College Bound Reading List
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
ANIMAL FARM is considered to be one of the 100 best English-language novels and one of the best 20th-century novels. This short novella is an allegory of early 20th-century Russia and Soviet totalitarianism in which fictional events and characters satirize authoritarian government and human stupidity. The story’s meaning and message clearly applies to any situation wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner.
The author’s self-proclaimed “fairy-story” tells about a farm that is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. The animals play the roles of Bolshevik revolutionaries, forcibly removing the human owners and setting up the farm as a commune in which all animals are equal – at first. However, class and status disparities soon emerge between the different animal species.
In Orwell’s political satire, the pigs and dogs take most of the power for themselves, thinking that they are the best administrators of government. Eventually the power corrupts them, and they turn on their fellow animals, eliminating competitors through propaganda and bloodshed. This is a direct reference to Stalin, who murdered many of his own people in order to maintain his dictatorship of Russia.
The allegorical farm symbolizes the communist system which Orwell thought was inherently hypocritical. He saw many similarities between the communist government and the czarist regime in old Russia. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, the revolutionaries set out to create a Utopian paradise of progress, justice, and equality. But their new society turned into totalitarianism just as terrible, producing yet another form of inequality.
ANIMAL FARM is a brilliant example of how a society’s ideologies can be manipulated and twisted by those in positions of social and political power. When the satirical allegory was first published in 1945, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Orwell’s masterpiece helped the Western world to realize the dangers of communism. Eventually, of course, America would prove that capitalism and democracy could outlive a system of government-mandated equality.
Yet there are still those who promote communistic and socialistic ideals. That’s where the idea of “spreading the wealth around” comes from. ANIMAL FARM should be required reading – not only to show what communism is like, but to help students recognize propaganda in politics. It provides a clear example of how some people in power will try to use manipulation, re-writing of history, and progressive loss of rights… until no one is free.