napolean is the central character in the whole book.

The story is about a farm, Manor Farm, whose animals rebel (Russian Revolution) against Jones (Nicholas II) the owner of the farm under the leadership of Snowball and Napolean. Old Major's (Lenin or Karl Marx, an old boar in the book) speech is supposed to have spurred the rebellion. The idea behind the rebellion was that all human beings are villains, that led to an opinion, "Four legs good, two legs bad", and was engraved in the minds of all beasts on the farm. The first few chapters are pretty hilarious as the animals take control of the farm, manage it and see a lot of improvements as a consequence. But then, Napolean sidelines Snowball, drives him out of the farm and rises to become a tyrannical leader in the farm. Typical political games like opaqueness in policies, changing government agenda and high handedness by violence are played by Napolean to keep his monopoly as a leader.

There are a couple of wars, once an attack by Jones and company and the other by Mr. Fredrick (neighboring farm owner, alluded to Hitler), both of which are won by the animals, but by incurring a lot of loss and significant fatalities. As the book goes by, you feel bad for the other animals under the autocratic rule of Napolean and his fellow accomplices (other pigs). The story comes to an end with a party where Mr. Pilkington (Americans, another neighboring farm owner) having a party in the farmhouse along with the pigs and the other animals just watch on, quite opposite to the philosophy that led to the inception of Animal Farm.

A nice read, highlighting the consequences of power wielding dictators, communism and the suffering of the proletariat. Though the book talks about the dirty world of politics, the story is well told and brings out the moves of the government each citizen needs to be aware of. Another highlight of the book is that it gives an historical perspective into the state of the former Soviet Union for a good 30 years starting from the Russian Revolution in 1917 till the World War II (1945)