"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
When I was reading 1984, my Dad asked me if I had read Animal Farm and I hadn’t. This was about two years ago, and only now I came across the book again. I think that the most distinguishing feature of the book is that it is very easy to read. In fact, when I first started reading it, I felt that this was a children’s book and so I developed the idea, that maybe it would be far off from what I experienced with 1984. I left the book mid-way out of that disappointment. But recently as I resumed, I gained momentum, and somehow got out of that rut.
I’m glad I saw this book to its end. In a way it is a children’s book. It demonstrates how dictatorships work – in the context of an animal farm. For me one of the most powerful analogs was how the animals were so oblivious. Orwell was trying to show through the forgetful and faithful nature of animals, that human beings, despite not having the same characteristics on the surface, can be just as gullible.
Time and again, the animals were told something that they felt was wrong, but in almost an instant, they changed their minds, and started believing in lies. There were attempts to assassinate Napoleon (the pig who was the dictator), but slowly, as the newer generation of animals started rolling in, everything was forgotten. Only a handful of older animals remained, and even they didn’t have a good memory.
This book also highlights the phenomena, of when you don’t have anything to compare your circumstances to. What if there were no criteria for comparison? We, as a liberated society know that a totalitarian government is a bad idea, but what if we were born in one? Would we still have a scale to compare our lives to? And secondly, if we grew comfortable in that lifestyle, how would the revelation of a “better” society, affect our psyche? While I’m writing this, I am also reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This coincidental overlap has had me on the fence about a totalitarian government. Of course our living conditions are bad and there’s sadness everywhere, but it will probably remain so – not because it is a characteristic of our surroundings, but that of ours. We are condemned to work for a better future, consequently, our present will always be unfulfilling - unless we condition ourselves.
One of the most beautiful parts of the book was the ending, when the pigs started walking upright on two legs. Throughout the novel, the animals believed that humans were evil and had led by the mantra “four legs good, two legs bad”. But one day, the pigs came out walking on two legs. It gives you an essence of how such regimes work - it does not happen all at once. Gradually, through the clever use of violence, and propoganda, you reach a point where the foundational principles of a society can be uprooted. At that point, as an outsider, you are surprised. But as an animal, you don’t know enough to be surprised.