I didn’t make any notes while reading this one. They would have been somewhat/very similar to what I wrote about The Bell Jar. I didn’t get as much out of this memoir as I did Plath’s novel; this story felt more detached (as in, the reader doesn’t get as emotionally involved with the characters).
I liked this book mostly for the subject matter. I think mental health is a fascinating subject, and to read a memoir about young girls subjected to an institution in a very different time and place is interesting for me. What would be different for them today?
I’m also as interested in what isn’t told in the story as what is told. There’s so much you can’t really know, especially with a memoir. Ehm, it’s hard to describe…you can never really get into a person’s mind. You can only read what they remember and what they choose to share, and you can never know very much about the other characters. Just think about interactions with people in real life and hopefully this thought makes more sense…more is not written, especially in a book like this one, than is written.
One aspect of the book I notably liked is the last few chapters.
The inclusion of official records was a nice touch, something a bit different, that makes it hit home that this story is real, this is what it really was like at one time.
Oh, Orwell. You know how to write a provoking novel. While I don’t think this was as strong as Nineteen Eighty-four (probably because the subject matter of Nineteen Eighty-four is more shocking than Animal Farm), Animal Farm still makes for an enthralling read and tells just as terrible a story. This is largely due to the fact that Animal Farm can be largely read as non-fiction, as it is intended to be an allegory for what was happening in Russia. I am a bit fuzzy on Russian history (a fact I hope to remedy this year, I’ve got a good book on Russian history waiting to be read…) but I grasped enough to understand what Animal Farm was all about, and reading Animal Farm actually helped me to understand how what happened Russian came to pass, something that is quite difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced such a transformation of power to grasp.
The slow but steady development of Napoleon’s policies; the reasoned, believable explanations provided by Squealer; the ending that sees the animal come back full circle to a life even worse off than under Jones; Boxer representing those who follow blindly, Mollie representing those who just want to be cared for, Snowball representing those who are easily villainized – all of these aspects, considered with their basis in reality, are what make the story so sad, so chilling. The following quotes I marked demonstrate these well:
‘Comrades!’ he cried. ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. the whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,’ cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, ‘surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?’ [This was the place in the book where I went ‘Ah, this is where it really begins, I see’; this is also the first example of Squealer’s manipulative words]
…but in comparison with the days of Jones the improvement was enormous. Reading out the figures in a shrill rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in Jones’s day, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas. The animals believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. they knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so.
But the luxuries of which Snowball had once taught the animals to dream, the stalls with electric lights and hot and cold water, and the three-day week, were no longer talked about. Napoleon had denounced such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Animalism. The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally.
I wonder what I would have thought of this novel had I read it earlier, perhaps in grade five or six when I wasn’t yet familiar with world issues and politics and history. I’m sure I would have been horrified, but then to find out that everything in the story happened somewhere in the real world…eek!
I didn’t know ‘George Orwell’ is a pen name until I read the introduction to this edition (Everyman’s Library, handy little thing) which makes it even more interesting that ‘Orwellian’ has entered our vocabulary. ‘Blairian’ (?) would not have made the transition as well.
I am very interested in reading more his work, particularly his essays.