In 1949 George Orwell presented to the world Nineteen Eighty-Four , a book that would impact the way we perceive our own government and the manipulation through different controlling processes over its citizenry. However, four years earlier his book Animal Farm would give us a preview of not only Nineteen Eighty-Four , but also a glimpse of the Russian Revolution and resulting in the creating of the Soviet Union- one of the most powerful totalitarian governments of the 20th century.
I was in Italy a few weeks ago on a train from Cinque Terra to Venice when I decided to reminisce my middle school readings. The first on the list was Orwell’s Animal Farm . This 112 page book was perfect- the book is short with big fonts, which I am a fan of! What made me more excited, however, was Orwell’s ability to capture what occurred in Russia with the rise of Stalin (this would be Napoleon the Berkshire boar) and the ousting of Trotsky (who was one of the original leaders of the Russian October Revolution and in the book portrayed by Snowball, another Berkshire boar).
Upon my return to the US of A a few weeks ago, I decided to indulge myself into the meaning of what I had read in Animal Farm . So like any other person who is a product of the Web 2.0 revolution, I did a simple Google search where then I selected Wikipedia and came across John Reed (although some symbolism, but no not the 1900′s journalist who was known for his first hand account of the October Revolution in Ten Days that Shook the World ) who a few weeks after 9/11 wrote Snowball’s Chance . This was a revisionist retelling of Orwell’s Animal Farm .
As the title implies, this allegorical story describes what happens once all the Berkshire boars begin to die and Snowball returns to the Manor Farm (if you remeber after Napoleon in Animal Farm had the revolution, they changed the name of the farm from Manor Farm to Animal Farm then finally back to Manor Farm). Until then Snowball had only been a myth- Animal Hero, First Class, of the Battle of Cowshed. Interesting enough Snowball enters the farm walking straight on two hoofs along with Thomas, a goat who had conferred the degrees of Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, and Engineer (sounds like a Berkeley student).
Snowball immediately assumes power, but he plays more of the back scene guy while Minimus (and eventually Pinkeye) play the head of the farm. Much similar to the way Dick Cheney is to Bush. In this satire, Snowball builds a corporate society that allows every animal to seek the highest standard of living by working hard. Instead of one windmill, two windmills (the Twin Mills) are built next to each other to represent the new growth and success of Animal Farm. As cash began to be limited, credit was instituted and franchises such as Duncan Dognuts were established.
What Reed does well is describing the rise of terrorism as seen through Snowball’s relationship with the Diso and the beavers of the Woodland. Snowball begins to train the beavers how to defend themselves from traps that were set up the other farms. Since the beavers would build dams and prevent water flow from the farms, the beavers were beginning to die from the dams being blown up or from beaver traps.The beavers at the same time represented a more religious group of individuals, and they were told stories of how Animal Farm was this secular society that rejected the preachings of Moses, the Raven that would talk about Sugarcandy Mountain.
What makes the novel is how Reed was able to translate this book to make today’s society able to relate the issues faced on the Animal Farm. In the book the beavers represent the Muslims that were trained and supplied with American weapons during the Cold War. Eventually the Americans forgot about the situation in Afghanistan (instead of helping to rebuild) and what eventually resulted was a breeding ground for people like Osama Bin Laden (in the book portrayed as Diso, the head beaver who saw Snowball as weak with overextended pursuits). At one point Diso alludes to the 1600 virgin saplings which awaited believers- especially those who died for the right reasons. This concept is from the martydome of the terrorists who are told that they will be rewarded in the afterlife (even though suicide is forbidden in the Qur’an).
Okay… well I am not going through go through the entire book, because that is for you all to go read. However, John Reed is a clever writer and does a unique job in writing this satire of what would happen if Snowball returned to the farm in a post 9/11 society. What I enjoyed most was the ability for Reed to continue where Orwell left off and how much we sometimes we do act like "animals".
| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |