All Are Equal: The History Behind George Orwell’s Controversial Novel, Animal Farm–by Hannah Huckins

Eric Blair, or more commonly known by his pen name George Orwell, originally thought his book Animal Farm: A Fairy Story would not get published because he thought the plot was too bland (Pearce 47). He referred to the story as “a little squib,” something that would peter out and die after making a small pop (Pearce 47). The real reason why Animal Farm was turned away by multiple publishers, like Gollancz and Faber & Faber, was the timing. T.S. Eliot who was the director of Faber & Faber at the time turned the novella down because he wanted to avoid a political book that criticized the Soviet Union saying it was, “criticizing Russian tendencies from the point of view of a purer communism” (Pearce 50). He said that Orwell’s perspective from which he was writing was, “generally Trotskyite, and not convincing” (Pearce 50) because many of the characters in Animal Farm were based off of real figures like Stalin who was portrayed by Napoleon the pig, and Trotsky who was portrayed by the pig Snowball. Orwell himself said that “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism…Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole” (Pearce 50).

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During World War II Soviet Russia was one of Britain’s allies against the Germans and nobody wanted to publish a book that would anger them, especially after Russia had lost so many people in the war. Orwell finished the manuscript to Animal Farm and 1943 but it wasn’t published until August 1945 by Secker & Warburg. Frederic Warburg published the book and sold out with 4,500 copies in just a few days, despite his wife threatening to leave him if he did publish it (Pearce 47). Nine million copies were sold by 1973 and Warburg gained popularity from his connection to Animal Farm (Pearce 47). The fact that the audience knew the book would be controversial only made them want to read it more.

Some book reviews said the book was written poorly and that was why it didn’t deserve to get published and that its bad reception was not necessarily due to its focus on totalitarian regimes. For example, an article published in 1946 written by George Soule said that “The thoughtful reader must be further disturbed by the lack of clarity in the main intention of the author” (Soule 3). But other people said that Orwell’s writing gave the book more authenticity with his knowledge of animals and farm life and understood his allegories.

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Even after WWII and the book’s obvious success there has still been some opposition to it in the classroom. In 1963-68 in Wisconsin the book was challenged because it of phrases in it like, “masses will revolt” (American Library Association). More schools at that time in New York did not want to teach a book that they thought was written by a communist. Today Animal Farm is still banned in Cuba, Kenya, and the United Arab Emirates (American Library Association). Only a censored version is read in China and the book was banned in Russia from 1945 until the 1980’s (American Library Association).

This project was created by Hannah Huckins for a class at PSU that examines literary taboos.
Works Cited
“Banned And/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.” American Library Association. American Library Association, 2016.   Web. 23 Sept. 2016.       <http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/reasons&gt;.
Pearce, Robert. “Animal Farm: Sixty Years On.” History Today [London] Aug. 2005: 47- 53. ProQuest   Research Library. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
Soule, George. “In 1946, The New Republic Panned George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.” New Republic. Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.