Dog Years and George Orwell

Dog Years and George OrwellDog Years and George Orwell

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.


#403 Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George Orwell

Revolution comrades! Rise up against your oppressors and run the farm your own darn self! Everybody is equal…but some are more equal than others.

Dear old George wrote this book as a work of satire. He was concerned that the media was being censored. The media is censored ok? Don’t argue. George puts forth an argument in the very beginning of his book all about this idea. George was concerned because some people praised this idea or that ideal in the media without presenting any of the darker aspects of those ideals. If anyone dared to voice the dark side of these ideals, they were excluded from popular thought by sheer will of the media. This happens today, this isn’t something that was only going on back when George wrote this book.

So what is this book about? This book is about a farm of animals that revolts and takes the farm for themselves. They are led by the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, who disagree on everything. Speeches are made. Everyone is equal. Men are bad. The animals can run the farm themselves. Once an animal reaches a certain age, it will be retired to live a comfortable life, provided for by the rest of the farm. Everyone will have enough food. Each person will do the work they are capable of. The animal must put off the vestiges of man and rule themselves. It works, for a while.

Snowball and Napoleon have taught themselves how to read and write. They speak of all kinds of ideas to the animals. There is a fight. Some men try to take back the farm, the animals win. Medals are awarded. Snowball fights bravely. Snowball soon envisions the idea of a windmill. The windmill can provide power to the farm. The animals will only have to work three days a week when the windmill is completed. Napoleon thinks this is a stupid idea.

Napoleon took away a litter of puppies and raised them to be his personal body guards and cronies. They chase Snowball off one day, things get worse from there. Boxer the horse always says, “I will work harder,” and, “Napoleon is always right,” whenever he is faced with any monumentous task. Napoleon soon says a windmill will be built. It was his idea all along. The animals seem to remember it differently, but no one really says anything about it.

Time passes. Some of the farm animals are executed for supposed crimes against the great and fearless leader Napoleon. Where the seven commandments of animalism were once written, the reading members of the farm soon see words in the commandments that they do not remember. An animal must never sleep in a bed, with sheets. An animal shall never kill another animal, without cause. An animal shall not consume alcohol, to excess. One by one the rules are changed. Some animals soon become more equal than others, namely pigs and dogs.

The animals go hungry. Boxer suffers from old age and too much hard work and is sent to the glue makers, but, of course, the vet bought the van from the glue maker. Napoleon would never send his beloved Boxer to the glue maker. The pigs soon start wearing human clothes and dealing with the humans, the sworn enemies. The animals don’t have long enough memories to know if this was how it was supposed to be or not, but Napoleon is always right.

What I liked

This book is obviously very political. It is about communism. I’ve mentioned it before, but in an ideal world, communism would probably be great. The ideas behind it are ideas that people like, everyone being equal, everyone being provided for, and so on. This is all great, in theory, but it never works. There have been plenty of countries and small groups who have tried ideas like communism or ideas similar to communism, the law of consecration practiced by early Mormons was an ideal similar to communism, but not exactly communism. None of these endeavors worked. It is true that we have communist countries on the earth today. How do they fare? Is every citizen equal? Does everyone have enough food? No, is the answer to last two questions, North Korea and Cuba being countries that come to mind when thinking of these questions.

People are volatile. People are greedy. People have vices. That’s why communism never works. Sure, it’s great that everyone is equal, until someone gets tired of being equal and having no power, money, or prestige over anyone else. George’s book illustrates this beautifully, with a bunch of farm animals no less.

What I didn’t like

The treatment of the farm animals in this book makes me sad and it’s not just because I like animals. It makes me sad because they’re treated like pawns. They’re just little pieces on a game board moved around for the amusement of Napoleon and his hench-animals. They’re lied to. Outright lies are spilled from the mouth of Napoleon. No, it wasn’t Napoleon’s idea to build a windmill, but he’ll claim it and say it was. No, he didn’t do anything to deserve medals, but he’ll award them to himself anyway. Of course pigs deserve more food than any of the other animals. Of course some animals are more equal than others. Yes, you can demand the unborn babies of the chickens to be sold as a source of revenue to buy food for the rest of the community. I mean, it’s awful the way these animals are treated. They’re treated as if they aren’t their own entities.

We’ve got brains right? We think for ourselves. We can make our own choices. We’re not stupid, at least we like to think we’re not stupid. We don’t need people telling us, oh just because so-and-so says it, it must be a good idea. Shut up! Not every idea that comes out a person’s mouth is a good idea. Look Stephen King writes some awesome stuff, but he also writes crap from time to time. He’s still a great author, but he’s not infallible. Following something blindly is never a good idea. You know better. You do. You know better. Somewhere in the back of your brain, you know that what the person saying on TV is bullcrap. You know, but do you listen to that little voice telling you this is a bunch of BS? Sometimes, sometimes not.

I feel bad people are ever treated like pawns, but part of it is their own darn fault. They listen. They let themselves be taken in by all the pretty words and empty promises. The animals on animal farm knew the commandments didn’t always have additions, but what did they do about it? NADA! They were scared because Napoleon had taken out punishment against some who weren’t one-hundred percent behind him, but you know what…there’s still more animals on the farm than just Napoleon and his cronies. They could have taken over lickety-split. Sometimes, you build your own cage. Sometimes, you let yourself be walked all over. I am sad because people are treated like crap, but I’m also sad that people let themselves be treated that way.

Overall

Animal Farm is essential reading for anyone with a brain. You brain card should be revoked, if you choose not to read this book.

I leave you with a video by CollegeHumor illustrating the mentality that happens in governments similar to the one created by Napoleon the pig.