By Avantika Sharma

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is perhaps one of the most sarcastic books ever written. An allegorical piece of work, the fable is witty and brilliant in all respects as Orwell takes readers on a humorous journey of how a group of rebellious animals can outlive humans. The book begins in a parallel universe, one in which animals seek an end to relentless torment and tread on a path to a fair shake.

Time and again, Orwell’s fable has been mistaken for being either a book solely based on animals revolting against a blithe farmer who pays no heed to their demands or one directed towards the narratives of animal cruelty. The truth, however, lies in Orwell’s erudite demeanour of spinning a tale of how political agenda tends to sabotage a clear set of patterns deciphered by humans. Though published in 1945, Animal Farm elucidates at large, fundamental issues of corruption, power, greed and betrayal, all surprisingly prevalent till date.

Residing in a derelict Manor Farm owned by an alcoholic Mr Jones, the miserable beasts had had enough. Struck with a plethora of common issues – animal rights, inequality, discrimination, poverty, lack of food – old Major, the white boar, one night summons an emergency meeting to incorporate feelings of jacquerie amongst fellow residents. Complying with their elder’s command, the animals gather behind closed doors and thence ensues the transition of Manor Farm into Animal Farm.

“Man does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours, spring from the tyranny of human beings?”

Mainly directed towards the regime of Joseph Stalin, the fable takes on grieving aspects deep-rooted in society through the animals who, unable to sustain the adversities imposed on them, decide to revolt in line with their anthem “Beasts of England”, a few lyrics of which read… “Soon or late the day is coming, Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown, And the fruitful fields of England, Shall be trod by beasts alone…”

As old Major succumbs to old age, the lineage passes down to two young boars, Napoleon – a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire – and Snowball,  a vivacious pig, quicker in speech and more inventive. Taking on the innovative notion, the animals hold numerous rendezvous in order to outsmart their master and advocate principles of Animalism. The next few days are all about intense discussions amongst the animals beleaguered by a wide range of ifs and buts. Slowly and steadily, the coterie of animals succumbs to temptation and declare war. “Jones and his men suddenly found themselves being butted and kicked from all sides. The situation was quite out of their control. They had never seen animals behave like this before, and this sudden uprising of creatures whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, frightened them almost out of their wits.”

With the Rebellion successfully carried through, the animals, hardly able to believe in their good fortune celebrate by burning whips, halters, blinkers, nosebags, and ridding their humble abode of everything human. Napoleon and Snowball assume charge, revealing seven commandments for the animals to follow, the wittiest among them being ‘Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy’. (The commandment later changes to: ‘Four legs good, two legs better!) The animals join hands to gift themselves a sustainable life; they work harder and sleep less for double produce, and set on with the mission to build a windmill.

In the course of time, however, Napoleon’s authenticity with animalism subsides as he seeks solace in the ways of the men. The leader begins to overlook and change the commandments as per his convenience; he sleeps in beds crafted for humans, wears footwear, drinks beer, tortures animals to work harder while he himself rests, and eventually, stoops to the extent of starving his innocent supporters. On the other hand, Snowball – much loved and regarded by the animals for his understanding and comradeship- is forced to run for his life given Napoleon’s envy and hunger for power. Soon, Berkshire establishes himself as the supreme leader of Animal Farm, subjecting all under him to torture, hardship and even death.

Animal Farm has been banned in many countries on grounds of defaming Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, one of the most notorious leaders to have ruled the country. Stalin’s reference as Napoleon in the fable continues to be a controversial argument even now. The scintillating masterpiece is but a deliberate opportunity for readers to relate the events of 1945 with the present-day diaspora. Even though one could never relate the pertinence of the characters to the Soviet Union leaders, the similarity is quite evident.

The animals continued to quietly witness the indifferent course of events that witness a sudden uprise in the farm. Once again, they begin to feel trapped, miserable and weak. With lesser food and even more work, the animals realise the affliction they had imposed upon themselves. The reference of Boxer, the most hard-working animal in the fable, gives way to contemplation of his valour and sacrifice, and of his willingness to maintain a stern belief in Napoleon’s convoluting rules. “Napoleon is always right”, the horse would say. Boxer’s undying belief in his master stands as a precursory note to the trend of innocent people being aimlessly beguiled by powerful, influential leaders on a daily basis. The situation is prevalent to date.

As time passes, the seven commandments undergo several alterations, smashing the norms of equality for all. Accompanying the transformation stood the threat of execution, for anyone who decided to raise a finger against Napoleon’s rules would most likely be sentenced to death for treachery. Napoleon’s beliefs and perceptions, meanwhile, cross all thresholds – the leader gradually bows down to a staggering generation shift and gives way to temptation by becoming more human than animal. His greed for power and money hits record-high after the leader dispenses his dignity and begins trading with human beings. Whilst the proud animals of Animal Farm continue to in fact suffer more and work more, Napoleon and his loyal bootlickers transform into treacherous and powerful human beings who lavishly lead life based on inhumane principles.

Although the fable is witty and humorous in all respects, the insinuation it delivers is rather disconsolate and startling. Even though the leaders could sustain the animals’ freedom in the long run, their gratification was short-lived. And thus the commandment changed to – ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.’

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