Friday, July 31, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 5

What I've read: Ch 5

Mollie runs away to another farm. Napoleon and Snowball's disagreements over whether to build a windmill come to a head. Napoleon stages a coup and supplants Snowball as the leader. Snowball just barely escapes the privately trained death hounds Napoleon unleashes on him. A new, crueler order is coming--no more meetings or debates, pigs make decisions and others follow orders, food rationing and harder labor.

So, once again, a new pig takes over, successively making things worse for the common animal while giving more privileges to his own group. It's interesting to see art imitating life this plainly and effectively. I don't know if this kind of simple metaphor (e.g. pigs in power, the sheep say and do whatever the pigs want) would work nowadays, but if one found a particularly neat metaphor that mapped as brilliantly and cheekily as the one in Animal Farm, one might do very well for oneself, indeed.

Anyhow. Now, the full on lies and revisionist history begins, as Snowball is downgraded from war hero to a traitor, thief, and liar. Hard times ahead. Discuss below!

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 4

Chapter 4

News of the Animal Farm spreads throughout the animal world in England and among the human farmers, who go from scoffing to nervousness after other animals refuse to work and/or turn on their masters. Farmer Jones (dunno why I call him that, as in the book it's just Mr. Jones--but consistency, comrades!) rounds up some men to take back the farm. They are attacked and run off. Boxer despairs at having struck and killed a young man, but the young man is only stunned, recovers, and runs away. The animals commemorate the victory with a battle title and hand out a few medals.

The anecdotes about Mollie always make me chuckle. She excuses herself from work and hides when the fighting gets serious. And then there is the cat, who was an ardent supporter of the committee of wild animal reeducation (or something) and tries to convince birds and rats all animals are comrades and they could sit on her paw. Needless to say that committee was a failure.

This is the first chapter where I didn't quite enjoy the telling nature of the prose. The POV seemed distant from the animals. Like a historian who knows how it all turns out:

"The men gave a shout of triumph. They saw, as they imagined, their enemies in flight, and they rushed after them in disorder. This was just what Snowball had intended."

As you know, Reader. Other than rare exceptions, I don't like when classics address Dear Reader. I'm looking at you Jane Eyre Besides, it seemed pretty clear it was a trap once the men were surrounded and overwhelmed in the yard. I like action scenes as fluid and commentary-light as possible.

Snowball orchestrated and led the defense, so that officially makes him a type of tactician. How long before he turns his skills on his fellow farm-dwellers?

"The only good human being is a dead one."
Far too cold about taking a life. Then again, the humans were no less so towards animals. And around it goes.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 3

What I've read: Ch 3

The animals work the farm, from the tireless Boxer to the wee ducks and chickens. Except for the pigs, of course. They are "brain workers", you see, and they need all the milk and apples to nourish those big brains, lest Farmer Jones comes back! Comrades, surely you don't want that to happen.


I'm curious why the pigs took and secluded the newborn puppies, but my guess is for security; brainwash them into ardent guard dogs. Of course, there's the obvious parallels to youth enlistment in this cause or that ideology. It also appears that Napoleon and Snowball argue a lot, so maybe the pigs aren't as unified a ruling class as I thought. Is one of them going to kill the other? I expect the seven commandments to all be broken in such fashion by the end of the story.

The thrust of the plot is dependent on just how stupid the majority of the animals are, most not able to reason at all. How's that for social commentary?

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 2

What I've read: Ch 2

So, Old Major dies. Life for the animals becomes so intolerable under Farmer Jones that the revolution happens at the spur of the moment, and all the humans are run off the farm. The successor pigs, Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball--who can read and write--make quick work of organizing a new order codified in the Seven Commandments.

I'm highly amused and entertained thus far. There's just a touch of handwavy absurdity--like a pig balancing on a ladder, painting a sign. The animals are just slightly anthropomorphized, as regards distinct personalities. This makes all those names easier to remember. Mollie is the pampered and foolish show horse, Snowball is intelligent and scheming--the kind of successor who would twist his predecessor's teachings all out of proportion. Boxer and Clover are cart-horses, loyal and obedient to a fault. But mostly the animals retain their animal natures.

The simple prose compliments this well. The farmhouse is treated as a museum. The barns and such aren't much remarked upon--where you eat and sleep every day isn't very remarkable to you. And the surrounding landscapes are described as something of a promise land--so much clover! A pool and spinney! Whatever a spinney is!

The chapter ends with some foreshadowing, as the fresh milk from the cows go missing while all the animals were out harvesting the hay. Heh. So it's begun.

I'm just letting all the historical parallels and social commentary simmer as I read. Feel free to discuss it all in the comments. There will not be a test, and your answers will not be graded.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 1

Never read it. Vaguely recall watching an adaptation but have forgotten nearly all of it. I know in general what happens and a few quotes. It's just 10 chapters, so let's find out what happens in detail!
Update: see all the spoilers below!

What I've read: Ch 1

Old Major is the lead pig and the chapter focuses on him. He gives a speech about overthrowing the tyranny of man in the future and ends with a song about that glorious day.

The chapter is riddled with named animals but it didn't confuse me. Rather, it helped establish the crowded and bustling atmosphere of the barn. All the descriptions were precise and deftly handled, I thought. For instance, that of the farmer Mr. Jones. He goes to bed drunk and starts shooting outside at any disturbance in the night. From the POV of the animals, he's a pathetic specimen, a man truly deserving of their scorn.

For that proverbial charismatic leader, Old Major sure had me convinced they ought to revolt. It will be interesting to watch how it goes from "all animals are equal" to "some are more equal than others."

The one thing that made me quirk an eyebrow was when Major used the word "atom". Where and how did he learn about that, living on a farm? Also, his speech was not nearly as dense and skim-worthy as that tangent about war in Orwell's 1984, but it did strike me as a feature of its time, something you might not get away with today in the very first chapter.

Have you read Animal Farm? Do you like it or hate it? What is your favorite part? Follow along. Spoilery discussion welcome.

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