Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

Animal Farm was George Orwell’s first book to achieve financial success and has been one of his most critically acclaimed books, having been called his finest work, a masterpiece, and a classic. Although it has occasionally been criticized for the predictability of its satire and its ideological muddle, there is...

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Animal Farm was George Orwell’s first book to achieve financial success and has been one of his most critically acclaimed books, having been called his finest work, a masterpiece, and a classic. Although it has occasionally been criticized for the predictability of its satire and its ideological muddle, there is little doubt that it is the best-known and most widely read allegory in twentieth century literature.

As a beast fable, it takes its place in a long line of such works, beginning with the fables of Aesop and continuing up to such modern fables as Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972). As a bitter satire on the human race, it is in the tradition of Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain. Its anti-utopian message anticipates the even more bleak and barren social landscape painted by Orwell in his subsequent fantasy of future society, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Because of the classic simplicity of its structure, the genius of its conception, and the centrality in the twentieth century of its political theme, Animal Farm is destined to remain a minor classic of its genre. It speaks both to the human aspiration for perfectibility and freedom and to human despair at the inherent limitations of life.

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