Animal Farm Commentary

Publication Date : August 17, 1945

Animal Farm is a political satire written by George Orwell. It tells about a farm where the animals rebel against the owner. As a whole and in details, this fable is an allegory of Russian Revolution 1917 and eventually Russian days under Stalinist era.


Living in the Manor Farm is the Old Major, an elderly boar, who has far-reaching vision of animals life and welfare. According to him, if animals can gather their strength, they can achieve a complete freedom. Through rebellion against Mr. Jones, the owner of the Manor Farm, the animals can acquire the Farm for themselves. In this utopia, the animals will still work the same, only then, all the produces will be shared only among the animals, without them having to cut for Mr. Jones’s part first.

Soon after imparting his big idea, the Old Major dies. Following his demise, two only other boars, Napoleon and Snowball try and take the Old Major’s foresight into reality. At first they are continually contesting between the two of them, until eventually Snowball is chased out with Napoleon’s cunning schemes.

By now, the revolution has already had a name to it, that is Animalism. In which, the animals hold a maxim that says, “Animals are all equal”. All animals are to work together, to get the same share of everything they own, and to not use anything human-invented lest they will turn into detestable humans. Napoleon naturally fills the empty leader’s chair and ends up deciding everything for the animals. He decides from what to work on to how they bring the farm against the other farms, and finally, he is also the one who decides to turn the farm and Animalism into something that look much different from the hope offered by the Old Major.



I full well understand that I shouldn’t simply associate Communism with dictatorship, because they are not the same thing. Communism is the ideology, while dictatorship is just something that always comes with it whenever a country tries to establish it into a regime. Here I would use them as interchangeable terms, because as I see it, factually, both terms have just never been unambiguously separated.

This satirical fable is nothing short of brilliant. It’s as interesting as a narrative as it’s apt as an allegory.

I’ve read books criticizing on manifested Communism, directly and indirectly, but never this vivid and clever. In Animal Farm, we get to view upclose, stage by stage, how Napoleon, who bears the image of Stalin, is not materializing the Animalism, which refers to Communism, as how the Old Major, in real life Karl Max, has envisioned.

The idea of Animalism is trumping out Mr. Jones from the Farm, so that the animals would no longer have to work for his disproportionate benefits. In Old Major’s vision, the animal society would only be just if all animals, and so, proletariat, are able to work equally hard and thus, to obtain even shares of the outcomes. In order to achieve this utopian situation, all animals should marshal their voices into one big unified force. However, there’s an inevitable hole in this idyllic image. No matter how massive a drive is, one person, or in this case, one animal, would have to represent all animals.

Meanwhile, gauging idealism level in a person is just simply non-sensical. It can’t be done, more than ever, in politics. By nature, politicians always have agendas, which won’t be clearly shown until it’s completely materialized. Not one animal, at any point, knows where Napoleon’s real desire lay on. They might guess, but that’s just as far as they can go. There are moments where Napoleon’s order unmistakably feels wrong against the Seven Commandments. Yet, the animals are just not on the same level – or deliberately kept at a lower level – of intelligence with Napoleon. Hence, they don’t own the necessary means to hold their ground. A little bit coaxing, and they’re back to square one. Every single time.

Orwell wrote this novel as a criticism against Russian Communism. We can spot this clearly at the closing part of the narrative. Discrepancy after discrepancy from the initial Animalism, Napoleon, who is always right, has been leading, all the kept-in-the-dark animals, to the final day, when lastly they all realize how similar the pigs and the dogs have become to their supposed enemy, the humans, so by extension, to Mr. Jones.  

I can’t possibly stress it out more how Animal Farm is truly one great political literature. It is after all, a fable, which means the range of its audience is as wide as can be. Even if you don’t care much for politics, you’ll still be able to enjoy it as a story. And for a politic sucker like me, it gets even better. For some reason, the flow of events are looking more straightforward when it’s a parable. Somehow, it’s easier for me to make sense of the animals wanting their milk for themselves, than to comprehend with proletariat wanting to govern themselves without the elites. Same thing, different deliverance.

In 2020, we all have learned that Communism is way in the past. However, ideology is not something that we can rigidly frame. There will always be gray lines around it. Even in so-called democracy that is supposed to be prevalent these days, we can always point out some semblance of dictatorship here and there. Getting a bit tyrannical might be necessary in some countries like mine for instance, but that’s especially where, I believe, we should jump in as responsible citizens. We are asked to help to supervise our government perpetually, so that it doesn’t go beyond the gray borders. How? By using our voice, just like Orwell did.

All things considered, one thing remains to be my question. That is if even young kids would be able to enjoy Animal Farm, because if it’s yes, then that would be cuh-RAZ- ZEE! But honestly, I still deem the book as for more mature readers.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed that read, I loved it when I studied it many years ago. While the political landscape offers much the same democratic feeling across the globe, there are a pick of countries which still sadly operate under a closed communist rule. But if you look within the developed countries, then there are many less known organisations which operate a similar model to the one in Animal Farm. You just have to look at the ‘zero hours’ employment market where workers rights differ to what actually happens on the ground.

    I might pick that book up again and read it.

  2. I read Animal Farm way back when I was a teenager and I can still remember many parts of the book now. It was a really excellent novel — I should go back and read it again.

  3. I prefer 1984 over Animal Farm, but I always like saying “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” It sounds darkly humorous to me. I wonder if the reason Orwell names the boar ‘Napoleon’ is because the historical one is considered by some historians a tyrant in Europe’s political history.

      1. I enjoyed Animal Farm more … it was efficient, and oh so clever. 1984 IS amazing, but it’s also quite long and a dense read. (Everyone should read it — it’s an important book — but it did feel like work.)

  4. Great review! 🙂 I read this a few years ago for the first time, and was likewise struck by how brilliant it is … it’s such a gut-punch book.

  5. Ah! Yes, I’d definitely put those two on the same level … very different books that serve very different purposes, but both execute it perfectly!

  6. I agree that this is better for mature readers. I was assigned this book in 8th grade and did not understand what it was about at all back then. I don’t think my teacher ever explained the allegory and I definitely didn’t pick up on it myself.

  7. I think if you like the allegorical elements to in Animal Farm you might look into Call of the Wild by Jack London. Jack London was a socialist who wrote Call of The Wild to decry the evils of unfettered capitalism, but the intent sort of missed the mark. Unlike Animal Farm, which slowly reveals the communist ideals corruption, the Call of the Wild sort of provides an allegory of capitalism as survival of the fittest. The story is brutal, but in the end the it is those with the greatest will, grit, and capabilities who thrive. It is almost a celebration of the American dream, which is exactly what he attempted to criticize.

    Call of the Wild is often sold alongside its mirror book White Fang.

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