Thursday, 8 October 2015

Book Review--Animal Farm

Little wonder this is considered a "classic".

I am slowly working my way through books featured in the Great Books collection and Animal Farm by George Orwell is one of the last entries given in the original list.

Let me begin by saying that I usually shy away from war books and those that deal with a lot of politics.  The latter I don't always understand and the former hurts my heart.

Orwell, as many readers before me have discovered, managed a way to explore the process, psychology and living conditions of governmental upheaval and war without devolving into heart-wrenching graphic depictions that sear pictures into your brain that you can't un-see and un-think.

As an animal lover and dedicated "fur mama", it is easy for me to fall into the personification of animals. I recognize that animals have personalities and their own language so reading an allegory that features them gives me a common ground. But, since I also believe that people are more important* this also give me just a bit of separation so I don't feel the suffering as keenly as I do in books that feature people in horrific situations. So Orwell's use of animals as characters, with people only peripherally in the plot is both accessible and shielded.

I was an oblivious child.  By that, I mean I was cheerful, well-cared for and never needed to think outside of my own little home-school-church triangle.  I was aware of news and some current events in that, I knew big names and some words but since it didn't affect me, I really didn't pay attention to things like the "Cold War" or people like "Gorbachev" they were just concepts floating around my elementary-aged head. But, eventually school and maturity (don't laugh, I've achieved some semblance of it over the years) encroached and I learned about things like communism, socialism, democracy and more. I have even instituted my own form of government at home with my family; my son calls it a "Momarchy". I also hit on some of these topics in various bible studies and discussions over the years, trying to figure out why communism and socialism are almost impossible for humans to maintain indefinitely even if at their heart they seem like good ideas.

But, like many other people, I looked in disbelief on some of the things that happened during those time periods and thought, "How could people let this happen? Don't they see it's wrong?" Animal Farm addresses that concern and more in this allegorical (means a story that means something else) tale. Things don't happen overnight.  There is a gradual build-up and step-by-step acceptance of new things and new ideas.  There is also the element of fear when judiciously wielded by a respected person who comes to power and does not show his nefarious plans in obvious ways. Admit it, things would be easier if bad guys wore black hats, pencil mustaches and chuckled, "heh heh heh" while rubbing their hands together... but it just doesn't work like that.

Reading about the animal members of the community of Animal Farm and sympathizing with their daily lives, talents and limitations, it really brings home how good people can be manipulated into thinking that bad is good and that misery is an acceptable way of life. Human nature is plainly depicted through the animal characters in this powerful book.

*Don't get too riled up about this.  I do believe animals have rights and that humans have an obligation to care for them and their habitats.  But, if there had to be a choice between my children and my dogs, kids and other people come first.

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