In this classic novel, many lessons can be learned about the nature of totalitarianism, which is present at both the beginning and the conclusion of the novel. At first, a group of animals dream of scaring away their authoritative master, Mr. Jones, in hopes of abolishing totalitarianism in favor of democracy. Once Jones is gone and a de facto revolution is underway, however, an innate lust for power puts the pigs in charge of the new government. After that, it was only a matter of time before a pig named Napoleon climbed to the top of the hierarchy and unofficially established himself as the new dictator of Animal Farm. This rise to power reinstated totalitarianism on the farm, and several characteristics of this type of government became apparent. Many citizens in a totalitarian government unwittingly aid the dictator by pledging allegiance while walking around with blinders on. For example, Boxer's pithy maxims, "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right," add fodder to the cannons that Napoleon thoughtlessly fires back at the animals.
For those who will not give their careless assent as Boxer the horse did, the totalitarian regime is always eager to spew propaganda left and right. Squealer, Napoleon's spin doctor, successfully convinces many animals that their memories had failed them as he twists the facts in Napoleon's favor. There are a few intelligent others, though, that will not be completely convinced by propaganda. Animals like Benjamin the donkey and Clover the horse are not fully trusting of Squealer's truthfulness, but Napoleon's vicious guard dogs scare away any thought of dissension from the animals. By censoring their speech with the eradication of all discussion and altering their thoughts with force-fed propaganda, Napoleon has complete control over the animals' lives.
Besides being a wonderful piece of literature, this novel is also a brilliant political satire that will teach lessons about how power corrupts and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Orwell wrote the novel as a parallel to the Russian Revolution, so it also reinforces a history lesson. Most importantly, though, Orwell teaches that political awareness and action by the populace are vital to the success of any democracy -- the leading cause of oppression is apathy. Even if you don't read it in high school, it is a worthwhile experience to read "Animal Farm." In decades past and for years to come, this novel has been and will continue to be used as a primer for studying political thought. If nothing else, it is certain to make you a more alert, conscientious citizen