[Marxism] What's a good novel for 13-14 year olds?

Paul Flewers trusscott.foundation at blueyonder.co.uk
Fri Aug 17 06:01:17 MDT 2012


I agree with list members who are wary about Orwell's _Animal Farm_ as
a suitable novel for youngsters.

I too did the book at school, and it was presented, just like
_Nineteen Eighty-Four_, as a straightforward anti-communist work; that
_Animal Farm_ described what happened in the Soviet Union and why it
happened. It wasn't until many years later, after having becoming a
socialist, that I found out a bit more about Orwell and his novels,
and discovered why they were commandeered by the right to argue
against socialism.

One of the major problems with _Animal Farm_, and one that is most
useful to the right, is that it presents the rise of an elite -- in
his case, the pigs -- as an inevitable and ineluctable process
following a revolution. Of course, using different species of animals
to show people at different levels of political consciousness, and the
consequences of that in a post-revolutionary society, doesn't help;
after all, a cat can't become a dog, a cow a pig, and so on, but this
stylistic aspect only goes to reinforce the fact that Orwell was
unable to explain the rise of an elite in other than banal terms. To
paraphrase a saying of Winston Smith in Orwell's later novel, Orwell
knew how but he couldn't explain why.

Orwell complained after the publication of _Animal Farm_ that his
novel was being used for anti-socialist purposes. He did the same
after the publication of _Nineteen Eighty-Four_. But this misuse was
not accidental; Orwell's own political weaknesses allowed this to
happen.

If anything, Orwell's last two novels could be used as a prime example
of where an author's intentions are undermined by his weaknesses. But
that, I suspect, would be a topic for sixth-formers or university
students, not 13 or 14 year-olds.

Some years back I wrote an essay on Orwell that outlined his political
weaknesses and how his books could be easily hijacked by the right.
Anyone wanting a PDF of it can contact me off-list.

Paul F




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