Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering Benjamin.

It suprises me, every day, how much of a genius George Orwell really was. Proof lies in his beautiful, and strangely poignant works, 1984, A Clergyman's Daughter and Animal Farm. Each work is so distinct and so skillfully written I cannot pick and choose a favourite.
Perhaps what strikes me most wonderfully about any of his work, whether a short story or a full fledged 'novel', is the sheer dystopia. Enough of the utopian world, I say. Let's face it, the world we live in is bleak, and there is no limit to how cynical we are forced to get. Then why the reluctance to admit the same?
But this is not about letting my derisive self take over. I write to reminiscence.
The first time I read Animal Farm was when I was a naive 13 year old, and fell so hard for Boxer that I cried when he died. It is only with a little embarrassment that I admit that I cry each time Boxer is taken away. It is so sad, he was just a poor old horse. Now though, my absolute favourite is Benjamin, the aged donkey.
Touted as grumpy and grouchy, Benjamin promised me he was sane, and had some sense in him. In an analogous comparison with the history of Communism, Benjamin is part of the Mensheviks and represents any faction that has not been swayed by the enchating false promises of Communists. Socialism/Communism starts off as a euphemism to all things fair, all things just and simultaneously, all things which you wanted.
And yet.
For those of you who are not familiar with the plot, I shall not divulge anything (If you do not mind me being impudent though, please rent a copy and read it). Benjamin, though he may appear to be misanthropic at first, is virtually unaffected by any effects of propaganda directed at the poor, unsuspecting animals, whether it comes via Napoleon (the pig) or via Squealer. All he ever says, at being asked why he doesn't support the Revolution, is: "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey." This one sentence that he oft repeats is actually deeply seated in symbolism. He is definitely more experienced, and by way of the cynicism, is trying to convey to the other animals that Communism/Capitalism/even Liberalism are all a farce. All that you have left is a hope for a better day, and all you get to pick is between the aforementioned sham.
And it is not that Benjamin isn't intelligent. He is as smart as, if not more, than the bourgeoisie pigs.He can read perfectly well, and yet chooses not to advise the animals when they are being sucked into the vortex of their own ignorance. Is that selfish? Or can that be construed as a benevolent gesture, making the animals learn on their own, freeing them from another imposed opinion? It gives me great joy to think that Orwell himself was not too sure.
Lest it be assumed that Benjamin was a heartless, anti-social (hah!) creature, I feel the restless need to intervene your line of thought. Benjamin is sensitive, and loves Boxer (which makes him even better, in my eyes!) and the matriarch, Clover. His reaction to Boxer being taken away has been seen by many critics as delayed, and removed. I could not disagree more. We know Benjamin is not impetous, or impulsive. We know by now that spontaneity doesn't govern him the way it did other animals (hence the ultimate tragedy they get into). When Benjamin paused, he was composing himself, for he knew Boxer was not coming back. It was actually simple logic. Boxer was the working class, the proletariat. And the bourgeoisie wanted a crate of beer in exchange for his tired limbs.
Yes, I am fawning over a donkey. But when he is so intelligent, is it really all that wrong of me to?


Harsh said...

I really like to read your posts. coz they r totally different from others and your vocabulary is just awesome. But i couldn't understand few words... TC :D

Stuti said...

Haha! Thank you. :D