I am beginning the ‘A2Z’ series with ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. ‘Animal Farm’ is the second book from the Orwellian world, after ‘1984’ which I read. I came to George Orwell quite late in life. I think I have the brown coloured book jackets (the ones that would read Complete Works in twenty-volume series!) lined in the dusty old college library rack to blame for this delay.
Years later, in the times of Amazon, this benign shopping site suggested ‘Animal Farm’ in recommended list to be proceeded to the cart. The little research, read the cover picture and the blurb which said ‘Animal Farm is a resounding fable on totalitarianism and power-gone-corrupt’, led me to click the magic key.
An Outline of the story
The book begins with the animals of Mr.Jones’ farm planning for a revolution against their biggest enemy – their owner, ‘the Man’. Old Major, the white boar had a dream and he conveys his wisdom on how animal slavery and misery will not end unless governed by their own clan. Major’s death brings forth the new brigade of leadership – Snowball and Napoleon, the pigs to the forefront.
The revolution is successful and the ‘Principles of Animalism’, the commandments for just governance are laid as ‘Manor Farm’ is changed to ‘Animal Farm’. They begin with the belief that “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades”. But the pre-rebellion excitement to achieve a dream and the post rebellion exuberance to manage one’s affair finally leads to embezzlement.
Overtime, a clear hierarchy is laid out, linked to the literacy levels. Pigs are intelligent enough to make themselves literate and pick up trades such as blacksmiths, carpenters and other necessary arts from reading books. But the hardworking animals who can labour are uninterested to read and write. The finality of difference is laid out in the decree that the milk and apples are for the pigs for being the brains at the farm.
Post rebellion, the management of the farm brews discontent between Napoleon and Snowball leading to an infight that ends with the ouster of Snowball. There is absolutely no knowledge on the whereabouts of Snowball after this episode. Snowball’s absence is mandated through Napoleon and his sidekick Squealer’s repeated accusations on him for all the misfortunes that happen at the farm.
The construction of the ‘windmill’ is an important symbol. This grand infrastructure project planned by Snowball to provide electricity and other amenities to the animals. This project is superseded by Napoleon and on completion of the structure, the animals are told to rather stick to their simple lifestyle.
The narrative covers all aspects of symbolism, from the green flag to the marches, to Sunday speeches and jingoistic songs. The farm is even designated as a ‘Republic’, when it is far from any form of democracy.
The last scene of the book is a classic as the ruling animals and men sit together at the dining table. Animals have become what they resisted, turning in form and traits as that of humans.
My copy of ‘Animal Farm’ : the Book Cover
I kind of like the cover of my copy. One, I find the colours working perfectly well on the cover. There is the big pig in black with the Communist symbol of hammer and sickle on the body. The red on the cover also stands for Communism. The cover is surely minimalist in design and also in its experimentation with fonts. What stands out is George Orwell in copper on top of the cover.
The cover includes the famous quote, ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.’ This kind of lets you brush with the idea of an allegorical story linked with communism. Great, that it brings the underlined theme of the book.
What would I want the ‘cover’ to have?
Apart from my copy, I looked up the web for different versions of its book cover. What comes across every book cover is the significance of Pigs, their over powering of the human race and then, becoming the same.
I would have wanted the following characters to find space on the cover with a splash of white and green.
- As a central figure on the cover, it will be Napoleon who represents Stalin
- Mollie, the beautiful white mare who represents the petit-bourgeois class
- Scene of the work at the windmill with Boxer, the work horse
- Mr.Jones, the owner of the Manor Farm
- Moses, the Raven who talks about Sugarcandy mountain, the paradise for the animals after they die
In the end, I would say this book doesn’t need an enticing cover to pull you in. This Classic had already sold nine million copies by 1973. And, today it has become an iconic book in the dystopian genre. Though it is unbelievable that Animal Farm was rejected by three British publishers and nearly twenty American publishers before it got published in August 1945.