Appropriately, the kids just finished reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm during our travel through Eastern Europe, and Walden was really moved by it. He kept bringing it up at dinner, when we were talking about all we were learning. This is his most recent worldschool take on it, along with a walk through Ljubljana (which I still have to look up the spelling each time I write!!):
“After reading the book, Animal Farm, by George Orwell, I had many disturbing thoughts. The book bothered me in ways that other books we’ve read have not. In this discussion, I will seek to highlight some of the main points of the book and draw comparisons to conflicts in real life.
The story takes place on a rural farm, where the animals rebel against their human masters and drive them away, establishing a new system for themselves. But as soon as the humans leave, the pigs, who are the smartest animals on the farm, take over power and all of the luxuries that they can acquire. With the absence of the upper class, in this case the humans, the pigs decide to retake that role and become the higher set of two classes on the farm.
One class is the intellectual laborers, the pigs, and the other are the physical laborers, the other animals on the farm. The pigs tell the other animals that they are thinking up new and improved ways of life and making sure the farm is working well, but really they are just manipulating the farm to get what they want. Using the eloquent words of Squealer the pig, Napoleon is portrayed as a brave leader and that without him the farm would fall back in the hands of the humans.
But Napoleon is really a cruel leader, who cares only for himself and the rest of his class, the pigs. The same is true of the Soviet Union during the reign of Stalin. Stalin and his government were portrayed by propaganda as the best hope for Russia. Without their leader, the Soviet Union would crumble and their culture would be lost forever. But in reality, Stalin wanted only what was best for himself and would change the culture or do whatever was necessary to keep his people loyal to him.
Napoleon did the exact same thing in Animal Farm. At the beginning of the animals’ rebellion, their commandments state that all animals are equal, but by the end of the book the commandments have been changed. They read, ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
Another terrible concept that occurs during Animal Farm is the idea of ruling by fear. At the beginning of the story, Napoleon and another leader named Snowball were always arguing with each other over different ideas for the farm. Snowball had better ideas and wanted better things for the farm, but Napoleon was more sly and cunning. During a debate over the idea of building a windmill for the farm, Napoleon unleashes a pack of dogs he has trained since birth to chase Snowball out. For the rest of his tyrannical reign over Animal Farm, he uses his dogs to strike fear into everyone who dares to question him. He even forces several of the animals to make false confessions to crimes they didn’t commit. Afterwards, he lets his dogs murder the poor animals, sending a message of fear throughout the farm.
Stalin and the Soviet Union also ruled by fear and terror. Using his Secret Police, Stalin struck fear into his people and made sure anyone, who even joked about resistance to the government, would be sent to labor camps. Stalin even went so far as to hold mock trials and confessions by citizens for crimes they hadn’t committed. Ruling by fear is a prominent issue in our world and in the world of Animal Farm.
Finally, the idea that disturbed me the most is the naivety of the working class. The unintelligence of the working class animals is a terrible problem in the book and unfortunately in present day life. All of the animals in animal farm, excluding the pigs, are easily deceived. Their loyalty and extremely diligent work were used by the pigs for their advantage. Their lack of interest and concern about what they were being forced to do leads them into horrible situations that become worse than what they had before.
Take for example poor, old Boxer the horse. He was the hardest worker out of all the animals, waking up early to put in work and straining against heavy loads for hours every day. His motto was ‘I will work harder.’ He accepted anything and everything the pigs told him to do, no matter the consequences. And all it got him was a ride to the horse butcher’s house, when he was too injured to work anymore. This was the most extreme case out of all the animals; but throughout the story, the animals’ stupidity and naivety is prevalent.
The only one who realizes what is going on is the donkey, and he doesn’t even care enough to say anything to the others.
This can be a real problem in today’s society. Many people can be too accepting of government issues. I think it’s very important that we as a nation should educate ourselves on government problems and policies and stay actively involved. Otherwise who knows, we could end up exactly like the animals in Animal Farm: loyal, but dumb and unquestioning of our present situations.”
By the way, learning history while traveling is one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I think even I could love being a life long historian, if I could travel as I learn!