A few days ago, riding along Highway 400 in Forsyth County with my daughter-in-law, in her beautiful new Denali SUV, suddenly my 14 year old granddaughter, Isabella, sitting behind me, spoke up and said, “This book is boring.” She’s a voracious reader and so am I. Before her mom could respond, I reflexively asked, “What’s the name of it?” Imagine my surprise when she answered, “Animal Farm.”
Isabella, who was home-schooled by her mom before entering private schools, will be attending a new and different school in a different town from last year, when the new school term begins shortly.
Apparently, Animal Farm is among the list for assignments in the new school, and I along with her mom wondered why this book is one of the first required reading in high school. Fortunately, Isabella and her siblings have a mom that keeps close tabs on a daily basis about everything that goes on in their school. I know because I’m frequently in the car when she picks them up from school, and immediately goes over what their day was like in school.
Anyway, after hearing she was reading Animal Farm I spoke up and rattled off an opinion off the top of my head, and agreed with her it could be boring. However, since I’ve given some thought about the fact that my 14 year old granddaughter entering a new high school, was given Animal Farm as an assignment right off the bat. And she seemed puzzled and bored by the narrative, which is quite understandable to me.
In this connection, I decided to write her an open letter with thoughts of my understanding of “Animal Farm.”
Dear Isabella, I found your assignment of Animal Farm reading an interesting one, and decided to elucidate a bit further on our conversation in the car about it. The author, George Orwell, also wrote “1984,” both classics, with many differing opinions about his writings. He was an Englishman, born in Bengal in 1903, and served with the Indian police in Burma.
An interesting footnote here is the fact your grandfather, John Robbins, served a tour of duty in Burma, in the early sixties. His assignment was as an instructor to teach the Burmese air force how to fly helicopters.
George Orwell, which was his pen name for Eric Blair, was a political writer who hated totalitarianism, very critical of communism, but he himself was a socialist. Which seemed rather contradictory for me. Inasmuch as Communism is one brand name for Socialism. He died at age 47.
Animal Farm is a type of fairy story. In earlier times, many English writers wrote under different names, sometimes allegorically, and their narrative was in veiled truths, a style which spilled over into early part of twentieth century, for some.
For example, the writings of Shakespeare are veiled truths of the laws of life. Back in those days it was unsafe to write literally on subjects, therefore many adopted a style of writing to present their views as though veiled truths in a fairy tale style writing. We normally think of fairy tales as being something quite imaginary, with little connection to reality.
Animal Farm seems to be a fairy story with a political purpose. A story where animals are substituted for humans, and presented in a story as though they were humans. For example, telling how animals captured Manor Farm from its drunken incompetent farmer, and rearranged the community with an attempt at equality. Then Napolean and Snowden, two pigs, fought each other for mastery over the revolution. How Snowden was ousted by Napolean and labeled a traitor, then presented a narrative, how economic necessity compelled the pigs to compromise with the human system.
Napolean tried to establish his own dictatorship, and in the process discovered some animals are more equal than others.
Unlike the usual fairy tale, no beautiful maiden in distress and no Prince Charming. It’s about animals trying to establish a society of equality, and re-distribution of goods and services. A story about nothing but misery, cruelty and injustice for downtrodden animals, whereby those smarter and know best must be a leader in charge to re-distribute, for equality. And take for equality of have-nots from the haves.
As you proceed with your studies and learn more about all that’s taking place in the society in which you live, you will discover Animal Farm conveys more truth than fiction, when compared to the actuality of what’s happening in this country currently. It’s a sort of prescription and transcription of a view, presented in veiled terminology, and a sort of “pig-latin.” And is in essence a fairy tale that presents a political statement.
In today’s political climate, the cry for equality is an ongoing mantra, by those who wish to rule over others. We were all created equal, but ends there. No two people are alike, and it’s the Freedom to be unequal that promotes advancement and creativity. The fact of the matter is those who preach “equality” use it as a ploy to promote their aim and desire to be superior. And in fact have no desire to be equal, because their cause is to seek superiority, to be in charge.
Something I learned as a child from a mother who understood those who preached equality, was not what they wanted, but instead superiority over others.
Therefore this little book, seemingly rather boring upon first reading by most, presents a frightening view of where we are today and the future, presenting a pig-headed attack upon rulers in an imaginary totalitarian state, when it was written. However, this illuminating fable presents a veiled truth describing where we are today.
Sitting in the car with you and hearing your first mention of reading “Animal Farm,” my first thought was why this book is required reading, at this time entering highschool. Upon reflection, I think it’s a great idea, because it provides some foundation for further studies, as you progress in your education. If you grasp the meaning of the morality and immorality of the pig-headed characters as presented by Orwell, you will have a good foundation for subsequent studies in history, civics, and social studies. Love ya, Anna
Education is simply an acquisition of knowledge.
LET FREEDOM RING
JUST ME AC