George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's Animal Farm

Synopsis

'Animal Farm' is the most famous by far of all twentieth-century political allegories, and its account of a group of barnyard animals who revolt against their vicious human master and the submit to a tyranny erected by their own kind can fairly be said to have become a universal drama for our time.

Excerpt

Animal Farm is a beast fable, more in the mode of Jonathan Swift's savage indignation than in Chaucer's gentler irony.George Orwell was startled when the book became children's literature, rather like Gulliver's Travels before it. And yet that is what saves the book aesthetically; Nineteen Eighty‐ Four is very thin when compared to Animal Farm. Boxer the cart-horse, Clover the mare, and Benjamin the donkey all have considerably more personality than does Winston Smith, the protagonist of Nineteen Eighty‐ Four. Fable necessarily suited Orwell better than the novel, because he was essentially an essayist and a satirist, and not a storyteller. Animal Farm is best regarded as a fusion of satirical political pamphlet and beast fable, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the historical aspect of the book necessarily has faded. The end of Stalinism removed the immediacy of Animal Farm, which now survives only by its pathos. Children are the book's best audience because of its simplicity and directness. Something in Orwell entertained a great nostalgia for an older, rural England, one that preceded industrial blight. The vision of Old Major, the boar who prophesies the transformation of Manor Farm into Animal Farm, is essentially Orwell's own ideal, and has a childlike quality that is very poignant.

It is very difficult to understand the psychology of any of the animals in Orwell's fantasy. How does Snowball (Trotsky) differ from Napoleon (Stalin) in his motivations? We cannot say; either Orwell does not know or he does not care. We are moved by poor Boxer, who works himself to death for the supposed common good, but we could not describe Boxer's personality. Even as a fabulist, Orwell has acute limitations; he could not create distincts. He was a considerable moralist, who passionately championed individuality, but he had no ability to translate that passion into imagining separate individuals. The creatures of Animal Farm compare poorly to those of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Toad of Toad Hall and Badger are sustained literary characters; Boxer and Benjamin are not.

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