The problem with George Orwell’s Animal Farm is simple enough to explain.
In my mind is that Orwell sat scribbling at his desk and chuckling at how remarkably clever he thought he was being. Now, this is the second time I have read Animal Farm since the spritely age of fourteen, and I recall that back then I thought it was ‘okay.’ Looking back at it I am pretty certain it is terrible. Now, rather than mindlessly berating Orwell for the next four hundred words, I am going to see if I can explain exactly what it is I dislike here. Orwell has evidently aimed to write a satire, an allegory of the rise of the Soviet State. However, through the child like setting and colourful talking animal characters the book is filled with Orwell manages to turn communism farcical. This presumably was his objective. It doesn’t make it a good book though. Orwell’s narrative is naïve and basic and although he is clearly aiming to mock with the book it comes across as mocking itself, which is a real pull on credibility. Yes I know, talking animals, who can somehow write and build windmills is hardly the events one would expect at a regular farm, but by no means should this manifest as a lack of credibility. The Wind in the Willows is a perfect example – the three primary characters are essentially country gentlemen as much as they are talking animals, and yet the writing somehow makes everything plausible. Orwell it seems was too busy mocking to take any care over his characters who end up as lifeless as the bacon they should become if the nondescript ‘Mr Jones’ had actually managed to keep hold of his farm.
I suppose the book does have some good points though. Though I wouldn’t readily give it to a child, it is worth reading for a younger teenager, purely as the allegory would likely play to their sense of humour, whereas to an adult it seems puerile. Also there is a clever subversion of the animals from the pigs, who play on the animals’ naivety to create the oft quoted paradox ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ But where this may be clever in terms of superiority of certain characters, the obvious dramatic irony is lost at the realistic dramatic irony the reader feels when reading it. Throughout the novella I couldn’t side with the animals as they were portrayed not as animals but rather as mentally challenged humans. This unhealthy comparison lowers the tone of what would be a clever allegory, reducing it to no more than a cheap joke.