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Orwell And 'Animal Farm' Live On In Student Reviews

May 12, 1996

Regarding "Orwell Still Speaks" (April 7): For a George Orwell fan, what better Easter treat could have been given than the remarkable review of Ralph Steadman's new illustrated "Animal Farm"?

Thanks to The Times and those incredibly bright students from Markham Middle School, led by teacher Yvonne Divans-Hutchinson. Who says there's no hope for the schools and that students can't read? They were reading one of the masters of English prose, let alone a political philosopher. Keep the Aspidistra Flying!

MARY MEYER, PASADENA

****

I read with interest the student reviews of "Animal Farm."

I first read "Animal Farm" at the age of 11, when my mother bought it through the Book of the Month Club back in the late 1940s. Naturally, I thought it was about animals.

When I finished it, my mother asked me what I thought of it. I told her that I liked it, and she responded, "Well, you know, it's not really about animals."

"Yes, it is!" I objected, quite vehemently. She just smiled and said nothing more. I thought about that for several days afterward. Well, if it wasn't about animals, what was it about? Suddenly, it dawned on me that the only other thing it could be about was . . . people!

It was the first time I had ever encountered something in my reading that wasn't what it seemed, a "metaphor" as one of your reviewers called it. And this was the beginning of my growth from a child to a thinking adult. Later, I told my sixth-grade teacher that I had read it. She gaped at me, "Did you like it?" "Yes, but of course it's not really about animals, you know!" I announced smugly. I had the pleasure of provoking a stunned silence in, not just an adult, but a teacher! I've never forgotten the episode.

SHERYL BUSTERNO, VICTORVILLE

****

I was very impressed with the students' comments upon reading "Animal Farm" until I got to Mevelyn Santiago and learned, much to my surprise, it was Martin Luther King who said "all men are created equal" and not Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

But then, I've been out of school a long time. I could be wrong.

JEAN LEWIS, LOS ANGELES

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