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Animal Farm

Bokanmeldelse av Animal Farm av Georfe Orwell.

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Some people claim that George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) is written about a revolution that failed. As far as I know, Orwell himself has not given this interpretation, so we need to make up our own mind based on the text of the book itself.
The background for the revolution was that Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, had been neglecting the animals after he started drinking. They were working for him, but were always short of food and their living conditions were poor.
After the animals had rebelled, they established a democracy. All the animals had meetings in the big barn, where they decided what they should do about the management of the farm. They now worked for themselves, not for supplying the human owner with food and luxury. Their farm was perfect for them, controlled by them. So far the revolution seemed to be a success.
Shortly after the revolution, however, the pigs took control over Animal Farm and the meetings in the barn were stopped. Napoleon, the leader of the pigs, made Animal Farm a republic and became the president himself. The rest of the animals were divided into two classes; pigs in the upper class and the "common" animals in the working class. This means that democracy, one of the main results that the animals had achieved, was gone. Their new leader Napoleon manipulated and lied, made heros traitors and changed laws as it fitted him. The period with democracy was clearly over. But things only got worse. Some animals were sold to supply Napoleon and the pigs with luxury. It seemed that the animals were back to the conditions they had experienced before the revolution. In this perspective the revolution could be seen as a complete failure.
But the animals were still not back in the same situation as with Mr. Jones. They were no longer working for a human. Although they were now supplying the pigs with food and luxury, they felt relieved that they didn’t have to work for humans. This gave them the strength to work even more. In addition to this, they now had something to believe in. They believed that their hard work would result in the realization of a Utopia for all the animals. The Utopia will be a perfect society, also for the animals who come after the revolting animals are gone. They also trusted that Napoleon would do what was best for them, as he was an animal too. After all the animals were not as mispleased with Napoleon’s regime as they were when Mr. Jones was in charge.
But we need to ask about Orwell’s intentions in writing Animal Farm. Maybe Orwell himself has said things that may help us? "Every line I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly against totalitarianism, and for the democratic Socialism, as I understand it". Orwell wrote this in the 1956 Signet Classic edition of Animal Farm. Is it on the background of this quote possible to determine wether Orwell mainly saw the revolution in Animal Farm as a failure? The revolution was successfull in the beginning. But as time went by, the society changed and it became more and more totalitarian. As Orwell wrote against totalitarianism of all kinds, he must have seen the revolution as a failure in the end. At least it was a failure to the "common" animals. The pigs would definitly look at the revolution as successfull. The "common" animals were, as we have seen, unhappier with Mr. Jones in the beginning than they were with Napoleon in the end. So we can wonder whether the animals were better off with Napoleon, or if they just hadn’t realized that they were back to the conditions that they had had with Mr. Jones. This might be Orwell’s perspective when he writes at the end of the book that the animals had difficulties determining the difference between a pig and a man.
My final conclusion must be that Orwell considered the revolution to be a total failure, even though the animals didn’t fully realize it. The question furthermore arises whether Orwell thought that his ideal society, the democratic socialism, could ever be achieved through revolution. After reading animal farm, my guess would be that Orwell himself would have answered this question with a no.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran."If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever."

--from Nineteen Eighty-Four

The British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, b. Motihari, India, June 25, 1903, d. London, Jan. 21, 1950, achieved prominence in the late 1940s as the author of two brilliant satires attacking totalitarianism. Familiarity with the novels, documentaries, essays, and criticism he wrote during the 1930s and later has since established him as one of the most important and influential voices of the century.

Orwell’s parents were members of the Indian Civil Service, and, after an education at Eton College in England, Orwell joined (1922) the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that later found expression in the novel Burmese Days (1934). His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), was a nonfictional account--moving and comic at the same time--of several years of self-imposed poverty he had experienced after leaving Burma. He published three other novels in the 1930s: A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and Coming Up for Air (1939). His major works of the period were two documentaries: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), a detailed, sympathetic, and yet objective study of the lives of nearly impoverished miners in the Lancashire town of Wigan; and Homage to Catalonia (1938), which recounts his experiences fighting for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was wounded, and, when the Communists attempted to eliminate their allies on the far left, fought against them and was forced to flee for his life.

Orwell’s two best-known books reflect his lifelong distrust of autocratic government, whether of the left or right: Animal Farm (1945), a modern beast-fable attacking Stalinism, and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratized state of the future.

The pair of novels brought him his first fame and almost his only remuneration as a writer. His wartime work for the BBC (published in the collections George Orwell: The Lost Writings, and The War Commentaries) gave him a solid taste of bureaucratic hypocrisy and may have provided the inspiration for his invention of "newspeak," the truth-denying language of Big Brother’s rule in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Orwell’s reputation rests not only on his political shrewdness and his sharp satires but also on his marvelously clear style and on his superb essays, which rank with the best ever written. "Politics and the English Language" (1950), which links authoritarianism with linguistic decay, has been widely influential. The four-volume Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell was published in 1968.

Richard A. Johnson

Bibliography: Atkins, John, George Orwell (1955); Buitenhuis, P., and Nadel, I. B., George Orwell: A Reassessment (1988); Crick, B., George Orwell: A Life (1980); Kalechofsky, Roberta, George Orwell (1973); Kubal, David L., Outside the Whale: George Orwell’s Art and Politics (1972); Lee, Robert A., Orwell’s Fiction (1969); Meyers, Jeffrey, A Reader’s Guide to George Orwell (1977) and, as ed., George Orwell (1975); Oxley, B. T., George Orwell (1969); Patai, D., The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology (1984); Reilly, P., George Orwell: The Age’s Adversary (1986); Stansky, P., and Abrahams, W., The Unknown Orwell (1972) and The Transformation (1979); Steinhoff, William, George Orwell and the Origins of 1984 (1975); Williams, Raymond, ed., George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays (1974); Woodcock, George, The Crystal Spirit (1966); Zwerdling, Alex, Orwell and the Left (1974).

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