Hello and welcome to episode 38 of Jay Wont darts podcast, where I share my favourite books, kind of like a tall white vegan Oprah.
My intros were from No Agenda episode 117 and the song Optimistic by Radiohead, its one of the many songs that refference Animal Farm, I'll play another for the outro.
George Orwell is known most for his story Nineteen Eighty-Four, but I prefer his earlier work Animal Farm. Animal Farm is a wonderful book mostly aimed at the Soviet Union and Communism, basically all the main characters are based on real life political figures such as Lenin, Karl Marx and Stalin. Other Farms represent the US and UK, and several collective flocks of animals represent social classes of people.
In the preface of a 1947 Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm he explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him quote, "how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries." This motivated Orwell to expose and strongly condemn what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals.
In that preface Orwell also described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm
" ...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat."
Thats a great quote that also relates to animals rights.
One night, Major, an elderly pig on Manor Farm has a strange dream, that the animals could better themselves, and live freely instead of being repressed by humans such as Mr Jones, their farmer. Jones often gets drunk and is not attentive to matters of his farm. The animals begin a revolution and rise up against their oppressor, the humans. And yet, by the end of the book we see things have not worked out so well for all the animals. I'll read part of Major's speech.
There are two main quotes best remembered from Animal Farm.
The shortest and easiest to remember is
"Four legs good, two legs bad"
Another is the original commandments given out by Major,
THE [ORIGINAL] SEVEN COMMANDMENTS:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are created equal.
The last commandment is morphed by the end of the story into
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
I love the ending of the book, the way the pigs change is amazing, I really dont want to spoil the ending for you, its reason enough for you to read this short story.
In Animal Farm, the pigs are generally treated as the most intelligent animals, and probably the sheep are the most dim witted, the sheep act as cheer leaders, mindlessly shouting slogans taught to them by the ruling politician. The pigs start off as being rule by Napoleon and Snowball, Napoleon is more concerned about himself, while Snowball thinks up grand plans to better all animals. Napoleon gathers his own secret police, who on his command drive out Snowball, I love how the secret police come into being, I never expected it, and yet its so logical. I wont spoil that surprise for you.
Napoleon takes control as a dictator, he has the other remaining pigs work for him, there are a few named pigs such as Squealer who acts as second in command, and distributes propaganda and Minimus, who writes songs singing praise of Napoleon.
One of my favourite characters is the minor figure of Moses the Raven, he only shows up a couple of times in the book, but is very important symbolically. I'll read from novelguide.com's character guide, the webpage is in my shownotes which you can see on an iPod by going to the lyrics or you could go to my blog www.jaywontdart.blogspot.com to read my full notes which have sources at the bottom.
Moses: Moses is perhaps Orwell's most intriguing character in Animal Farm. This raven, first described as the "especial pet" of Mr. Jones, is the only animal who doesn't work. He's also the only character who doesn't listen to Old Major's speech of rebellion.
Orwell narrates, "The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr. Jones's especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which al animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place."
Moses represents Orwell's view of the Church. To Orwell, the Church is just used as a tool by dictatorships to keep the working class of people hopeful and productive. Orwell uses Moses to criticize Marx's belief that the Church will just go away after the rebellion. Jones first used Moses to keep the animals working, and he was successful in many ways before the rebellion. The pigs had a real hard time getting rid of Moses, since the lies about Heaven they thought would only lead the animals away from the equality of socialism. But as the pigs led by Napoleon become more and more like Mr. Jones, Moses finds his place again. After being away for several years, he suddenly returns and picks up right where he left off. The pigs don't mind this time because the animals have already realized that the "equality" of the revolt is a farce. So Napoleon feeds Moses with beer, and the full-circle is complete.
Orwell seems to offer a very cynical and harsh view of the Church. This proves that Animal Farm is not simply an anti-communist work meant to lead people into capitalism and Christianity. Really Orwell found loop-holes and much hypocrisy in both systems. It's interesting that recently in Russia the government has begun to allow religion again. It almost seems that like the pigs, the Kremlin officials of today are trying to keep their people motivated, not in the ideology of communism, but in the "old-fashioned" hope of an after-life. "
I like Moses because he is one of only a few minor characters who dont directly speak, I dont remember him ever actually talking directly in the book, its always mentioned by the narrator what Moses told the other animals, but we never hear him directly speak. One other minor character is similar to this, the cat, who never does any work, but will show up when there is food, I dont think we hear the cat talk directly either, the narrator mentions her telling the sparrows just out of her reach, that they are all equal comrades after the revolution, and that if one of the sparrows wanted to, they could sit on her paw. I'm glad none of the birds take her up on her offer.
Another of my favourite characters is Benjamin the donkey. He is quite old, and never has anything positive to say, he doesnt speak much but is present at all the major events. Benjamin never believes the revolution will change anything, when asked why hes not enthused, Benjamin explains, "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey." by which he means he has seen alot of how things work and that the future will not be in the animals favour. Another quote is "Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse— hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life." "
Probably the most tragic character in Animal Farm is Boxer, the strong work horse. He is not intelligent and has trouble remembering what he has learnt, he cant remember the alphabet and so cannot read or write, but believes in his leaders. Boxer has a personal motto of " will work harder!", which could be a nod to the book The Jungle, which is an expose on the meat packing industry of the early 20th century.
Boxer is by far the strongest animal, being the largest male horse, he pulls every heavy load and protects the farm with his strong kicks. He has an awful fate that almost makes me cry every time I read the book. Boxer collapses having worked himself to death. I'll read that passage now.
I'll play a clip that explains Animal Farms plot better.
I hope you've enjoyed this episode, I really do hope everyone listening decides to read Animal Farm, its only about 112 pages in length, you can read it at a leisurely pace over a weekend. There are even websites online where you can read the full text for free! One copy can be found on http://www.george-orwell.org , I'll include that in my notes, as well as the ebook I downloaded, the full text of Animal Farm on my computer, it takes up just one fifth of a megabyte. No doubt this episode of my podcast will end up being a hundred times that, sorry to waste your hard drive space! Theres so much to learn from Animal Farm, the best thing to do is just to read the story yourself.
My outro song will be the song Animal in Man by the rap group Dead Prez. You might recognise them from this songs backing music
Thank you for listening to my humble podcast.
You can find the script for this episode, as well as downloads for every episode of Jay Wont darts podcast at jaywontdart.blogspot.com
If you want to contact me, even just to say you listened, send an email to email@example.com, j a y w o n t d a r t @ gmail.com, I'd appreciate it.
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
Have a super happy day, bye.
download html ebook here
or full story chapter by chapter here
animal farm synopsis