Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another book I originally read in high school, but decided to revisit. I know I got a lot out of it that had gone straight over my head the first time I read it. At the time, I had no idea about the political and historical allusions. I thought it was just a theoretical scenario, enacted with animals to make it less scary.

Now that I'm older and know a bit more about Stalin and the Russian Revolution and the terrible conditions George Orwell was writing about, the direct allegories make a lot more sense. I'm not quite well-versed enough in history to trace each occurrence at the farm to historical events, but the parallels are a lot stronger, the story much more frightening. The use of animals isn't there to shield the reader, but to call attention to the inhumane behavior of the leaders, and highlight certain traits.

The hypocrisy of the pigs didn't escape me in my earlier reading, nor did the fact that Snowball's sabotage attempts were made up of lies. That the lies get bolder and more outrageous as the story goes on may have slipped my notice, but then, I was also reading it for the first time back then.

Animal Farm is a deceptively quick and easy read. Its themes and implications, though, are chilling. I wonder if it's reading this book in high school that made me suspicious of anything that sounds like what I want to hear, or if my parents just raised me right.

In any case, I hope they're still assigning this book to high school students to read. They may not understand all of the history going into it, but the corruption of power is a theme they should be able to wrap their minds around.

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