This is a review of the book ‘Animal Farm’ by Sohom Mondal (Criminal) of Class VIII (2018).
The story is set in the Manor farm where oppression has crossed all limits. The animals are forever starving. Meal without fight is a luxury. And above all, their cruel master is exploiting them mercilessly.
But there is an air of change in the farm, just like the time when ideas about equality were taking shape in early Europe. Enlightenment dawns in the animal minds after the meeting with an respected old boar, the Old Major, where he talks about his dream of a farm smoothly run by the animals themselves, where food is plentiful and all animals are equal. Just as Marx had once dreamt, years ago.
After a while when the animals’ frustration goes over the edge, Old Major’s words began to tantalize the animals. They drive their drunken master out of the farm, hoping never to see his face again.
Meanwhile the Manor farm, sorry, the Animal farm, is doing well under the guidance of the pigs. But this is anything but a fairy tale. It doesn’t end with the animals living-happily-ever-after.
Drunken with greed and ambition, a pig called Napoleon decides to hold the reins of power in his own hands. He forgets about the pledge of loyalty to the Animal farm. He forgets Old Majors warnings about animals adopting the vices of man. He forgets the glory of singing ‘Beasts of England’. All he wants is power, absolute power.
Power corrupts man. This has occurred multiple times in the past, in the Russian revolution, in the French revolution and in the endless dictatorships around the world. Yes, history repeats.
Napoleon spends his time haunted by suspicion. He is always looking for traitors in the shadows. Old Major would persuade the animals with his charisma, but Napoleon, on the other hand, uses his bloodthirsty army of state police. The lives of the animals are more miserable than ever. For his hunger of power many are butchered. And no one bothers, they are simply too busy surviving.
But does it mean that there can be no more revolutions? The animals can again unite in a common cause as they had done once, it wasn’t that long ago. But being fed the state’s propaganda, they fail to see the truth. Animal farm shows us the might of State surveillance, totalitarianism, and how a dictator can control his people, and more importantly their minds.
Only few animals – including Benjamin, the cynical donkey, and Clover, the mare – could see the truth. But what were two insignificant individuals against the might of state? If they dare question, then their voice can be silenced with ease, so they think the better of it.
In the end we see Benjamin and Clover standing motionless in a kind of uneasy bewilderment, unable to make up their mind on whether it is Napoleon they are looking at, or it is the great tyrant – man.