When I decided to review George Orwell’s Animal Farm, I knew little of its allegorical nature. But hardly ten pages into the novel, it became rather evident to me that the satires in this story were political references. In this 90-page novel, Orwell drives home the point that an idealistic society we may envisage in our mind is far removed from reality.
The story is set in the fictional ‘Manor Farm’, in England. The farm is owned by Jones, a human who takes maximum work from the animals and offers them very little food. So, the farm animals are fed up of their enslavement. Their collective unrest gets a boost when Old Major–the prize-winning middle white boar–gets a dream. Later in the day, away from Jones’ prying eyes, the animals gather to hear the boar’s dream. As Old Major narrates his dream, the animals realise the true nature of Jones and his tyranny. This sets the stage for rebellion, and the animals succeed in overthrowing Jones from his own farm.
After years of being slaves, the animals are finally free. Manor Farm is renamed ‘Animal Farm’, and the animals gear up to build a utopia of their own. They frame rules in the form of Seven Commandments that will help them prosper. Soon, the need for a leader arises. Pigs Snowball and Napoleon–both with opposing views–wish to lead the animals. While Snowball wants to educate all animals, Napoleon intends to solely uplift his own kind. In the end, a conniving Napoleon manages to overthrow Snowball. With that, power play seeps in and the story unravels as the utopian dream turns into dystopia.
The hunger for power makes Napoleon a dictator. Eventually, he shifts all the pigs to Jones’ house, and gives them the privilege to sleep on beds. The pigs get fatter by the day, while the other animals starve without sufficient food. The illiterate horse Boxer blindly takes instructions from Napoleon and toils hard for a good life of retirement, only to be taken to the slaughter house when he falls ill.
Though Animal Farm is a political satire mainly aimed at the Russian Revolution, it is still relevant today. Through simple storytelling, Orwell attempts to educate his readers on how societies are ruined when power becomes absolute. The book also suggests noble ideals and intentions are easily turned upside down by greed, ignorance and dishonesty. The concept of an ‘idealistic’ society is, in the end, an unrealistic dream. Orwell captures this essential reality check in Animal Farm, making it a must-read for thinkers and leaders.