Political Statements in Art

August 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Animal Farm

Author: George Orwell (real name: Eric Blair)

Length: 80 pages

“Political Statements in Art” sounds a little scary, intimidating.  I grow weary of political statements.  But I am a reader, and among the list of most amazing authors of all time, though, great activists can be found.  Ayn Rand, Victor Hugo, Lewis Carroll, all had agendas when telling their stories, and whether you believe in their worldview, their stories were rather beautiful and undeniably artistic.  George Orwell is one of my primary examples of someone who managed to pull off making a political statement as a beautiful work of art, with the book 1984.  The book itself, is a long time favorite.  So when I saw that 1984 was on Bauer’s Well-Educated Mind: Novels list, I was very excited.  Yet, when the time came to read it, I found myself choosing Animal Farm instead.  Until this week, I had never read Animal Farm.

Although I had a general understanding of the novella, and the statement it was going to make, I was surprised when the animals all had real names.  Silly, I know, I just hadn’t expected that.  Not that I expected them to be called pig, horse, or dog, it was just one of those things I hadn’t thought to think about prior to reading the book.  Of course, I should have anticipated nothing less from Orwell, after all, the man was a genius.  In good literary form, Napoleon represents a villain, Boxer is strong, Snowball is the opposite of Napoleon, Squealer is the epitome of propaganda, and Mr. Jones is a typical neighbor you might love to hate – the human.  It is allegory at its finest.

Yet, I pretty much hated it.  How did this happen?  I adore Orwell! I do, I really do.  I just could not get into the anthropomorphism.  When I read animals personified to represent people, I find I don’t want them to be JUST like people.  I want my fuzzy mole to be a fuzzy mole who talks (Wind in the Willows), I want my mice to still live under floor boards and not have day jobs, even if they cook and clean (TumTum and Nutmeg), and so on.  Obviously, Orwell’s intent was for us to see ourselves as we are, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which,” along with the dangers of communism and totalitarianism.

But who wants to be reminded of that?

Just kidding.  Truly, I see the merits of Animal Farm, and at another time I just may enjoy it.  But today, right now, this moment… I did not.  Still, I love Orwell.  I (usually) love to read his work, and (always) aspire to be more like him.  In Why I Write, he said:

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”

Nothing speaks to me more.  I have been journaling, writing stories, and using the written word as my own catharsis my whole life, since before I could do much more than copy letters.  Perhaps I will never be the caliber of writer I’d like, but always and forever I shall write.  So because I write, also shall I read.

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