Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Animal Farm and 1984

Book Number: 
725
Date Fred Read: 
October 2017
Fred's Rating: 
4
Author: 
George Orwell
Total Pages: 
385
Publisher: 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year: 
2003

The 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orwell (1903-1950) was the occasion for these two novels – AF (1945 & 84-pp) and 1984 (1949 & 301-pp) – being published together for the first time. George Orwell wrote literary and political commentary for British press/journals and American magazines. AF (“a fairy story”) became an animated movie; 1984 became a movie with humans.

The Amazon website for a hardcover edition of this book is

https://www.amazon.com/Animal-Farm-1984-George-Orwell/dp/0151010269/ref=...

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

Amazon 'reminded' me that I purchased the book at this website on 10/17/17, but I actually got an earlier hardcover, whose website has no summary. The summary on the home page is quite short, so I give next a longer summary from the Front Flap of my book, using the all capital letters as were used on this Flap. [The long additions by me are in square brackets]:

“ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
George Orwell’s classic satire of the Russian Revolution is the account of the bold struggle, initiated by the animals, that transforms Mr. Jones’s Manor Farm into Animal Farm – a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal. Out of their cleverness, the pigs Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball emerge as leaders of the new community in a subtle evolution that proves disastrous. The climax is the brutal betrayal of the faithful horse Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.”

[Once Snowball is exiled, Napoleon and his mouthpiece Squealer (the only ones that can read) convince the other illiterate and dumb animals into believing nothing has changed – all are still equal – but they need Napoleon to run things since his great intellect must be used to make Animal Farm run as they all want it to run – better than when Mr. Jones ran it. When I read this many years ago I had forgotten how it ends. First the pig dictator tells them that the old mantra – “Four legs good, two legs bad” – which is all the sheep could ‘speak’, must be changed into a new mantra – “Four legs good, two legs better.” Why this total change? The pigs had learned to stand on their hind legs and had arranged a special ball with the surrounding human farmers. This started joyful but soon ended with the pigs and humans screaming at each other. The End. We are left to speculate that the pigs were not acceptable to the humans. What comes next? Our thoughts on the ridiculous presumption that farm animals could only live in a dream world of communism - an Orwellian hell.]

“WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
In 1984, London is a grim city where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called the Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life [and hers] in a deadly match against the powers that be.”

[This novel reveals at all levels of life the great fear that people, including Party members with party jobs of correcting records so that the present ‘truth’ is consistent with the past ‘truth’ by rewording the past to ‘update’ it. Winston does this well, but he hates this job. Orwell creates creditable characters in Winston and Julia. He makes their secret meetings and their mutual love as realistic as it could be with Big Brother always watching you. When they finally get caught the evidence of their hatred of Big Brother and the Party is slowly and very painfully drawn out by Orwell's long and detailed descriptions of the torture that Winston has to endure. His breaking point comes in two ways. One is when he can no longer recognize himself in a mirror. The other is when the new torture is about tp become his greatest fear – and he screams “do it to her, not to me.” The he knows he can no longer love her or respect himself. At this lowest point of his mind, it is remade to coincide with what the Party wants all humans to think – they must love and obey the Party. The last line of the book is when he realizes he know loves Big Brother. Orwell seems to believe that prolonged torture can change a person completely, and such a dystopian future based on great fear could work.]

Comparing Orwell’s 1984 future based on great fear with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was not hard for me to do. To me the great fear of a 1984 world makes humans much less than we were meant to be – much less than human. But Brave New World’s brainwashing without torture also makes humans, as beings fully addicted to the drug ‘soma’, also much less than humans were meant to be. At least there are in Brave New World some regions where the World Controller allows ‘savages’ to live, with parents and human birth, and, for the lucky few, books and the ability to envision what the past world’s history was like. This gives BNW an edge over 1984. And for the dystopian future of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, its ending has those who escaped from the world of great fear instead living in a hidden world where books were not burned but were saved to be discussed and memorized. To have a place where future humans can live with books and visions of their past to pass on to their children is, for me, the most promising type of dystopia among these few books. But I do not need to reread Fahrenheit 451 - I recall it well enough.

My rereading of Animal Farm was wasted time. And rereading 1984 was as dismal as I had remembered. However, these were rereadings I’m glad I’ve done. I rate this double-book at four stars, (two stars for Animal Farm and five for 1984). As dismal a future as is 1984, we need reminding what great fear and false history could do to a culture.