Animal Farm is the second George Orwell’s novel after 1984 that I downloaded from the internet. The novel was first published in England on 17 August 1945, the exact day Indonesians had their independence. A quite simple story line, Animal Farm can even be read by a 5-year-old. However, the whole novel is a metaphor criticizing Joseph Stalin’s notion of Stalinism since George Orwell was a strong democratic socialist. That being said, Animal Farm isn’t always about animals at all.
The story begins with an old boar named Old Major, who wishes to start a revolution in Manor Farm by provoking the other animals (pigs, horses, cat, sheeps, cows, etc.) to fight the owner of the farm (Mr. Jones) and achieve their own independence. The reason behind Old Major’s decision is that he basically feels indignant towards people treating animals like shit although they have done everything they can to help humans by producing milk, energy, egg, and so on. After Old Major dies, the revolution still continues with 2 young pigs as the leaders, Napoleon and Snowball. After succeeding in driving away Mr. Jones, the animals then rename the farm into Animal Farm and adopt the 7 Commandments of Animalism:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. (meaning: humans are enemies)
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. (animals are friends)
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal (this is the most important one which gets replaced in the end)
Before the animals truly own Animal Farm, Mr. Jones and his cronies attack the farm with guns, leading to Snowball getting almost killed by the bullets. The attack is again won by the animals, and they all name it “The Battle of Cowshed”. After completely eliminating Mr. Jones, the animals continue to do their job well whilst living in a better condition with enough rationalized food. This doesn’t last long, however, because Napoleon is triggered with Snowball’s eloquence and ease in achieving the sympathy of others. When Snowball has an idea of building a windmill, Napoleon opposes strongly by forcing 9 horrifying guard dogs to chase down Snowball and killing every animals who agree with Snowball about the windmill — the bloodshed is truly a mess. With Snowball gone, Napoleon has full access of power with guard-dogs as his protectors and a pig named Squealer as his assistant. He changes the farm’s organization by putting the pigs on the highest caste of all, accusing Snowball as a scapegoat, altering the 7 Commandments for his priority by befriending humans, and continuing the windmill project while taking all of the credits. The animals are confused at first, but Squealer assures them that Napoleon is always right, and whoever disagrees with that will be killed. Boxer — a very loyal horse — keeps on working to build the windmill despite bad weathers and deteriorating health. When Boxer is dying, Napoleon sends him to a knacker/horse-slaughterer so that the money can be used to buy liquor. Nonetheless, Squealer tells the animal that kind Napoleon lets Boxer die peacefully in an animal hospital outside town. The gullible animals are always in agreement with what Napoleon has to say, even if he changes one of the 7th Commandment to “No Animals shall Drink Alcohol to excess“, as he now adores drinking whiskey. In the end, the only commandment left is “All Animals are Equal, but some animals are more equal than the others“. Napoleon abandons the whole 7 Commandment by killing other animals, consuming alcohol, sleeping in a house with the other pigs, befriending humans — all in all, being one manipulative pig. In the end, Napoleon renames the farm with “Manor Farm” again, and the other animals cannot distinguish the difference between humans and pigs anymore due to their uncanny similarities.
Well, the novel is not really suitable for a 5-year-old, is it? Napoleon here is an illustration of Joseph Stalin, the communist dictator of Soviet Union who killed millions during the war. Actually, Napoleon here can be the metaphor of every dictators on earth, including Soeharto from Indonesia. The character of Old Major is a metaphor for Karl Marx, the father of Communism, while Snowball is an allegory for Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s main enemy. The animals that disagree with Napoleon’s idea and get killed after are illustrations for The Great Purge, a campaign of political oppression in the Soviet Union. Boxer, the loyal donkey, represents the loyal Russian working class who eventually got betrayed by Stalin (the same thing happens with Boxer as Napoleon sends him to the knicker). As you can see here, most of the major characters in the fable follow up the workers and leaders from the Soviet Union. Between the 1930-1940s, UK was an alley for the Soviet Union. Orwell, who originated from England and a strong advocate for Democratic Socialism, decided to write a fable criticizing totalitarianism. I myself am not familiar with Stalinism and all, but you know.. it’s not too late to learn stuff. The main point here is that: men, who crave for power and disregard others as inferior, are trash.