Animal Farm

Animal Farm (1954) dir. John Halas, Joy Batchelor

“And after all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm — in fact, there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (some might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.” – T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot, then working for Faber & Faber, sent George Orwell a rejection letter for his manuscript, calling it “generally Trotskyite.”  He had a point.  Another publisher passed on Animal Farm after a Soviet spy working as a British Minister of Information suggested against it.

The Orwellian treatment of Orwell continued with the 1954 film version of Animal Farm.  The CIA, seeking forms of anti-communist art, funded the British film.  It’s not entirely clear if it was responsible for the new ending.  While the novel concludes with the realization that the pigs have turned into the humans, the film takes it a step farther and brings about a new revolution.

 Animal Farm

However, this changes surprisingly little of Orwell’s ideas.  Unlike the previous two entries in this dystopia series, Animal Farm doesn’t conclude with a utopia.  We aren’t given any idea of what the post-pig Animal Farm might be like; the narration hints at a pessimistic view –

“The animals realized that their world – which may or may not someday become a happy place to live in – was worse than ever for ordinary creatures.”

The Benjaminian Revolution isn’t like the Snowballian one – its not about Old Major’s vision, but a practical reaction to the animals’ plight.  Whether we end up with liberal democracy or Vladimir Putin is left to the viewer’s imagination.

Eliot’s critique brings up a lot of interesting ideas.  Without pig intelligence, does the farm run fallow and the animals starve to death?  Could the sequel be written by Ayn Rand?

Animal Farm, in my opinion, exhibits the same strengths and weaknesses as 1984.  Orwell’s pessimism in utopias is clear, and he demonstrates how they are impossible in a world filled with basic human greed.  However, his worlds are always secretly controlled by non-believers.  Humanity’s limitation isn’t one of intellect or moral reasoning, but only one of resolve.

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