George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm has been on my reading radar for quite some time. After reading the unsettling 1984 a few years ago and his collection of essays titled Why I Write more recently, I’ve been meaning to tick Animal Farm off of my list as well. As is often the case, this impressive novel has left me with one question: Why on Earth didn’t I read it sooner?
Since I’m studying Spanish in college (alongside English) I decided to read a Spanish translation of Animal Farm. The translation was excellent– beautiful yet still with Orwell’s characteristic style– and I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was able to read it. I struggled with some difficult words and phrases here and there, but for the most part I felt as though I was understanding the majority of what I read. Even though my experience with the Spanish translation was overwhelmingly positive, I will probably reread this novel in English at some point in the near future. Because English is my native language I feel like I’ll be able to take away ever more from the story. Additionally, studying English literature in college has made me more interested in how authors play with language to produce meaning. Reading Animal Farm in English will surely provide me with plenty of food for thought, both in regard to how language functions as a means of expression and as a tool.
Animals play a fascinating role in this novel, as the title certainly suggests. The attention to detail given to the different kinds of animals is remarkable, from the apparently air headed sheep to the perceptive pigs. All species are assigned a specific level of intelligence and ability, mimicking the way humans tend to generalize people’s abilities based on rather arbitrary factors. There is also symbolism in the way the animals fall (or are nudged) into a social hierarchy based on their specific, with the all-knowing pigs always at the top. This can easily be extrapolated to fit a modern context, especially regarding different races and ethnicities. The astounding relevancy of Animal Farm is one of the many reasons why it holds the distinction of being a timeless classic. (Also, can I just mention how horrible the pigs are? They’re despicable. End of story.)
Another interesting aspect of the story is the gradual degradation of society on the farm. I was immediately reminded of Plato’s different stages of this process, from aristocracy down to tyranny. It’s unsettling to helplessly watch their society crumble and break down as the story goes on, particularly when only a few animals realize what is actually going on. As the pigs take control and essentially brainwash the other animals, the rules of the farm change unjustly and equality deteriorates. This work of satire is an important warning to people everywhere: not every revolution is revolutionary.
Such a message is further emphasized by the cyclical nature of Animal Farm. One of the most disturbing images for me in this novel is of the pigs walking upright on two legs, wearing human clothing and even doing business with people. In the end, the reader can hardly tell the difference between the pigs and him or herself. The confusion of this novel forced me to view our own society from a different perspective. What forms of oppression are present in our current culture? Are we being subtly brainwashed? How would we even know? The beauty of Orwell’s writing lies not only in the story itself, but also in the thoughts it inevitably produces.
Overall, Animal Farm is a brilliant novel that is simultaneously captivating, stunning, and disturbing. Although I cannot speak for its historical significance (I don’t know enough about the context in which it was written) I think it is a masterpiece of satire nonetheless. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves George Orwell’s writing, satire, social commentary, or thought-provoking works in general. This is truly a remarkable work of fiction!
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5 smileys
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!
Have you ever read Animal Farm? What are your thoughts? Have any George Orwell recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!