George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

the pig, at least asks why the pig is so attractive, why he wins out over the good. This is a question that can no longer be answered by stating that the pig wins out. It is a more sophisticated question, for it realizes that the fact of the triumph is already known, and a more important one, for it leads to an examination of the pig’s supremacy along two divergent lines, by way of a specific Marxist analysis of history, or a criticism of Marxism in general, both engaging the imagination at a crucial point. But Orwell’s method, of taking a well worn fact that we know and converting it, for lack of better inspiration, into an imaginative symbol, actually falsifies the fact; thus over-extended, the fact of Stalinist ‘human nature, ’ the power-drive of the bureaucracy, ceases to explain anything, and even makes one forget what it is to which it does apply. An indication that a middle of the way imagination, working with ideas that have only a half-way scope, cannot seriously deal with events that are themselves extreme. There is, however, some value in the method of Animal Farm, provided it is timely, in the sense, not of newspapers, but of history, in advance of the news. But this is to say that Animal Farm should have been written years ago; coming as it does, in the wake of the event, it can only be called a backward work.


66.

Edmund Wilson, New Yorker

7 September 1946, p. 89

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), American critic and intellectual historian, author of Axel’s Castle (1931), To the Finland Station (1940) and The Wound and the Bow (1941).

Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is a satirical animal fable about the progress—or backsliding—of the Russian Revolution. If you are told that the story deals with a group of cows, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry which decide to expel their master and run his farm for themselves but eventually turn into something almost indistinguishable

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