PATRICK REILLY
The Utopian Shipwreck

No one can miss the striking difference in mood, style and content between Orwell's last two books, the first playfully ready to take its place alongside such established children's classics as Gulliver's Travels and Treasure Island, the other bleak with the chill of irremediable defeat. How could such elan and such misery follow so close upon each other?

The difficulty seems less when one reflects that the allegory is almost as pessimistic as the prophecy, equally depressing in its conclusions, and that only its very specialised form obscures this, persuading us to rejoice in a record of disillusion disguised as a fairy tale. Animal Farm succeeds to the degree that it disciplines its subject matter and subdues life to art, taming terror to the requirements of a beast fable. It is humorous so long as we see animals and forget men, as the genre so obligingly enables us to do.

Nevertheless, it is no surprise to find the old, troublesome questions of humankind arising in field and barn: power and righteousness, freedom and order, and the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of harmonising them; to find, too, since it is Orwell, the intractable problem of mortality again presenting itself—no other single item so conclusively reveals the human bedrock of the animal fable. The pigs, proselytising for a revolution which may still be lifetimes away, are challenged by some of the animals to justify self-sacrifice now: 'Why should we care what happens after we are dead?' ( Animal Farm,

____________________
From George Orwell: The Age's Adversary. © 1986 by Patrick Reilly.

-61-

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