You know that saying about how you calculate a dog’s age? Your dog supposedly lives seven years by the time you live a year. It is true that animals age much faster than humans, for the most part, we do have our exceptions with sea tortoises and a few other animals. So what do dog years have to do with George Orwell?
George Orwell wrote the English class staple, Animal Farm. It’s a book about a farm full of animals that takes over its own rule and declares something of a communist society, but it doesn’t really work out the way anyone envisioned it, except for maybe the way the faithful and dear leader Napoleon envisioned it. My claim is this, by picking animals on a farm instead of humans, George was able to write about the entire rise and decline of a government over a short period of time.
Let’s just go ahead and equate Animal Farm to the Soviet Union ok? Everyone knows that is what George was talking about anyway. So there’s no point in beating around the bush and making all these euphemisms and winks about who we’re really talking about. The Soviet Union came to power in 1917, roughly, and fell from power in 1989, this is a generally accepted year for the end of the Soviet Union anyway. That is seventy-two years. The Soviet Union was one of the biggest empires in the history of the Earth for seventy-two years, granted it wasn’t always as large as it was at the height of its rule. That’s roughly the lifespan of a person. A person could have conceivably been about eight when the Soviet Union came to power and still be alive when the Soviet Union officially fell from power. The lifespan of the Soviet Union was roughly the age of one person. Now let’s look at this in terms of Animal Farm.
The events in Animal Farm take place over a few years. It’s not twenty years. It’s not even ten years. Let’s go down a bit and say it’s like six years. We know it’s enough time for Napoleon and several of the other animals to age into elderly animals. It’s enough time for Boxer the horse to go from being this big strong horse to a horse that can’t really stand under his own steam. Horses can live over twenty years, if they’re well taken care of, but we do have to consider that Boxer was already several years old when the story started and he died before his time because he worked so hard. Some of the animals on the farm die while Napoleon is still in power.
Animals are perfect for this story. They live out their lives much faster than we do. It only makes sense that their government would rise to power and fall much faster than our own governments. We have the golden age in which people were happy, it lasted about a year or so for the animals, so it’s more like ten to twenty years in a real-life government structure. We have the age when the animals were not so happy, but still believed in the system, that lasted a year or so. This would equate to maybe twenty years or so as a comparison to the real-life Soviet Union. Then we have the age in which the animals were terrified into believing the system, this lasted a year or two, so that would be twenty to forty years in real life. Then we have the time period in which the animals knew things were bad, but didn’t really know what to do about it, that lasted a year or so. This would be twenty years, and most likely the tail-end of the Soviet rule. I can’t really equate exact year times to these comparisons, I can just make educated guesses, so I know the math might not exactly add up here.
If George had based this book on people instead of animals, we would have to include all the things that happen to a human over seventy plus years. A human has to grow up, get married, have a family, have a job, have meaningful relationships, be full of despair and hope, and all manner of other things. All of those things take up precious real-estate in the world of a book. George didn’t have to explain all of this about his animals because they’re animals. They don’t get married. They don’t worry about doing their taxes or if another animal is cheating on them. They’re simplified. They can live out their entire lives dealing with this government without having any of the drama that goes on with a human’s life during the same type of government lifespan. George was a genius when he decided to use animals to illustrate his obvious distaste for communism’s problems.
Also, I think it does make the story more interesting for pigs, dogs, goats, and such to be participating in communism. The idea is silly, but that makes the book more readable and the ideas stick in the brain better.