Animal Farm (1946)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
Author
George Orwell
Publication Date 2002
Format Leather-bound (225 x 145 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Science Fiction
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Science Fiction
No. of Pages 113
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on Amazon.com
Rating 9
No. of Reviews 766
Credits
Frontispiece/Illustrator Frank Kelly Freas
Introduction/Foreward Kim Stanley Robinson
Original Details
Original Publisher Harcourt Brace Javanovich, Inc.
Original Publication Year 1946
Plot
Since its publication in 1946, George Orwell's fable of a workers' revolution gone wrong has rivaled Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea as the Shortest Serious Novel It's OK to Write a Book Report About. (The latter is three pages longer and less fun to read.) Fueled by Orwell's intense disillusionment with Soviet Communism, Animal Farm is a nearly perfect piece of writing, both an engaging story and an allegory that actually works. When the downtrodden beasts of Manor Farm oust their drunken human master and take over management of the land, all are awash in collectivist zeal. Everyone willingly works overtime, productivity soars, and for one brief, glorious season, every belly is full. The animals' Seven Commandment credo is painted in big white letters on the barn. All animals are equal. No animal shall drink alcohol, wear clothes, sleep in a bed, or kill a fellow four-footed creature. Those that go upon four legs or wings are friends and the two-legged are, by definition, the enemy. Too soon, however, the pigs, who have styled themselves leaders by virtue of their intelligence, succumb to the temptations of privilege and power. "We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of the farm depend on us. Day and night, we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples." While this swinish brotherhood sells out the revolution, cynically editing the Seven Commandments to excuse their violence and greed, the common animals are once again left hungry and exhausted, no better off than in the days when humans ran the farm. Satire Animal Farm may be, but it's a stony reader who remains unmoved when the stalwart workhorse, Boxer, having given his all to his comrades, is sold to the glue factory to buy booze for the pigs. Orwell's view of Communism is bleak indeed, but given the history of the Russian people since 1917, his pessimism has an air of prophecy.
Notes
Collector's Notes

Animal Farm has been overshadowed, in recent years anyway, by its science-fiction successor Nineteen Eighty-Four, Its principal function in George Orwell's canon of works has been to serve as a necessary prelude to the success of the later novel. There is no doubt that the success- of-Animal- Farm meant that Orwell next novel would be read by millions and reviewed by critics. Nineteen Eighty-Four's classic story of tyranny, love and betrayal more than satisfied everybody's expectations. But Animal Farm, though far different in style and substance, deserves attention for its own virtues.

Animal Farm is a fable, and a particular kind of fable, a beast fable, because it is told about animals. The beast fable has been popular in almost every era, from Aesop (about 600 B.C.) up through Kipling's Jungle Books and Just So Stories, Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories, and many others. They serve customarily as satiric devices through which human follies and vices can be held up to ridicule by attributing them to animals. So it is with Animal Farm, which satirizes the abuses of the Russian Revolution by representing it as a revolt of the animals on Manor Farm against the owner.

Animal Farm represented one of the earliest attacks on Stalinism and at a time - 1945 - when World War II was drawing to a close, the Soviet Union was an ally whose heroic resistance against the Nazi forces was the stuff of epics, and "Uncle Joe" was still a hero whose stature was measured against Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta.

The short book, Swiftian in its satire, had a tremendous impact on popular perceptions of Communism, already fractured by the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact and the Soviet forces joining the invasion of Poland. Like Gulliver's Travels, however, Animal Farm runs the risk of being read only as a children's story. Periodically readers need reminding of their original purposes.

Eric Arthur Blair, who adopted the pseudonym of George Orwell, was born in India in 1903 but brought to England a year later. After schooling at Eton, he served in the Imperial Indian Police from 1922-27, then worked as a tutor, headmaster, teacher, and bookshop clerk in England. His autobiographical essays in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and his early novels Burmese Days (1934) and A Clergyman's Daughter (1935) led him to take up freelance writing in 1935.

His experience among tramps and the unemployed nurtured his socialist sympathies and in 1937 he enlisted in the United Marxist Party Militia in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. Its suppression by the dominant Communist party, and the "expedient inhumanities" on both sides, turned him against tyrannies of any kind and led not only to his Homage to Catalonia in 1938 but to Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949. In between he wrote a novel titled Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), a non-fiction book, The Road to Wigan's Pier (1937), and another novel, Coming Up for Air (1939). His jounalism and articles were published in half-a-dozen books of essays.

Orwell died of tuberculosis just a few months after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Easton Press has commissioned a special introduction to Animal Farm from Kim Stanley Robinson, a contemporary master of science fiction. Robinson earned his Ph.D. in literature from the University of California at San Diego with a dissertation on The Novels of Philip K. Dick. His novel Green Mars, also a selection in Masterpieces of Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award in 1994.