Monday, May 28, 2012

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

1945, 1996 Signet Classic edition
George Orwell
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
Original price $5.95, purchase price $2.99
OK condition paperback

I thought I had only two books from 1945, since the copyright page of this edition says '46, and it's supposed to be a 50th anniversary edition.  Then I saw that the Introduction says '45, and Wikipedia confirms this.  Oh well.  Unlike the other '45ers, and many "fairy stories," this is not about love but about war.  And Communism vs. Socialism.  And farming of course.

Other than obvious things like Old Major, Napoleon, and Snowball being Marx, Stalin, and Trotsky respectively, I don't know what the specific elements of the story represent.  I remember that when my 7th-grade English teacher assigned this, she didn't go into detail.  We were just told (this being the still cold-war early '80s) that the book showed why Russia was wrong.  No one mentioned that Orwell was a disappointed Socialist.

This reading, I mostly approached the story as a fable.  As such, it holds up fairly well, although it's certainly bleak.  I think Gulliver's Travels, the nearest comparison I can think of, is better in some ways in that it's more complex and funnier.  However, Animal Farm manages to be more quotable per page, "Some animals are more equal than others" a particular stand-out.  I'm also reminded of Charlotte's Web, with the talking (and arguing) farm animals, but we haven't got up to that yet.

The Introduction by C. M. Woodhouse is from '54 and talks about what an impact the novel had already had.  The Russell Baker Preface is for the "anniversary" and points out that Russia was unprepared for technology, both how to use it themselves and how to defend themselves against things like blue jeans and rock 'n' roll.  While Orwell was protesting against Stalin, as always he was most objecting to tyrants, and anyone who betrays the high ideals of founders.  And pointing out why pigs should never drink, at least to excess. 

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