Abe's Reviews > Animal Farm / 1984

Animal Farm / 1984 by George Orwell
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Nov 22, 2011

it was amazing
Read in August, 2011

Somehow I missed reading these in school. My loss! What amazing books, particularly given that they were written 65 years ago. I certainly understand why they are considered classics, and I suspect they will remain that way for a long time to come.

Animal Farm, a parable in a novella, is a timeless description of the corrupting influence of power, and the ability of a ruling elite to consolidate it (to the ultimate ruination of all). The use of animals in place of people is really quite brilliant for a number of reasons. It makes the story independent of time and place, and thus timeless. It avoids embarrassing or angering any real political people or groups. And it makes it a little more palatable for a younger audience, and these are certainly lessons that should be taught in high school.
While not horribly profound, it makes its case quite clearly and believably, and I really enjoyed it.

1984, on the other hand, pulls no punches, and is probably the most dystopian book I’ve ever read (post-apocalyptic books like The Road are a different genre). The story was of course well-known to me, but since it’s a book that most folks read early in life, I figured it was written towards a younger audience and sugar-coated things a bit. No chance! A world where all your actions, down to eye movements, are tracked and can get you killed; where human relationships have been stripped of emotion and meaning; where the elite are fully privileged and the rest have next to nothing; where a state of war is constant and cynical. And naturally the protagonists are unsuccessful in their attempts to change or escape it. I found it interesting that Orwell chose to have it take place in such a near future, although he must have realized that degree of change in that short a time would not be realistic. I suspect he felt that the warning shot he wanted to make would be more effective this way. Although it may have been written with an eye toward the recent world war and the encroaching Soviet empire, it is completely timeless in its vision. The fact that the futuristic aspects of the society don’t hold up well (i.e. it’s not much of a success as science fiction) is basically irrelevant.

Orwell was clearly a genius, and it’s a shame he didn’t live longer to write more of these cautionary tales.
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