“All Animals Are Equal”

Animal Farm and Warning Signs

Everybody loves 1984. Everybody quotes 1984. Everybody says we are living in 1984. Well, maybe not everybody but sweeping generalizations tend to get attention. There is one thing that most every reader may agree on, 1984 tends to overshadow another Orwell book that is in the same vein, Animal Farm.

Animal Farm is a fan favorite for many readers and it boasts a long list of positive critical reviews but it doesn’t get the attention 1984 does. I wonder if this is due to the novella’s length (many people equate long book with good book), its allegorical structure, or that it doesn’t seem as urgent or isn’t as dystopian as 1984? Maybe its that Animal Farm is a little too straight forward in its storytelling. Orwell is not to subtle in his use of foreshadowing throughout the novella. Animal Farm is loaded with warning signs (hell, the commandments should be written in bright yellows and reds). Readers know bad things are bound to happen and all we can do is go along for the ride.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

1984 may get a lot more glory but that shouldn’t keep you from checking out Animal Farm. If you are looking for something relatively short that will have you thinking long after the last page and is as relevant today as it was when it was published give this Orwell novella a read.

-K-

Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell

Orwell and the Unperson

The Importance of the Last Chapter of 1984

Considering unpersoned is the current topic of conversation I’m going to address the source, meaning, and an application of the word. The word unperson appears no fewer than five times in George Orwell’s 1984 and is one of those Orwellian words worth a closer look. It has a particular importance in the last chapter of the novel.

An unperson is a nonperson, a person who has no rights, and a person publicly ignored (especially by the government and media). In extreme cases an unperson is an individual Big Brother executes and erases all traces of his/her existence. Now, if you haven’t read 1984 you will want to stop now and hopefully come back after you finish the novel. If you have read the novel, think about Winston at the end of the novel as he whiles away the hours at the Chestnut Tree Café. Winston fits the definition of an unperson. Big Brother has effectively made Winston a nonperson who is entirely reliant on the very government that has destroyed his life. Winston is beholden to Big Brother for his menial government job of no importance, acknowledges that he betrayed Julia after being tortured, and simply moves from one day to the next lost in a drunken fog of Victory Gin. Winston Smith exists but is of no importance, save to possibly serve as a cautionary tale for those who may question the authority of Big Brother.

1984 by George Orwell

The last chapter of 1984 shows the reader the extent of Big Brother’s power. It would have been easy to execute Winston, to make him disappear, and wipe his existence from history. Instead, Big Brother breaks Winston Smith and makes him an unperson. This life of being a nonperson, of being ignored, of being canceled (to use a modern variation) is a much worse fate than death.

-K-

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

A Discovery, An Affair, An Act of Violence

Prohibitions in Walker Percy’s Lancelot

Another February is upon us with its assortment of candy hearts, chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals all in preparation for Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the topic of conversation about prohibition(s) but also taking a look at relationships I thought I’d write a few words about Walker Percy’s Lancelot.

This is not a romance novel (Hallmark fans be warned), but it is a love story (of sorts). The story is told through the perspective of the novel’s protagonist, Lancelot Andrewes Lamar. Lancelot recounts the events surrounding the accidental discovery that he is not the father of his youngest daughter and that his wife is currently having an affair. While recounting these events to an old friend Lancelot ultimately reveals an act of violence that lead to his current confinement to a mental institution.

Lancelot by Walker Percy

Lancelot addresses several cultural/societal prohibitions and one man’s reaction (and actions) regarding those prohibitions. The novel may be over four decades old but you’ll find much of what Percy has to say is still applicable today. It’s not your typical Valentine’s Day read, but it is a realistic look at relationships.

-K-

Lancelot (1977) by Walker Percy.

The Great Gatsby and Prohibitions

There is More Than One Kind of Prohibition

Many of us have encountered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in one form or another, be it reading the novel or seeing one of the movies. I got to thinking about Gatsby when I was brainstorming ideas for the topic of Prohibition, and I found that are more prohibitions presented in the novel than the one covered in the Eighteenth Amendment. Here are some prohibitions I found while reviewing the novel.

Alcohol: This is the one most of us probably remember from reading the novel in high school. Prohibition (with a capital ‘P’) was a Constitutional Amendment, making it the law of the land. The novel shows us how easy it is for the government to make everyday citizens criminals by prohibiting something most people have no issues with.

Gambling: There is a brief mention of gambling in the novel related to fixing the 1919 World Series. The lesson is sports and gambling can be rigged, but the average Joe (or Jane) is prohibited from knowing the fix is in.

Making Money: The Great Gatsby shows us everybody is allowed to make money, but new money is prohibited from mixing with old money.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friendships: Gatsby and Nick may be the only authentic friendship of the novel. Fitzgerald shows us most friendships are superficial at best, and friendships between classes are an illusion and are ultimately prohibited.

Affairs: Affairs can be tolerated if they are kept quiet. Affairs are prohibited if emotions are involved and/or they can damage social status.

Social Class: The most important prohibition The Great Gatsby teaches us is that not matter what you do, how much money you have, or how hard you work you are prohibited from moving up in social class. You can pretend, you can posture, you can even change your life but you will never be accepted by those of a higher social class.

The Great Gatsby works on several levels, one is as an observation of prohibitions (those things we can’t and shouldn’t do). Now that the novel is public domain it’s easy to get yourself a free or really inexpensive ($1.99 Barnes and Noble Nook) copy. Whether you have read or are new to the novel its well worth the read.

-K-

The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  

A Black Cat, ButtonEyes

and a Locked Door

A locked door is a mystery, and many readers love a good mystery. If you are one of those readers then Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is worth a read. Don’t let the fact that Coraline falls into the YAL genre dissuade you from giving it a read. It may not have the intensity of Clive Barker or detail of H. P. Lovecraft but Gaiman’s novel is a well written piece of supernatural fiction with a handful of awards (once you read the novel you’ll get why I used ‘handful’).

Gaiman’s novel follows the fairy tale tradition of foreboding and magical places, but we all know the foreboding is often mysterious and inviting. Coraline passes through a magical door into world that is just like her own, only a little bit better. The danger of blindly wanting and/or chasing after something that is better than what you already have simply because it is better can be viewed as one of the novel’s themes (if you want to get critical and such). While in the alternate world Coraline must confront a witch who has buttons for eyes. Her primary tools in this battle are bravery, wits and the assistance of a black cat (read my criticism of Gaiman’s “The Price” if you like cat stories). The novel’s well developed protagonist and engaging plot will keep you turning the pages, and Gaiman’s ability to turn a phrase will have you rereading them.

Coraline Book Cover v2
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline has all the aspects of a well developed supernatural story with a touch of mystery. The novel addresses the possible dangers of desiring something simply because it is just a little bit better than what you have. Gaiman also show us that even though you may pass through a doorway that does not mean you cannot come back.

-K-

Coraline (2002) by Neil Gaiman.

An Author’s Gambler

Alexi Ivanovich and the Mind of a Gambler

A good number of stories that are centered on gambling tend to either glamorize or demonize. The protagonist is often portrayed as an individual we should either envy or pity. One exception to these extremes is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Gambler. Dostoevsky’s protagonist is a gambler we neither aspire to be or view as a cautionary tale we should avoid.

The Gambller Book Cover
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Alexi Ivanovich, the narrator and protagonist, is at times admirable and other times pitiful. You may find yourself sympathizing with Alexi at the end of one chapter and then infuriated with him by the middle of the next chapter. In short, Alexi is a flawed man. If one wanted to get all literary one could make a case that Alexi Ivanovich is an antihero of sorts (I’m not one of those literary types, at least not before another bourbon or two). Dostoevsky develops a relatable character who shows us the inner thoughts, motivations, and fears of a gambler without pandering or preaching to the reader.

There are many stories that present gambling as alluring and profitable. There are also many stories that present gambling as bewitching and detrimental. Few gambling stories present the reader with the inner working of the gambler’s mind. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Gambler provides insight into the mind of a gambler and how gambling impacts all aspects of his life. 

-K-

The Gambler (1964/1866) by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Desire, Jealousy, Love

and The End of Things

What is your relationship success rate? If you’ve experienced the end of a relationship (one that wasn’t ended by you), then Suicide Blonde and The End of the Affair may cover some familiar ground. If you’ve never been in a relationship that ended poorly, then these books can give you insight into the lives of the rest of us. The narrators of these books offer views of the end of their relationships (don’t consider that a spoiler if you haven’t paid attention to the titles of the books).

The End of the Affair
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

These books, written 40 years apart, address desire, jealousy, love, and how all three overlap in a relationship. From the first to the last sentences (the first and last sentences of both books are quite memorable) we are privy to the relationship woes of Jesse from Suicide Blonde and Bendrix from The End of the Affair. Darcy Steinke and Graham Greene draw us in with believable characters we may not like at times but can definitely empathize with.

Suicide Blonde
Suicide Blonde by Darcey Steinke

Not every relationship has a happy ending. Suicide Blonde and The End of the Affair are stories of two not so happy endings. Steinke and Greene show us some relationships are tragic, but tragedy is part of life, as are relationships.

-K-

The End of the Affair (1951) by Graham Greene

Suicide Blonde (1992) by Darcey Steinke

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑