Animal Farm – George Orwell

Posted 28 September, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 23 Comments

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Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Published: 1945; Pages: 128
Genre: Classic Fiction; Satire
Rating: 4.5/5

Animal Farm briefly summarized: One night after Mr. Jones goes to bed, Old Major, the prizewinning boar at Manor Farm tells the other animals about a dream he had in which the animals revolt against Mr. Jones in order to live a life of freedom–away from the oppression and inequality they are dealt from man. Old Major dies shortly after but three young pigs, Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer, carry on the spirit of the revolution when they overthrow Mr. Jones and create Animal Farm—a place where all animals are equal and work together for the group not the individual.

Why did I wait so long to read this book? Before reading this book I had only read a handful of Orwell’s essays, which I enjoyed, but friends have talked about disliking his books, especially Nineteen-Eighty Four, so I always stayed away (though I own both). But what a clever little gem. It’s been a while since I read such tongue-in-cheek satire that had me giggling out loud. I kept reading little bits to my husband who said, “sounds like communism.” Yup, that’s the point. At the core of Animal Farm is Orwell’s satirical look at Stalin and Communist Russia.

But while I did my fair share of giggling when reading, this book nor the subject matter are funny when looked at through the lens of real life. The animals create seven commandments, the base of which all animals are equal and shouldn’t act like man in anyway. The problem is that not every animal on Animal Farm were equal and the leaders quickly emerged and began spreading propaganda throughout the farm. But propaganda leads to deceit and justification for inconsistencies and soon the animals are right back to where they start. Scary to think about how prophetic or at least telling this little novel is.

If you haven’t already read Animal Farm, I highly recommend it. The book reads like a story-time allegory and Orwell’s language is very accessible. The animal characters are as well-developed as they could be in such a short book, and the animal stereotypes worked to further highlight the satire of the novel. Honestly, I don’t have any complaints about the book at all. It’s been a month since I finished it, and it took me longer to read than I would have liked (no fault of Orwell), but it’s one of those that I can see myself reading again and again in the future and continuing to take more from it each time.

Some notable quotes:

Squealer: “Comrades…I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself.  Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsbility.  No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napolean that all animals are equal.  He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves.  But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” (59).

“These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion.  If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the week…” (85)

“They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep.  But doubtless it had been worse in the old days.  They were glad to believe so.  Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out” (106).

Have you read Animal Farm? What did you think? What else would you recommend by Orwell?

23 Responses to “Animal Farm – George Orwell”

  1. I’m glad you loved it! I’ve read it twice now, and I’ve also read two of Orwell’s other books. I’ve read 1984 twice (it’s really good, except for one part in the middle where the main character reads a long book of their culture’s philosophy/history and like 30 pages of it are quoted) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying once (and I like it more with time).

  2. I wasn’t a huge fan of 1984, but this one sounds like it might be a bit better! It’s hard to imagine talking animals in “serious” literature though! :)

  3. I love this book, too! I’ve read it a couple times. Most recently for homeschooling a couple years ago. And Annie really enjoyed it as well. :)

  4. I think what has always put me off Orwell’s books is that I was made to study them for my English ‘O’ level. I read this one and 1984 and at the time I didn’t really understand them. I definitely need to go back and try again, after such a rave review.

  5. *Amanda – I haven’t heard of Keep the Aspidistria Flying (except your mention) and mixed things about 1984. 1984 will probably be my next since I own!

    *Laura – I’m not big on talking animals at all (Narnia!!), but in this book it works–it’s so obvious what’s going on that you don’t necessarily notice the animals? Plus it’s short. :)

    *Debi – For the life of me I’m just not sure why I waited so long to read this one. It’s not like it’s super long and scary like The Stand. :P Glad you and Annie loved this one, too.

    *Softdrink – Oooh, I think Billy would be really interested in this one. I think he’d realize how good he has it at Chez Softdrink. Good one for readathon if you’re looking for a cheering break. :)

    *Viv – I think you’d have a much easier time understanding this one now. I sometimes think that certain classics are read at the wrong times in grade school–turn people off from them!

  6. I like Animal Farm, too. And, though I liked 1984, I thought the same thing Amanda did – the reading of the book in the book in the middle was tedious. I also started Down & Out in Paris & London a few years back, and though I didn’t get into it at the time, it’s one I would like to pick up again at some point.

  7. I definitely like Animal Farm far more than 1984 (but that one is good too!). I taught AF about five or so years ago to this incredibly bright 8th grade advanced class. We study (briefly) Russian history so we could truly discuss the allegories. So much fun.

  8. I am shocked (SHOCKED!) you haven’t read this before! I thought it was required for all kids growing up? Regardless, so glad you enjoyed it–it’s one of my favorites. This makes me want to pick it up and read it all over again as it’s been a good 10-15 years (ew). Yep, I do believe it’s time.

  9. I remember enjoying this book, but the details have long since left my brain! Hopefully I’ll have time to re-read it someday.

  10. Can you believe I made it through high school without reading this?? Not sure how that happened, but I obviously have some catching up to do. On to the list it goes…

  11. *Bermuda – The good thing is this one is so short it can be read pretty quickly!

    *Charley – I haven’t heard of Down & Out in Paris & London but I’ll have to check it out!

    *Erin – This would definitely be a great place to start–my copy was only 120 pages? Very short!

    *Christina – Sounds like a really great class!! I would love to discuss this book in a group setting–I’m sure there’s many hidden nuances.

    *Meredith – Ha! :) I was a terrible student in high school and didn’t take any advanced English classes. In fact, I slept through most of my senior English class! You should re-read this one!

    *Melody – I thought this book was very accessible–I was afraid it would be hard but it wasn’t at all.

    *Brittanie – I haven’t gone back and read too many books from high school but I agree that perceptions would probably be very different!!

    *Trisha – It’s such a short book–makes it great for re-reading. Hope you can revisit it!

    *Iris – Did you have a review on your blog? I searched in Google Reader for others and came up blank. Glad you enjoyed it, too.

    *JoAnn – This definitely wasn’t assigned reading for me in high school! But I hope you can get to this one–it really is a gem!

  12. The interesting thing about Orwell to me, was that he was a socialist – dyed in the wool card carrying member of the socialist party, in fact, a radical leftist. So, when he wrote Animal Farm, he wasn’t writing a parable about socialism, but rather a parable about power run amok.

  13. Curious that I am coming across this review. This book keeps popping up in my life. Maybe a sign that I need to read it soon. Sounds clever enough and I really enjoyed your review. I read 1984 back in high school and remember really liking it then. I would like to reread that one too. Are you still hosting the classics challenge? I would be interested in joining again and not drop out half way through this time!

  14. This is a terrific book, isn’t it? I never got around to reading it, oddly enough, until I was about 40. It was a great springboard for learning and discussion with my homeschooled kiddos.

  15. Amy

    I read this one in high school and really enjoyed it but haven’t revisited it. I do really want to read 1984 since apparently it’s a classic dystopian.

    Glad you enjoyed this one, Trish. I always enjoy reading reviews of books I read a long time ago!

  16. *Jason – I think maybe I’m getting my socialism and communist terms mixed up and should be slapped on my hand for it as they are not the same. And though Orwell was a socialist, he was not a friendly opponent of communism. Perhaps it is just a parable about power run amok but I think that the similarities are too striking to ignore—and perhaps it’s just my “hindsight/looking into the past” lens that blurs that? Interesting food for thought, though!!

    *Michelle – I do think if you keep seeing this book you need to read it! :P Plus it’s really short. I’m glad you liked 1984…gives me hope. And no…sadly I will not be hosting the Classics or Non-Fiction Five challenges next year. Too much commitment for me.

    *Stephanie – It escapes me how I managed to not read this in school growing up! I bet you had an interesting discussion over it!

    *Amy – I haven’t read 1984 either but have heard mixed things about it—seems people either really like it or not. Guess that’s how it goes with anything, though!

    *Stacybuckeye – I think this is a very enjoyable classic. And short! Can’t beat that combo! :)