Animal Farm, By George Orwell, a Book Review and Application, ch. 1

Posted on January 28, 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews |

Animal Farm, according to George Orwell, is a children’s fairy story; but it is also a satire about the Soviet Union written during WW2 when the Soviets were not only our allies, but culturally they were idolized in the elite circles of the West. Some may say that since the Soviets are gone the book is obsolete. I beg to differ. The book is as current and up to date as the US Presidential election of 2008 and this essay will be more than merely an analysis and review of Orwell’s classic, I will attempt to apply it to our current situation because the pigs are now running Amerika.

Born in 1903, Eric Blair served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma 1922-27 and learned to hate the British Imperial system of dealing with their colonies in an oppressive way. Taking the pen name George Orwell in 1933 he lived as a journalist and novelist until his death in 1950. During the Spanish Civil War he fought on the Republican side, was shot through the throat, and yet, though a leftist himself, grew to despise the Communists in Spain. During the 1930’s and ’40’s it was virtually taboo for anyone in the Left to criticize the Soviet Union. Orwell dared to be different, and the result is a timeless classic about economics, power and corruption. Written in 1943 but not published til 1945 Animal Farm should be required reading for every American in the 21st century.

The book begins with a meeting of all the animals from Manor Farm called by Old Major, the prize middle-white boar, to discuss his dream. Old Major, representing Karl Marx, presents the case against the current human rule of the farm (capitalism) by detailing all the harsh conditions the animals face and blaming everything upon the humans. “Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it, our lives are miserable, laborious and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty….Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings….Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man fromthe scene and the root cause of hunger, and overwork is abolished for ever.” (pp.3-4).

First of all notice that the story begins with a dreamer, Old Major, representing Karl Marx, the founder of Communism. The world does indeed need dreamers, but the dreams need to be based upon what is real and achievable. Dreams, in order to come true, must be supported by facts and eternal verities. Dreams that deny reality give false hopes and lead to tragic disappointments. Animal Farm is about how a dream was crushed by reality. Communism, intended to usher in a workers’ paradise, failed to account for the sinful hearts of men who will always tend to act in their own self interest. Orwell, still fond of communism and socialism, is showing not that the dream failed ultimately, but rather, that Stalinism failed.

Old Major’s speech and dream set the stage for all that follows. He correctly identifies that most of life for most people is miserable. He is almost quoting Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, “the life of man is solitary,poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But in blaming Man (representing capitalism) Old Major falsely assumes that “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing…All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.” By the end of the book we see that the pigs and men become indistinguishable and that “some animals are more equal than others.” Old Major assumes the animals are fundamentally different from Man and that is where the dream becomes unrealistic.

From the beginning then, Man is the enemy. Although in the book Man represents capitalism, today in Leftist circles (and by that I mean the main stream culture in the West- Hollywood, the Press, Environmental Movement, PETA, etc.) Man is literally the enemy. We live in an age where Man is despised as the source of global warming. As current as the morning I am writing this, the former Vice President of the US AlGore is making a speech before a congressional committee proclaiming that man’s activities are destroying the planet with global warming (this in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record in the past hundred years). Man is the enemy for the Speaker of the House Nacny Pelosi who is requesting, as part of an economic stimulus package in the current edonomic collapse, hundreds of millions of dollars for “Family Planning”. When challenged on this point her response was basically that babies were an economic burden to the states and that by preventing births we could be restored to prosperity. Tell it to the Japanese who have fallen so far below the replacement rate for so long that they are becoming an endangered race. Man is the enemy. One of President Obama’s first executive orders was to restor federal funding of overseas abortions. Man is the enemy; we must eliminate babies. Granted Orwell had none of this in mind while writing his book, but the principle is there. Capitalism is bad, Man is bad, Humans are bad.

Taking Man as Capitalism, we see that today Capitalism is still considered by the Elites in the West as being bad. Just weeks ago the US Congress held hearings with the CEO’s of the Big Three auto makers to discuss giving them a bailout with taxpayer dollars. The first set of hearings went badly because the CEOs dared to show up in their private jets. The Congressmen hammered them for that, despite the fact that many of the same Congressmen use private jets too. Several months ago, when gasoline cost over $4 a gallon, the Congress had the CEOs of major oil companies in for hearings about why their profits were so huge. Congress gives capitalist a hard time if they make money (big Oil) and if they lose money (automakers). Yet not one of those Congressmen could run any kind of business other than a Law office, maybe. In Amerika today, Man the Capitalist is still the enemy.

Old Major’s call for “perfect unity, perfect comradeship” is a false dream because it while trying to unite animals against their supposed common enemy, they fail to realize that they themselves are sinners. Here is where politics, economics and theology meet. Any system of politcal-economy that fails to understand that man is a sinner, self-interested to the core, willing to lie, steal and kill to get ahead, is doomed to failure. Capitalism, as evil as some of its results can be, recognizes the principle of self-interest and, in a Republic, will set up checks and balances to curb and restrain the worst aspects of man’s selfishness so that the good results will ultimately outweigh the bad. Socialism, or in Animal Farm, Animalism (Stalinism) fails to understand that the Pigs eventually act just like the men they supposedly replaced. Some animals are more equal than others.

In chapter one, at the meeting of the animals, there are some descriptions given that point forward to the character and roles of the animals. The two sturdiest animals are Boxer and Clover, the cart horses. Boxer is in many ways the hero of the fairy tale. He represents the sturdy peasants, the workers in the Soviet Union. But notice how Orwell describes Boxer. “Boxer was an enormous beast (the great size of the proletariat, the strength in numbers they have)…A white stripe down his nose gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first rate intelligence.” While Orwell praises the workers for their steadiness and “tremendous powers of work” he shows that the elites view the workers as ignorant, stupid. Boxer tries hard to learn to read but cannot get past the letter C in the alphabet and he is easily led astray because of his feeble memory. But the farm would have failed without Boxer, and in one encounter where Boxer seems to go against the pigs, the pigs quickly back down from Boxer, only to further take advantage of him. In the end, of course, instead of allowing him to retire when he is injured, they sell for slaughter.

Mollie seems to represent the vain, artsy class of bourgeoisie. She is considered to be lazy, concerned about sugar and ribbons. She ultimately flees Animal Farm but the pigs later enjoy the sugar and ribbons she was criticized for. And so it was with the Stalinists, always quick to criticize the bourgeoisie, but also quick to pick up their habits in order to fit in with the West whom they despised.

The pigs are gathered at the front of the assembly because they will become the privileged class of rulers and bureaucrats.

But perhaps the most interesting animal mentioned is Moses, the tame raven. Moses, (representing Religion) was missing. Where was the Church during the rise of Communism? Where was the Church under the Tzars and during the Russian Revolution? Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, perhaps the Church more closely resembles an opium addict itself, in a heroin induced dream sleep that fails to engage the great ideas of its day, fails to confront the evil that lurks in every level of society. While very possibly the Church slept and did not do its job during the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Stalinism later, it very definitely was the Church over 70 years later that led the revolt against Stalinsim in Poland and Romania.

The Church today is so divided and compromised that it is almost impossible to even speak of The Church. When I personally speak of the Church I am speaking of Conservative Evangelicalism, but even that, today, is no longer unified and is severely compromised. Nonetheless, there are some few, a remnant, in some conservative denominations and sub groups within denominations that are still believing in the 5 Solas of the Reformation and that can speak with clarity on the great issues of our day. But do we?

Chapter one of Animal Farm introduces the main characters and the theme; it sets up the dream that will be attempted, then corrupted, and finally slaughtered. Next time I will look at ch.2.


Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

2 Responses to “Animal Farm, By George Orwell, a Book Review and Application, ch. 1”

RSS Feed for Mark12ministries’s Weblog Comments RSS Feed

[…] […]

[…] […]

Where's The Comment Form?


    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: