Friday, December 04, 2009

Reflections: Animal Farm

Human beings grow up with an inevitable ego that they are better than other animals - creatures with just sparse senses, incapable of thought, language or intelligence. Religious, social and philosophical theories try to mold us as superior beings, who are above and beyond animal-like impulses, who are far more cognitively developed than lower-order Pavlonian-creatures who obey their behavioral responses, who have the innate clarity to discern between good and bad, uphold equality and harmony, and who are blessed with an alacrity to work against Nature, to innovate, progress and stay invincible.

But looking at the world around us, the societies and civilizations that have risen and fallen, it's an irony that we humans start bearing the very same animal attributes that we were taught to overcome; worse yet, we indulge in these "primordial" animal traits with a devious use of our "sixth sense" - the power of thought. When this sordid metamorphosis afflicts people, the hope for Utopia, for love, peace and harmony evaporate, leaving the world dry and parched of freedom and equality.

George Orwell yet again explores the strong theme of dystopia through this book. In this tale, farm animals decide to revolt against humans, after years of suppression and cruelty. Through a brave rebellion they oust their human master and start a civil society, founded on seven noble commandments that profess peace, harmony and equality to all animals. What started as a socialist society with a vision towards Utopia, soon started turning rancid. The most cunning and power hungry pig, Napoleon, employed his conniving political tactics to gradually amend each of the seven commandments to suit his dictatorial authority. The gullible, naive and "illiterate" animals are swayed into trusting Napoleon and his entourage of cunning pigs and vicious thug-dogs. Those unfortunates who dared to rebel, ended up as snacks to Napoleon's dogs.

Orwell's prose is laced with intense satire at our political schemes, the manipulative conspiracies and the utter disregard with which the "lower-classes" are oppressed, and beguiled, causing the rich to grow richer and the poor to grow poorer. Just as how ironically, humans start degrading in their values and turn into animals, the pigs, who started a revolution to liberate animals from humans and to keep away from human-traits, soon started acting like men - greedy, selfish, hypocritical and treacherous. The metamorphosis is so seamless that men and pigs become indistinguishable - each having changed with the others' vileness.

Orwell's tale is a tragedy that most countries and societies have faced, and still face. He masterfully hints at how every society despite being started with hopes and promises of equality to all, succumb to core human vices, such that the term "equality" eventually transforms to gradations of social-classes. Although Napoleon, the pig, is a caricature of Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian rule, each person can associate Napoleon with plenty of "leaders" and political swindlers of their society. The book fuels righteous anger and has its heart wrenching moments. I enjoyed Orwell's crafty analogies to depict our societal cultures in the light of simple farm animals. I particularly liked the raven, Moses, who preaches to the animals of a mystical hill that grew sugar-candy and line-seed cake, wherein all animals could be blissful and happy forever. The animals, despite being skeptical of such a hill, wanted to hold onto the belief to distract themselves of their miserable lives and hope for a more sanguine future.

This is a book that makes us introspect on our values and triggers us to prevent the human-animal metamorphosis that threatens to put our civilization on a path to dystopia.

And I need to make a note that I received this book as a loving and thoughtful birthday gift :)


priti said...

"A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia" - This would help see other side of things...albeit a lil too "utopian" to be true....BTW Happy Birthday...I'm not sure but it's hopefully +/- 7 days :) and have a great year ahead.

Neeraja said...

Thanks for the b'day wishes Priti :). And thanks for recommending "Utopia"...I've made a note to read it soon.

Sanjini said...

Neeraja....I found the concept of this book very interesting. It does amaze me that at the time of crisis (lets see getting independance) people are very united and they work for a common cause. As soon as the cause is won human beings return to petty ways which no longer makes us united.

Neeraja said...

Very true, Sanjini. Even when people unite, there are some who don't live up to the true spirit of unity and continue to look forward to more selfish gains than the common cause.