George Orwell’s Animal Farm has been a staple of junior high literature classes for decades. Even though it was written over seventy years ago, this novel still has relevance today. The modern reader should find many similarities between characters in the book and the politicians and citizens they see in the contemporary news. The setting of the book is a bit dated and may seem rustic and foreign to younger readers, but it is not so different as to pose a difficulty in understanding the story.
The characters of Animal Farm, who, as the title suggests, are primarily animals, are used by Orwell to embody both noble and evil characteristics of humans. By using this device, he is able to point out ways in which we mistreat each other without pointing fingers of specific blame. This literary device was particularly useful when the book was first published, since it was written to address a very specific set of events in history. In fact, readers familiar with the events of world history in the early twentieth century should immediately recognize what events the story was written about, as the author made barely any effort to conceal his topic or who his characters represented.
Although this event is far in the past, and this is no longer a political commentary on a specific current event, modern readers can still look at it to see a reflection of the same political forces and to recognize and avoid the same pitfalls. In addition, the story is an enjoyable read even if it is simply viewed as a story about animals with a somewhat darker mood than most animal novels.
Violence/Gore: A few reports of animals slaughtered in various ways; a few reports of animals being whipped or beaten; animals are whipped; animals attack people; a couple of reports of report of cannibalism and torture among animals; characters die in a hunger strike; report of infanticide among animals; a few verbal threats; a few fights in which animals and humans are killed or wounded; scene where many animals have their throats town out by others; mention of poison; animals are killed by other animals with no details given; report of animals killed by humans; report of animals forced to fight for entertainment; a character is badly injured in a vehicle accident; a building explodes; a disturbing scene in which a character is taken away for execution.
Sex/Nudity: Report of animals “having their women in common”; reference to animals breeding.
Mature Subject Matter:
Animal cruelty; government corruption; poverty; class discrimination; book is very critical of the Communist political system.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Characters (humans and animals) drink alcohol; mention of smoking tobacco.