George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a significant and renowned piece of literature subject to both celebration and censorship. This book satirizes our society and exposes the grave consequences of power when placed in the wrong hands. The story is set on a farm with animals who, led by the revolutionary pig Napoleon, revolt against their farmer to create a society where everyone will be equal. The novel has been banned in many countries, and its relevance and impact can still be felt today. Animal Farm was first banned in 1943 by the Soviet Union due to its criticism of Soviet Russia. It was also challenged in the United States in various high schools, libraries, and universities due to the novel’s anti-totalitarian themes and elements of communism.
What is censorship? How does the idea of censorship connect to the subject of banning/challenging books?
For starters, censorship is the suppression of information or ideas from the public that the governing body deems dangerous, offensive, or political (American Civil Liberties Union, 2019). Censorship is an inevitable consequence of the banning and challenging books, as the writers and readers are subjected to a form of control. In the case of Animal Farm, an example of censorship can be seen in its suppression by the USSR over its reference to the Bolshevik Revolution, its subsequent insinuation of a comparison to the injustice of Stalin’s regime, and the ultimate truth of the narrative – the animals’ initial dreams of a utopian society eventually replaced with a more repressive regime.
Why has your novel been banned? Provide at least three examples from the book and an in-depth analysis of these examples.
In Animal Farm, Orwell offers three examples of why his novel has been challenged and banned. First, the novel tells the story of animals on a farm rising against the humans who oppress them in an allegory for Stalin and Soviet Russia. It also addresses oppression in England. For instance, “No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old. No animal in England is free. The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth” (Orwell, 2022). This was seen as offensive and critical of the Soviet Union and communism and sparked censorship.
Second, its characters draw parallels to Soviet leaders. For instance, the pig refers to Napoleon in the statement, “But the pigs were so clever that they could think of a way round every difficulty. The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others” (Orwell, 2022). Napoleon stands in for Stalin (Abbas et al., 2018). These direct references to Soviet leadership were seen as inflammatory, and the novel was often banned due to its controversial nature. Finally, the novel is critical of totalitarianism and oppressive governments. Its ending, in particular, which references how Stalin renamed the phases of the Soviet Union to fit his vision for the country, is seen as heavily critical and was not well received by the Soviet Union.
Consider the themes and ideas the author was trying to convey and why people found the content objectionable.
One of the main themes in Animal Farm is the betrayal of democratic principles, as the leaders of the farm turn against the original revolutionaries. This theme was often seen as offensive and questionable, as the book tended to ascribe similar traits to figures that were icons in other countries. The Soviet Union and its allies viewed this as an attack on their national pride, so Animal Farm was banned in multiple countries.
Another theme in Animal Farm that drew criticism was its criticism of Stalinism and the Soviet Union. This was seen as communist propaganda by governments in the western bloc, and as a result, some school boards in the United States banned it from libraries. Others argued that the book went too far in its criticism of the Soviet Union and was not a suitable material to be taught in a public school. Lastly, Animal Farm was also seen to contain anti-religion themes and messages, which made it unpopular among some religious groups. This anti-religious sentiment theme was seen as too radical at the time, particularly in countries with predominant religious affiliations. As a result, the book was often seen as having objectionable content and was subsequently banned in many countries.
How is/was the book defended by the author and other readers?
In light of the subject matter, Orwell stood by his story, as seen in his response to being banned in the United States: “I am convinced that book [Animal Farm] would do more good if it were allowed circulation. On the other hand, if people are not allowed to read it, they will not read any other books either.” Orwell himself and other readers have defended Animal Farm, stating that the book is not about communism but rather about tyranny in general. In addition to literary experts, many citizens have come to the novel’s defense. In the 2002 challenge, the student’s family launched a campaign to remove the book from the school curriculum. Other supporters of Animal Farm claim that it is an essential piece of literature that provides a critique of the abuse of power, the immorality of totalitarianism, and a warning of what can happen if we forget the lessons of the past (CMU Libraries, 2021).
Do you think the novel should be banned or challenged? Why or why not?
In my opinion, Animal Farm should not be banned or challenged. The novel may contain ideas or themes that are seen as controversial, but it ultimately serves as a moral warning against oppressive governments. Banned and challenged books are often essential sources of knowledge and information, and this is particularly true in the case of Animal Farm. It provides a vivid experience of what oppressive governments and totalitarianism feel like, which serves as an important reminder and a moral lesson. Furthermore, the context of its challenge must be considered – banning books in high school curriculums, public libraries, and universities restricts access to knowledge and limits students’ education.
In conclusion, while Animal Farm may contain unsettling themes, it is also a powerful work of art that encapsulates the urgency of understanding and tackling the trials of political oppression. By allowing it to remain on library shelves and in the school curriculum, readers can grapple with the text as intended. Censorship of Animal Farm – or any literature – should not be an option.
Abbas, A., Park, J., & Sun, S. (2018, April 27). Animal Farm. The Censorship Files; The Censorship Files. https://thecensorshipfiles.wordpress.com/volume-1/issue-2/animal-farm/
CMU Libraries. (2021). Banned Books Week 2021: Animal Farm. Www.library.cmu.edu. https://www.library.cmu.edu/about/news/2021-09/banned-books-week-2021-animal-farm
Orwell, G. (2021). Animal Farm. Pan Macmillan.
American Civil Liberties Union. (2019). What Is Censorship? American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org/other/what-censorship