What is this book about?
Animal Farm is a novel by George Orwell first published in 1945. It’s about animals in a farm who get tired of being mistreated by their human masters and decide to rebel - successfully ousting the humans and running the farm by themselves. Led by the smartest animals in the farm - the pigs - the animals set out to govern themselves and agree on seven commandments as laws. As many animals are not able to read and understand all those commandments, they are summarized into one easy one: “Four legs good. Two legs bad.”. Their system is called Animalism. They all agree that all animals are equal.
All is well in the start until power corrupts the pigs and they start abusing their authority. The seven commandments are manipulated to fit their interests and revolters are executed. In the end, the pigs become just like the humans - even worse in some ways. They even end up walking on two legs. In the end, the one easy commandment becomes, “Four legs good, two legs BETTER.”.
I had heard about this book ever since I was very young. I thought it was a children story book because I first heard of it in the Swahili translation “Shamba la Wanyama”. I finally got around to reading it after listening to this tune from one of my favorite Hip Hop albums.
I expected a good story with a moral lesson at best.
This book went way beyond my expectations. It gave me a whole new perspective on how the world works, expecially in regard to poilitics. While reading it, I could draw a lot of parallels with the current political situation both at home and abroad. The book is very well written.
Lessons from the book
I think the biggest lesson I took from the book is how ignorance is taken advantage of. Because the pigs were smartest, they took advantage of the other animals and made them work hard while they did the “administrative duties” that only they could do. As the other animals could not read, the commandments were changed to fit the pigs’ purposes, and when the other animals swore that’s not how they remembered them, they were easily convinced that they had always been like that.
Another key takeaway can be summarized in this quote by Nietzsche:
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
In the end, the pigs who led the revolt against the oppressive humans ended up becoming exactly like them.
It was also made clear how those in power use distractions and fear tactics to divert the minds of people from their injustices. Every time the animals seemed to question what was going on, a smooth talking spokesperson could convince them what was happening was necessary by telling them that if it wasn’t done, the humans would come back and take over the farm again. No one wanted the humans back, so things were allowed to happen without question.
All Animals Are Equal. But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.
Final notes and recommendation
While the book is based on the story of the Russian Revolution, it speaks on the political and social conditions of people everywhere. More than 70 years after it was first published, its lessons are still fresh.
I couldn’t recommend this book enough. I think it’s hard to read the book with an open mind and not see yourself or your community reflected in one of the characters.
My rating: 5⁄5.