Contemporary society should be affected by the reading of Animal Farm with its reminder of the dangers of socialism taken to an extreme, as well as the threat of totalitarianism.
George Orwell's Animal Farm is a satirical depiction of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Stalinist era, an era marked by a brutal dictatorship. In his allegorical tale, Orwell depicts how there is often a tremendous difference between an idea and how it works in reality.
Animal Farm is an allegorical history lesson. In the beginning of the allegory, Old Major is a benevolent character who wants to improve the lives of the animals and rid them of the cruel treatment by Farmer Jones, who represents the Russian aristocracy. The role of the pigs mirrors the pre-eminence of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union (USSR). Napoleon's rise to power reflects Josef Stalin's rise as dictator. Snowball represents Leon Trotsky, one of the major leaders in the Bolshevik revolution. Like Snowball, Trotsky was exiled because he opposed the powerful bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.
There are many other allegorical representations with the animals and Russian historical characters and features, all of which point to the theme of the corruption of power and how ideals can be destroyed in governments.
The lessons gleaned from reading Animal Farm are relevant today as many countries are socialist or lean toward socialism. There are problems with socialism, as can be seen in such things as some government programs and too much government regulation and control on businesses and the citizenry. When a government becomes so large that private citizens lose their voices in this government as happens in Animal Farm, dangers arise. When leaders are afforded too much power, as the dictatorial Napoleon exemplifies, the civil liberties of the individuals are in danger. In Animal Farm, the code set by Old Major is slowly eroded as Squealer provides the propaganda to keep the animals from knowing what really occurs.
In Chapter 10, the progression of the propaganda is exemplified in the animals who have been born after the Rebellion, as it has now become but a dim memory. For instance, Boxer is dead and the young horses now are
fine upstanding beasts, willing workers and good comrades, but very stupid. . . They accepted everything that they were told about. . . the principles of Animalism. . . but it was doubtful whether they understood very much of it.
Animal Farm is a cautionary tale of how citizenry can become misinformed and complacent with their government, although they should always be aware of what is going on and not tolerate misconduct or believe all that is dictated to them by the Squealers who put "spins" on information. They also should not allow the government to become too powerful. These lessons in Orwell's allegory are ones that touch upon many issues in contemporary societies of Europe, South America, and North America.