Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Educate Emma: Books: Animal Farm by George Orwell
"'It is the history of a revolution that went wrong - and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine,' wrote Orwell for the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945. Orwell wrote the novel at the end of 1943, but it almost remained unpublished. Its savage attack on Stalin, at that time Britain's ally, led to the book being refused by publisher after publisher. Orwell's simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves, has since become a world-famous classic.
Characters: Orwell creates a beautiful allegory with Animal Farm, and his characters are an extension of that. Napoleon shows the harsh, cool brutality of Stalin, Snowball demonstrates the empty charisma of Trotsky, and every character acts as a representation of either a specific historical figure or a personality that many Soviet Union followers owned. In typical fable form, it is the writing and world building of Animal Farm that truly makes it remarkable, rather than its characters. Despite this truth, certain characters still caught my eye. In particular, the devoted horse of Boxer was a great demonstration of how blind loyalty can be, and how useless it is without any critical thinking behind it. The characters weren't my favourite component of Animal Farm, but they're certainly valuable and well formed. 4 flowers.
Writing: We all know that person who attacks debates with the logical, enraged rationale of someone with a definite opinion. That person can be fun to interact with, but their points are often ignored based on their stance. Orwell knows that biases get in the way of real listening, and so his writing style is naive and seemingly neutral. He does not bombard his readers with a formed thesis. Instead, he lets the events of Animal Farm play out, and he knows that his audience is intelligent enough to know when they are being deceived. This is a very effective way of writing the story, as it means that readers pay attention to Orwell's unspoken point, rather than blindly agreeing or disagreeing with his statement. It's frightfully clever and cynical - two of my favourite traits in writing voices. 5 flowers.
Plot: Orwell chronicles the exciting beginning of Animal Farm to its disturbing, established ending. Readers follow the farm animals' naive progression into Animalism, and it truly records the history of Soviet Russia without ever saying its name. I love fables, and Animal Farm may be the best one yet. 5 flowers.
End: Creepy, dark, and relevant. True revolutions cannot occur without constant and vigilant criticism from its followers. If we forget that, no real change may ever occur. 5 flowers.
Dust Jacket Description: I liked that it gave me a historical context for Orwell's publishing process, but it would have been nice to have an actual description of events. Then again, it is world-famous. Perhaps the copy editor decided that wasn't necessary. 4 flowers.
Cover: An excellent update to a classic novel. I love the font for the quote, and the subtly menacing use of birds in the background. 5 flowers.
Overall: Orwell gets his message across, and he does so in a way that honors the true meaning of art: it helps us perceive the world and its history in a way that's foreign to our own perspective. 5 flowers.