One of the things I like about George Orwell’s Animal Farm is…what’s that? I promised not to write about it anymore? I did, didn’t I? But I have to, for this morning the interwebs informed me that yesterday would have been Mr Orwell’s eleventy-first birthday. (The reason the interwebs only informed me of it this morning is because the pages I follow which inform me of titbits like this are mostly based in the US and as such are at their most active when I’m snug in bed, thus the belated tribute to ol’ Eric (what Orwell’s mother called him).)
His two best-known novels, Animal Farm and NineteenEighty-Four (the latter published only months before his death), both describe totalitarian societies where power is vested in a small minority who uses a combination of intimidation and propaganda to keep the masses in check.
Last week I wrote about how confusing things can get if we start trying to get around a mathematical symbol like “=”. One commenter specifically pointed out that whether we follow the illogic of the original problem (you know, as in 2-6) or whether we use the mathematically valid workaround of function notation, with a little creativity the answer can be absolutely anything.
The same applies to language.
Think about the word, “equal”. It’s one we enjoy throwing around these days. Equality is very much in vogue. Everyone is claiming equality to everyone else on whatever criteria they can come up with.
And that’s very well and good, except that it’s not true.
When one mentions George Orwell, most people immediately think of Nineteen Eighty-Four. But a few years earlier Orwell had written another little book, a novella titled Animal Farm. Nineteen Eighty-Fouris undoubtedly Orwell’s master work, with it’s terrifying depiction of a society where every citizen is watched so closely that even talking in your sleep can get you arrested and where the rulers are so confident in their power that they entertain themselves by allowing individuals the illusion of freedom and rebellion, only so that breaking them later is that much more devastating. It is a warning of where we can end up if we sit back and let those in power have too much.
But more significant in my eyes is Orwell’s little fairy tale, as he called it, for Animal Farm shows us just how easily society can reach that state. Animal Farm, for those of you who’ve never read it, is a fable about a bunch of farm animals who rebel against their human master, run him off the farm, and start working the land for themselves.
…and initially that was all I was going to say about that. I don’t want to sully this blog with local politics, which can really take anything good and utterly corrupt it (but I suppose that’s true of local politics everywhere, isn’t it?)
But last week there was a new development that piqued my interest. Someone said something that got me thinking about the meaning of words, and George Orwell, and the abuse of language to manipulate people. And my hammer started vibrating (and if you know anything about hammer-lore you’ll know that means it’s time to whack something).
I feel I have to state upfront that I wasn’t an English Lit-major. I just read a lot and love looking things up if I don’t know them. I love reading the classics – in eighth grade already I was reading Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle – but I’m not by any means a literary snob – in eighth grade I also read just about every Nancy Drew novel in existence at the time. So what follows is absolutely my opinion and may be completely wrong, so please don’t quote me in your senior thesis or anything like that. Continue reading “Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell revisited – Part II”→