To finish a book in almost just a day, it either has to be short and succinct or paced and entertaining. To find both the qualities in classics is rare, with their elaborations and imagery. While there will be many arguments on this statement of mine, I stand test to the popular opinion in people’s minds, especially those of the youngsters. What stood as an exception to this disparaging assumption was a classic that made a mark in my mind with its precision, simplicity, vast scope and its intriguing interpretation of a famous political theory of the times in which it was written; the theory being Communism.
George Orwell, a Democratic Socialist and a then member of the Independent Labour Party, wrote Animal Farm during 1943- 1944. He was inspired to write about it after he witnessed the upturns of the Spanish Civil War which was colored with Communist ideals. He condemned totalitarianism which began with the sentiment of having a utopian classless society that later turns into a camouflage for capitalist ambitions and oppression of the worker class. He had always been critical of Joseph Stalin, the shrewd leader of the Soviet Union pre World War 2 for using Communist agendas to perpetually grab power. Also famous for another one of his creations, 1984, George Orwell wrote about tyranny and the repercussions of the protest in such governance in it. With both the novels going through an ordeal to find publishers, they went on to be translated in several languages, discussed all over the world and served as a mirror to the major political tribulations that occurred in Europe in the 20th century.
The novel begins with the animals of the Manor Farm being addressed by the Old Major, the learned and wise boar. He tells all the animals to rise in rebellion against man who exploits them and is their only enemy. He tells them about “Animalism” which preaches all animals to work together, without any hierarchy and all property should be shared. The Old Major dies three days later and the task of putting his ideas to work is lead by Napoleon and Snowball, the two intelligent pigs. They lead the animals into overthrowing Farmer Jones and rename Manor Farm as Animal Farm. Things prosper and all the animals are happy. But trouble brews as there are disputes amongst the two major leaders, Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon, with his clever tactics, successfully ousts Snowball and paints him as a traitor in front of all the animals. Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin and Snowball, Leon Trotsky and the animals represent the workers or the Proletariat. Napoleon gains supreme leadership in the farm and slowly starts dictating his terms over the commoners. He violates the seven commandments and when the animals question him, he threatens them and amends the commandments to his convenience. He establishes trade relations with the neighboring farms owned by humans. The animals are misled to believe what he is doing is true to the commandments and the situation they are in today is much better than the one with the humans ruling them. At the end of the novel, the mighty and intelligent boars are residing in the house Farmer Jones used to occupy and have started walking upright. The situation of the animals in the farm is not the same and the prosperity they enjoyed immediately after the freedom no longer exists.
Orwell successfully grasps the reader and accomplishes his aim of making him understand the nuances of this extended Socialism called Communism. The entire novel is abstract but not in the strictest sense of the word. All the characters representing the prime political players in the 20th century Europe lend us a thorough insight on their stances and approaches through the tumultuous times of the Soviet Union, Germany, England and other nations. Orwell’s style is subtle but uncomplicated. Orwell writes in his pointed but easy going manner about how in the view to bring in an egalitarian, classless society, Communism actually breeds dictatorship, loss of liberty for the proletariat and a steady wash out of democratic ideals from the society.
Trying to educate myself more about Communism, I was more than enlightened after reading this political satire. I was inspired by its genius, I was enraged by the atrocity it depicts and I was appalled at how relatable it is. At the same time, I was also dismayed with the plight that can be caused by ignorance and the inability to protest. The socialist in me was convinced that no matter how utopian the concept, fighting for equality as a constant cause is much better than heeding to absolute power. We need to head for power that is “ours”, not power that is just “theirs”.