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Animal Farm (1st U.S. edition)

George Orwell's 1945 satirical novel that looks at a revolution of barnyard animals against their owners and then each other.

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Steps Leading to Hell: Animal Farm's Description of Good Intentions

  • Jul 2, 2010

For those who may not know the plot of this famous tale, let me abbreviate it to a shocking degree. Orwell presents us with thinking, talking (to each other) animals on a farm who, roused by the vision of freedom by one dying member of their clan, throw off their shackles, rout the human farmers, and come to run the farm for themselves. Slowly, the special commandments that led them to their egalitarian freedoms become changed, until we see the communal farm become led by a dictatorship of pigs, uttering the altered cry: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

As already pointed out in another review, this book is almost certainly a wry look at the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, which began as a dream of freedom and social equality and ended under the terrifying dictatorship of Stalin. Even more, however, this book epitomizes the concept of "the good intentions that pave the way to Hell."

The physical analogy is one of steps. One can hardly leap from the ground to a doorway that is 30 or 40 feet above; however, by building stair steps, one can move slowly upward from ground to doorway, one step at a time. In this same way, we find it horrifying to think that people in Nazi Germany condoned the killing of Jews, Gypsies, "abnormals," and so forth. However, that purge began with the most careful, the smallest of steps: Abnormal people should be taken care of in a very special facility, where they can live out their lives outside of the normal population. And those with birth defects aren't really normal, right? And some of these artists, what they paint and sculpt isn't normal, so perhaps they should go as well. And then the ones who live differently, the ones who are homosexual, the ones who don't think like we do... each step is so small that the differences go unnoticed until millions are dead.

In this same way, our innocent animals are led -- honestly, at first -- to their freedoms by those who create the Seven Commandments. Slowly, as the animals in charge -- pigs (the origin of the term "fascist pigs," I wonder?) -- begin to see advantages in being the ones who make the rules. One of the commandments is "No animal shall drink alcohol." When one pig tries the liquor and runs about the farm barking mad, the other animals wonder... isn't that against the rules? They then find that the rule reads, "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess."

The sheep, presumably the least intelligent of the animals, are taught the simplest precept as a chant: "Two legs bad, four legs good." At the end of the book, as the pigs strut proudly on their hind legs, as a clear example of their superiority over the rest, we find that the sheep -- the dull-witted, the easily led, the brainwashed by propaganda -- have been taught to chant, "Four legs good, two legs better!"

This brilliant allegory of the subtle difference between revolution and regime change has been largely forgotten over the years. An even more subtle and terrifying tale of indoctrination can be found in James Clavell's brief and shocking book, The Children's Story -- another book that should be remembered when slogans, jingoism, and other brainwashing become the daily fare of "news" channels.

It is not my place, nor I suspect was it Orwell's, to tell you what to think. The purpose of Animal Farm is to make you think about why you think what you think. Are those your ideas, or someone else's? And do you really believe them? Take care what steps you take upon your journey. Make sure that you end up where you want to be, instead of where you've been led.

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More Animal Farm reviews
review by . July 01, 2010
Animal Farm has in my experience often been used as reading for children. There was even an animated cartoon of it made which I don't quite understand as the book deals with some adult issues and is only presented in a childlike way for the purposes of satire. The underlying message in the book is obvious to adults but will go right over the heads of children.      Essentially Animal Farm is all about the exploits of a bunch of anthropomorphised animals who overthrow their …
review by . July 19, 2010
Back in high school though we studied the book thoroughly for external exams, it was only after getting out into the real world that we fully grasped some of what the writer was trying to get across. At the time it was funny and quite interesting. The idea of talking pigs and cows was hilarious. At the time of reading the book I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, sorrow for the horse boxer, anger at the pigs, disdain for Molly.   I would recommend …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
this is another of the books on the list we had to know inside out for external exams back in high school. i loved it and have a copy sitting around here somewhere. i plan to write a book one day soon and i hope i can do half as good a job as this orwell fellow did. this book has so many hidden meanings and stories behind things it is really interesting, the characters are funny and realistic at the same time, snowball, molly, boxer, oh the memories. my favorite quote/commandment is "all animals …
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
two feet bad gour feet good! i read this book in highschool and have read it again since then, evey time i read it i see something new that i didn't catch before. well worth the read, makes a good college book report essay.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Really good and a book that would probably be good to have a study aid with because there is so much symbolism and meaning to this allegory. There are probably even some things I missed.
review by . July 14, 2010
As I read this book, it started to become clear that this was not just a simple story about different animals and their lives on a seemingly flourishing farm. The plot is actually an elaborate allegory for some of the events that occurred during the Russian Revolution. I would recommend this book to adults, and I guess to students too, since there is so much rich symbolism and universal themes. The setting of the book is at Manor Farm, located in England, and it is later renamed to Animal Farm. …
review by . July 10, 2010
Animal Farm written by George Orwell is a shocking account of a group of farm animals that start a revolution, rise against their "Master" and attempt to create a free and equal society. The first weeks of their endeavor seemed promising until one animal assumes the role of "Leader". Then instead of honesty and decency - propaganda and exploitation flourish along with other brainwashing tactics. Filled with metaphor and imbedded with satire this gives readers a disturbing look …
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
This is a really good book. I like how different it is, and it really is an eye-opener. George Orwell was an amazing writer.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
" All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others". What a great line. I think the brilliance of this novel is it shows you the heart of communism: how simple and tricky it is. Another piece of literature that has shows you the subtle truth of communism was Superman: Red Son
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
another book i read because of school. and one of the only ones im actually glad i read. the animals in this book are so smart, though its not actually about the animals.
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Tristan MacAvery ()
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About this book


A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

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Author: George Orwell
Genre: Political and Social Satire
Date Published: August 17, 1945
Format: Novella

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