Orwell despised totalitarianism and freely admitted that "Animal Farm" was an deliberate assault against it. That much is obvious to the reader. Thankfully, he understood totalitarianism better in his day than do most people today with far more exposure to it.

The story is well-written and it goes like this: Farmer Jones is a disreputable sort of guy. He mistreats his animals and causes them to resent his rule. Inspired by an old boar named "Major", every animal on the farm conspires against him. Shortly thereafter, they seize their opportunity and run off Mr. Jones along with his wife. The farm is theirs. I expected the story at this point to chronicle the animals' demise. However, the animals manage the farm with surprising effectiveness, thanks largely to the ambitious and intelligent oversight of the pigs. The crops are planted and harvested. The cows are milked. They even teach themselves to read and write. Seven commandments of "Animalism" are publicly posted and give order to farm life. Each represents a criticism of humanity (e.g., "No animal shall kill any other animal"). In time, the pigs begin to take advantage of their superior intellect, demanding special privileges in the once-equal society. One pig in particular, Napoleon, through trickery and eventually murder, becomes the supreme ruler of Animal Farm. Predictably, his central planning leads to failures. Covering up his failures leads to the misuse of resources and, therefore, more failures. All the while, Napoleon is most concerned with accumulating power and demonizing his predecessor, "Snowball" (an exiled pig). One by one, all seven of the original commandments are transgressed by the privileged pig class. When murmurings surface concerning the violation of the commandments, Napoleon's spokespig, "Squealer," in Jay Carney-like fashion utilizes clever demagoguery and historical revisionism to deceive the other animals.


 

This book wouldn't have been half as fascinating to me if it weren't for the observation of its prophetic fulfillment in the Obama administration. See if you can read the book without being reminded of, for example, promises of refreshing transparency and criticisms of Bush's deficits. As if he had lived to see our day, Orwell perfectly portrays the hypocrisy of the Democrat party's enlarging upon the very offenses they (with great sanctimony) formerly condemned. The parallels are so uncanny one is tempted to wonder if the book has been circulated in the White House as a manual. Equally disturbing is the accuracy with which Orwell's depiction of the malleable horses and sheep captures the gullibility of young, loyal Democrats. Although the book is entertaining in its own right, it should be treasured most for its warnings about the real world.