Truly, there’s no need to convince people to read this novella. It won the Prometheus Award just last year and the Hugo award in 1996. It’s also in the list of Time Magazine’s 100 best English-language novels and Great Books of the Western World.
Still, for the unconverted, I humbly give here my thoughts.
If there’s one writer who didn’t waste words in telling a story, George Orwell is on top of my list.Every noun and verb and adjective that created the Animal Farm told the reader exactly what is happening. And every seemingly small detail has meaning in the chapters succeeding that one can’t help but admire Orwell’s perfect timing, for lack of a better term, in making his intentions known for each character or for his action.
Orwell is not one for afterthoughts, unlike his book’s villain, Comrade Napoleon, who, in his shameless corruption, added two words to three of the Seven Commandments in Animal Farm to justify his evil humanization.
Before I read this novella, I know little of communism, being from a country where communist parties have been leading their recruits for decades from the mountains and other such hideouts, its presence never more than the ideas they believe.
In this classic short story,which was published in 1945, during the Stalin era, Orwell clearly abhorred communism and its exploitative nature and he depicted its horrors in the leadership of someone as suspicious and cunning as Napoleon the pig.
Napoleon is the self-proclaimed leader of the animals in the farm after he and his posse of rabid dogs forced his co-leader and fellow pig, Snowball, into hiding. For what reason? To gain the upper hand. To have power over the horses, the hens, the sheep, the cows, the donkey, and the other pigs. And in the end, to have influence over other farmers—humans.
That Napoleon is a pig through and through, greedy and entitled, is the crowning irony. And it’s this symbolic character that makes this novella a must read.
Boxer, the horse/workhorse, is the delusional, helpless hero who is no match for Napoleon.
Stone by stone, he built the windmill, the technology that was promised to make their lives better, only to grow old and weary of its constant and cruel burden.
I hate what happened to Boxer in the end because of his belief that hard work is enough to feel better about his situation and those of his fellow animals. I half wished, even at his diminished state, that he’d lead a rebellion against Napoleon, but he never doubted until it was too late that Napoleon is always right.
The ending was perfect. It felt like it was just the middle of the story, but it exposed what is needed to be exposed at a time when the horse and maternal Clover and company deserved to know, after so much has happened and all hope is gone. It was abrupt and sharp as it should be and all the more powerful for its lack of sentiment.