By George Orwell
Reading Level: 9th grade
Interest Level: 9th-12th grade
Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novella (1946), Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (2011)
Teaser: The farm animals are looking for paradise, but whose in charge and what are their motives?
Summary: All the animals at Manor Farms gather in the barn one evening to listen to Major, an old pig whose had a dream of revolution. He talks of all animals being free from the control of humans. Not soon after his speech, Major dies. But his ideas have already spread through the farm and two pigs step forward to organize a rebellion against the Farmer Jones. The two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, manage to kick Jones off his own farm. The animals revel in their success and continue to work the farm for their own food and resources. Eventually, the pigs start taking over. Napoleon begins taking advantage of the system and steals food and other resources from the barn. He writes seven commandments that all the animals have to follow. By the end of the story, all of the original animals are dead or dying except for the pigs who sacrificed all of the other animals to make deals with neighboring farmers.
Information about the Author: According to Wikipedia “Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism. Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism. He is perhaps best known for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945). His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, are widely acclaimed, as are his essays on politics, literature, language, and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.’ Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian—descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices—has entered the language together with many of his neologisms, including cold war, Big Brother, thought police, Room 101, memory hole, newspeak, doublethink, andthoughtcrime.”
Critical Evaluation: I already knew that Animal Farm was an allegory for communism and totalitarianism when I read the book. I did not think that I would like the book as much as I did. The progression of the dictator pigs was a frustrating part to read because there is not a specific protagonist that is counteracting their influence. I also thought that Jones was an underdeveloped character. I thought he could do so much more with him than he did. Despite these misgivings about the book, I still think that Animal Farm should still be considered a classic.
Curriculum Ties: Politics, Communism, Russian History, World History, 20th Century History
Booktalk Ideas: Discuss why Orwell decided to have the leaders be the pigs.
Challenge Issues: (Anti-)Communism
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because it is a classic fantasy book that had a huge impact on the science fiction and fantasy genres. George Orwell is one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. I think that it’s important for teens to know about the classics.
Orwell, G. (1945). Animal Farm. London: Secker and Warburg.