[Book Review] George Orwell's Animal Farm
Night Owl Score - 5/5 Hoots
It is good to dream but, sometimes, these very dreams turn into nightmares if not visualized with specificities; taking into consideration all the positives and negatives that would come to life with them. What if dreams were to translate into something else altogether, maybe something worse than imagined, and much more degraded than before. Then, who shall pay for the cost of that dream? The dreamer or the believers? The one who wished for something to be true or the ones who made it happen? No matter how long and hard one thinks, they return to the beginning, with no end in sight. A hopeless situation, where one feels trapped and stuck in a cycle.
And so, in his ninety-five-pages-short novel, George Orwell takes us into a utopian dream that ends up in utter and complete chaos. It begins with a realisation set in by a heart-winning speech orated by the Old Major, a prize-winning boar on an Animal Farm. He declares an emergency, and exclaims, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch the rabbits. Yet, he is lord of all the animals.” With this, the agenda of the novel begins to unfold as it dawns upon the curious reader that Orwell has a strong, underlying message for all of us, and that Animal Farm is not just a story, it is a political allegory about revolution and power.
The story is positioned in such a manner that it goes on to explore totalitarianism, corruption of ideals and how the power of language, ideas, and emotionally triggering speeches like that of the Old Major can invoke a group to annihilate its own self. Caution is painted all over the story, and it is upto the reader to make up what they wish to from the intentions, actions, and outcomes of the life on Animal Farm, which may not be all that different from human life as we know it. The plot proceeds as the animals on the farm get charged up and lead a successful revolution against the surprise of the humans who have been running the farm since ages. The revolution begins on the ideals of establishing equality, justice, and a fair distribution of resources. But, the animals fail to abolish hierarchy, and thus there remains a sense of superiority in the revolutionary animal leaders, who continue to make the rules, and often bend them to benefit their own growing aspirations. Many a times, this comes as the cost of causing distress to other members in the farm, who continue to do their work silently, marching towards their collective ‘dream’ of living in a better world and to the infamous tune of ‘Beasts of England’, humming in unison - “Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland, Beasts of every land and clime, Hearken to my joyful tidings, Of the Golden future time. For that day we all must labor, Though we die before it breaks; Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, all must toil for freedom's sake.”
Soon enough, the ‘toil’ leads to glaring inequalities in the farm, as other leaders, Napoleon (a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar) and Snowball (a white pig), quibble over the future of the farm, that turns into a showdown, with Snowball being whisked away from the scene, and Napoleon taking over charge and establishing a totalitarian state of affairs. Dissent turns into death as the principles of “Animalism” are manipulated to serve his whims and fancies. With unquestioned power, he shields himself with his trained propagandists that suppress and threaten the others from speaking up. It is spectacular to watch the transformation of Napoleon from his days of animal behavior to a newfound complete, human-like, cold-blooded deceit, and Darwinism. Some conspiracies and a human-led attack later, the farm is back to square one with the commandments reduced to only one principle spread in the air, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
As the revolution collapses unto itself, one cannot quite make out the humans from the animals, and animals from humans; their personas merging, and vices amplifying in this brilliant rendition of the Russian Revolution that is very relevant in today’s time as much as it was back then; only begging us to ponder if a revolution really is the answer to end the reign of oppressive regimes? Who ensures that the new leadership will not be as corrupt as the earlier ones, afterall all it takes is one speech, one animal, and one tune to make or break a revolution, and the lives of millions suffering under it.
A Night Owl original, this piece has been authored by Yastika Sharma.