Animal Farm is a classic book we usually read in high school. When we read it in high school, however, we don´t deeply understand it. We do get the main metaphors: the dictatorship, the people´s mentality and all else. But we don´t fully grasp the reality the book describes and the more subtle metaphors.
I just came back from Russia and got to see all the monuments and buildings of the Soviet Era. I also talked to the people in order to get their feelings and opinions about those times. Everyone shared a bit: students, taxi drivers… And I gotta tell you, everything that happened is exactly as described in the book. All the events are in perfect accordance to Animal Farm. It´s so similar it gets scary. Orwell is able to cut the chase and tell a tale in very simple terms, with such amazing clarity and objectivity, that you get to see the foolishness of it all. Then, after reading the last page, when you stop to think about what you just read, you figure that the pigs´ story is actually real history, you just can´t believe it. That´s the greatness of the book.
Lenin and Stalin are clearly depicted in the book in the form of pigs, so are all the monuments they built, to remember the fallen or revere the living. In Animal Farm, all types of animals are thoroughly described: those that blindly follow the words of their masters, those that work hard believing they will achieve some sort of utopia, the more skeptical ones, and even the few that realize what´s going on and decide to flee for safety. Just like real people, in a real regime.
There, though, is one main point I want to emphasize: the forgetfulness of the masses. Things happen because people forget the past. If men remembered the suffering and blood of war, few wars would be waged, because some are just inevitable. In Animal Farm, specifically, the animals are forced to believe that year after year they are living better, are more independent and are more democratic. What actually happens is the opposite. But how can they think otherwise if the past is so blurry that it´s not a point of reference anymore. The horse works harder every day and thus believes he is producing more. And guess what? The horse is producing less everyday, because high ranking animals steal from him, only he doesn´t know it, because he forgot how much he used to produce in the first place. It´s just amazing the similarity with humans.
Even in real life, when people who lived through totalitarian regimes actually realize how it all began, or how it when on for so long, it´s hard to acknowledge the fact. Until today, the word communism is not freely spoken within the Russian population, they rather say “The Soviet Era”. Stalin is not compared to famous dictators and butchers of the world, he is rather described as a complex man, both good and bad: a great leader with a dark side. During his time, corruption among politicians were standard practice, kidnapping and assassinations happened every Tuesday, the cold war was the status quo, and 25 million people died during the Second World War (aka Great Patriotic War). But all that is partially shadowed, for Stalin was the successor of the visionary and legendary Lenin. Stalin also built statues and colossal buildings in the name of the soldiers and the workers, and above all, he won the Great Patriotic War. A complex person in a complex time, isn´t it? Not really, it´s actually pretty simple, and Animal Farm will explain it to you.