I have been wanting to do a series like this on my blog for a while, and for some reason, unknown even to me, it was put on the back burner to gather dust. I have dusted the project off and here we go.
A little background…
Before we start, this was my first time reading this novel. My school didn’t make any of the English teachers assign this as required reading, but they did have us read Fahrenheit 451, which I found fascinating.
I found this novel to be disturbing, and when I started comparing to today’s political climate, I found it frightening.
If you are like me, one of the people who didn’t have to read it in school, I recommend you pick it up, and really give a once-over, even read it twice and take notes as you go. You will find it as eye-opening as I did.
Our story starts on Mr. Jones’s farm and the farmer turning in for the night. What he does not know is that there has been a meeting called by his prized Middle White Boar, Major.
As the animals begin to file in and take their places, there is already a hint of a hierarchy in the ranks. Major takes his place on his raised platform bed of straw. Paying close attention to this part, the animals filed into the barn and around Major in this order:
1. The other pigs are the closest to the boar.
2. The dogs who came before the pigs chose a spot close to the boar.
3. The hens were in the were in the window sills.
4. The pigeons were in the rafters.
5. Sheep and cows were behind the pigs.
6. The horses came after the sheep and cows.
7. The last animals to come in were the goat and the donkey, who took their places behind the horses.
Why did Orwell make it a point to describe where the animals placed themselves? I believe it was to give a subtle foreshadowing of what was to come later in the novel. I could be reading too much into it, but I don’t think I am. This is subtle, but it is a hint.
Major alludes to a dream he had, but starts out the meeting with some food for thought, a seed of rebellion. He talks about the how the farm runs, and the fact the animals labor constantly and get treated poorly while the farmer grows fat and prospers. He tells them that they are not free, and goes on to outline why.
The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth.Page 7 Animal Farm
He says that England’s soil is fertile and perfectly capable of supporting many times more animals that are currently living there. He blames man and says that man is stealing the fruits of their labor. To drive this home he continues by saying:
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs. he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of the animals.Pages 7-8 Animal Farm
He singles out man as their enemy and further drives the point home by asking the cows about where their milk goes, the hens about their unborn chicks, and tell the mare she will never see her foals. He goes on to list how the animals are disposed of when they no longer serve any purpose on the farm. Then he really riles them up:
Is it not crystal clear, comrads, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own.Page 9 Animal Farm
That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!
He lays down the groundwork of they need to do to have their rebellion and overthrow their masters, but, in the same breath, he admits he does not know when the rebellion will happen. This is clever. In one speech, he captivated the animals, outlined their strife, defined their servitude, named their enemy, and explained how hard it will be to rebel. He finished it up by leaving the actual rebellion to the animals in the barn to enact. They even vote that the wild animals, rats and rabbits, are allies. It is then he outlines the rules of engagement.
Major has made it PERFECTLY clear was is, and is not, acceptable. However, as the novel progresses, his words are twisted into something entirely different.
…no animal must ever tyrannise over his own kind. All animals are equal.Animal Farm
It was this that got me to sit back and look at what is happening in the political climate. Though tyranny is mainly thought to be something leaders and governments can do through unchecked power, I can't help but compare this to the multitudes of people crying for others to be platformed and unpersoned for simply having opposing viewpoints.
How many people have we seen who's livelihoods have been stripped from them because they "didn't tow the line"? How many people are reported on social media on a daily basis for not agreeing with a certain ideology? I see it on a regular basis, which is why this passage hit home for me.
Now, for the "All animals are equal" phrase Major spoke. Again, when you look at the current climate, do we not see a cry for equality? Does this cry for equality also include people who wish to be coddled and treated better than others? I may have given something away there, but I couldn't help it. The comparison is there and, to me, it is obvious.
Major wishes for as utopia, where all his allies are treated equally and given equal shares of the fruits of their labors. He wants them all to live free and in peace. It is a wish, a vision.
He then goes onto describe his dream and a song he recalled from his childhood.
He sings to them this song, and then teaches it to them. Most of the animals catch on to this quickly and then they are all singing it, which wakes up Jones.
Such ends the first chapter.
This first chapter sets up and foreshadows what is about to happen in the subsequent chapters of the book. The seeds of rebellion sown, the rules which will become commandments by which to live, and even the song that stirs them all into a frenzy starts the momentum of the story.
He does describe socialism in the first chapter, by having Major describe how the farmer takes all they make and gives them very little in return. He drives home the slavery by reminding them of how they are punished when they do not produce or obey.
The beginning of the book grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go.
Until Next Time,
Anissa “Maddy” Walker