Sunday, May 4, 2008

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Genre : English Literature

French title : La Ferme des Animaux

English publisher : Penguin : 8,99£

American publisher : Signet Classics : 9,99$

Synopsis : Mr. Jones has is a farmer, but drinks a bit too much. One day, Major, the oldest pig in the farm, asks to all the animals in the farm to gather, and told them his dream : A country of green pastures where all animals would reign, all equal, without Men. Then, Major dies. The pigs Napoleon and Snowball begin to foment a rebellion in Mr. Jones's farm. They instill the idea of revolution into all the animals of the farm, who will strike up the hymne of their future delivrance : Beasts of England. Together, they manage to evict Mr. Jones and his wife from the farm, and begins the Republic of Animals, whose head leaders are Napoleon and Snowball. But The Republic soon turns into a dictatorship : " All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".

A passage : The seven Commandments ( with the evolutive changes)

"1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed ( with linens) 5. No animal shall drink alcohol (to excess) 6. No animal shall kill any other animal (without cause) 7. All animal are equal (but some animal are more equal than others)"

What I think : We could write a all thesis about this novel, I will thus try to be short. Well, firts of all, we can find here an allegory of human dictatorship. Knowing that this book was written a few years before 1984, in 1944, in the days of WWII and of fascist and communist dictatorships. George Orwell depicts the face of Dictatorship under the traits of animals, but more precisely pigs. Why pigs? Here, I will give a very personal interpretation on the question. I think that if we draw a pyramidal hierachy of the animals in a farm, pigs would be on the lower grade of the ladder. So we find here a communist dictatorship, a proletarian dictatorship in the way of Mao or Staline, rather than a fascist Hitlerian dictatorship. The fascist side of the story comes from the fact that the animals want to exterminate Humankind, or at least subjugate them. We thus have two dictatorial levels in Animal Farm, the pigs being the masters of both.

Then, we find with the pigs all the characteristics of the Dictatorship. We begin by leading the people to rebellion. Once the government is overthrown, we choose the leading heads and we make believe people that they'll have a better life. They can have this better life in assuring the necessary tasks themselves, each doing what he can ( each according to his means, to each according to his needs). After that we need to eliminate the enemies, you can't share power. The smarter will lead the people. Here, as we can guess, the winner is Napoleon, thanks to his right-hand man, Squaeler. Squealer is a very good orator and he succeeds in convincing the masses with Napoleon's propaganda. Every good dictator needs a good chief of propaganda ( we'll think of Goebbels). Once this is established, we need to get rid of the traitors, those who acted in their personal interest ( be it true or not) : we had to set an example before everyone, make them understand that it is in their interest to serve their country. Then, we have to manipulate the media, the texts. We can find an outline of Orwell's work in 1984, where newspapers were re-written when there was direction changes of the government. In Animal Farm, the Seven Commandements are transformed. Even those who remember the original texts and want to check them, find something was added, and so think they were mistaken.

Then, people begin to be hungry and realize that the promises are not kept, but the chief is right, they have to listen to him, better day will come.
Finally, the governement colludes with the enemy. We've come full circle.

I really liked this book which offers a great work of reflexion. Written in the context of WWII, we can't not see the deep significance of this text. Indeed, George Orwell succeeded in putting the different characteristics of Dictatorship forward, with the application to the animals of the farm. And it's true that it's frightening, it's so easy to established a dictatorship, to convince poeple that they can have a better life, and once the machine is on, there's not much to do. The people will love its dictator. Take the example of Boxer, the horse. I really like Boxer a lot. From the beginning of the rebellion, he's on Napoleon's side ('Napoleon is always right') and works very hard to build a better world ( 'I will work harder'). But he kills himself and becomes ill a few weeks before his retirement is due. Napoleon calls the vet, who in fact is an knacker. That is all Boxer received for his trust in Napoleon.

Well I'll stop here, because I think I could go on and on, but I can't tell you everything either. In any case, I really loved the end, but I won't tell you...

1 comment:

thatsthebook said...

I absolutely love this book without question. Animal Farm is a book I always bring up when the discussion comes around to must reads. I don't know why but I just fell head over heals for this one the first time I read it and love it more the more I read it!