Every week, Volumes will feature a new review from one of your St Cuthberts classmates. Want to write one of your own? It's easy! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'Book review request' to find out more.
This week, Tabitha Snowsill (Year 9) explores George Orwell's classic Animal Farm.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm looks into the political strategies in which politicians use to maintain power. The story depicts a democracy turn into autocracy, finally turning into totalitarianism. The pigs use threats of violence and physical violence to control the animals. Even though watch dogs are put in place, some still question Napoleon, the dictator of the farm. Knowing that physical intimidation is not enough, Napoleon also relies on songs, phrases, and mottos to stay in control among the animals. It becomes clear that the author is telling us that social power is more important than violence is.
The pigs use phrases, poems, and songs to keep the animals compliant. The pigs quickly realize that to brainwash the animals, their sayings must be easy to remember. Knowing this crucial piece of information, they are able to change from written commandments to a single, short catchphrase ‘four legs good, two legs bad.’ The motto’s purpose was to make the animals feel as though they and the pigs were really one in the same, with a common enemy being ‘two legs’. This helps the other animals trust and adore their leaders rather than fearing them, which is a great example of propaganda. Many organizations with corruption problems have over time taken advantage of populations with low intelligence which in this case is the sheep, such as the US military which sets aside how Orwell’s opinion on manipulating those less intelligent is still prevalent today, although this case being an extreme example. Animal Farm could help people look back at themselves, and try to realize the propaganda they’ve believed in themselves.
The animals start using the pigs’ slogans. With this controlling effect, when Napoleon’s decision to trade farm stock to humans was not well supported, the dogs were initially used to help silence the animals. This worked for a while, but it was only until the sheep started reciting ‘Four legs good, two legs bad!’, that the animals rooted for Napoleon. This scene shows the contrast between brutality and speech. This is a relevant example of many movements even at the time of writing this, where many countries were operating until they overstepped the boundaries of what people want, and now suffer the consequences even if society requires the overstepping. George Orwell’s books have aged like fine wine in this department, showing the average person’s view using the different perspectives of society at the time.
Altogether this book contains ideas of propaganda, brainwashing and mottos, which sets a great allegory to the USSR and the types of political landscapes within that time, showing how over time one kind of unrest can transfer into larger amounts after a great amount of brainwashing. This book’s allegory to the USSR is also well written, abstaining from plot holes with great parallels from Soviet Russia to a farm in England.
In the end, my review of this book is a 10/10, it had fully engaged me whilst reading, creating a great page-turner as I had to put everything on pause to get to the next chapter, as one of Orwell’s political classics it never ceases to leave me with other political questions to analyse and always ends up with those changing their political philosophy.
Keen to read? You can check out George Orwell's Animal Farm at the Frances Compton Library, or pick up an e-book copy!
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