Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
Farm is a novel that mocks Stalinist Communism
and other despotic systems
of government. The book contains characteristics of
the following genres:
which ridicules injustice, stupidity, tyranny,
depravity, and/or other
tale, which casts animals in human roles.
which ascribes secondary or symbolic meanings to
characters, events, objects,
London firm of Secker & Warburg published the
novel as Animal Farm:
a Fairy Story on August 17, 1945. The New York
firm of Harcourt, Brace
and Company published the first American edition of
the novel (but without
the subtitle, a Fairy Story) on August 26,
action takes place on an English farm on the
outskirts of the fictional
town of Willingdon. At the beginning of the novel,
the farm resembles an
oppressed human society. The animals then rebel
against its owner and form
their own communal society. However, a power-hungry
pig, Napoleon, seizes
control and operates the farm like a Communist
Major: Dying pig
who inspires animals on a farm to plot a rebellion
against the cruel owner
of the farm.
Jones: The owner
of the farm. The animals overthrow him and take over
of Mr. Jones.
power-hungry pig. After the animals overthrow Jones
and establish their
own society and their own form of government, called
eventually seizes control of the farm and abolishes
the animals' idealistic
rules of government.
pig who helps establish animalism and becomes
Napoleon's rival for power.
Napoleon's attack dogs drive him out of Animal Farm.
clever propagandist. He becomes so fat living off
the plenty produced by
the hard-working animals that he can hardly see out
of his eyes.
who writes propagandistic poems and songs for
Napoleon. He composes two
versions of national anthems for Animal Farm after
the pigs reject a rallying
song written by Old Major.
Pilkington: Owners of the neighboring farms.
They worry that the rebellion
at Animal Farm will inspire animals on their farms
to rebel. The
narrator says they had "given out that the animals
[at Animal Farm] practised
cannibalism, tortured one another with red-hot
horseshoes, and had their
females in common. This was what came of rebelling
against the laws of
Nature." Frederick attacks Animal farm with armed
men but is repulsed.
Pilkington later becomes friendly with Napoleon and
the other pigs.
cart horse of advanced age who becomes ill with a
looks after Boxer, as well as other animals.
donkey who is a cynic. He is a survivor who believes
life will go on no
matter who controls the farm. Benjamin comforts
Boxer during his illness.
sent out to inform animals at other farms of the
rebellion at Animal Farm.
that whistle the tune of "Beasts of England," the
rallying song of Animal
Farm, on other farms.
mare who enjoyed the attentions of human beings and
leaves the farm. She
became a cart horse for a man whom the pigeons saw
"stroking her nose and
feeding her with sugar."
Intelligent old goat capable of reading. When she
learns that the pigs
are changing the rules of government, she informs
tastes food prepared for Napoleon. If Pinkeye
becomes ill or dies, Napoleon
will know that an enemy has poisoned the food.
that visits Animal Farm and tells its inhabitants
about a place called
Sugarcandy Mountain, where animals that have led a
good and productive
life will go after they die.
whom Napoleon hires to maintain relations with
humans and to obtain products
the farm needs. Whymper also provides alcoholic
beverages for Napoleon
and other pigs.
Dogs that together give birth to nine puppies.
Napoleon takes the puppies
from them, saying he intends to educate them.
dog. He is the father of the puppies.
fierce dogs that act as Napoleon's private bodyguard
and police force.
They were the puppies of Bluebell and Jessie.
Napoleon had reared them
in secret, training them to do his bidding.
the pig government forces to commit suicide by
eating nightshade berries.
manipulated by Napoleon to support his policies.
always disappears when there is work to be done but
reappears at mealtime.
them to lay eggs and give them up. The hens resist.
But after Napoleon
denies them corn rations, they yield. Napoleon sells
the eggs through Mr.
Whymper for the means to purchase grain and meal.
roosters that awaken hard-working Boxer in the
morning. In effect, they
act as alarm clocks. Napoleon uses a cockerel to
march in front of him
and act "as a kind of trumpeter" to alert the
animals that Napoleon is
about to speak.
of Mr. Jones.
Men: More than
a dozen men, half of whom have guns, who attack
Animal Farm with Mr. Frederick.
Horse slaughterer and glue boiler to whom Napoleon
Horses: Two horses
that pull the van carrying Boxer to the glue
Ducks, Rats, Rabbits,
to the Story
Farm can be read on three different levels. On
its first level, it
is an entertaining story about farm animals ruled
first by cruel human
overseers and later by ruthless animal overseers.
Very young children can
understand and enjoy the story at this level. On its
second level, it is
an allegory representing the Communist takeover of
Russia in 1917 and the
subsequent perversion of the idealistic goals of the
its third level, Animal Farm is a satire
ridiculing any movement—and
persons in that movement—that
because of the corrupting lure of power. On the
second and third levels,
the novel develops the thesis of British historian
and philosopher Lord
John Emerich Acton (1834-1902), who observed, “Power
tends to corrupt,
and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Michael J. Cummings...©
Manor Farm in England, Farmer Jones swills whiskey and
abuses his animals—including
chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, horses, and dogs. One
Major, a wise pig who is dying, sows the seeds of
revolution. He tells
his barnyard comrades that they can enjoy peace and
prosperity, every animal
sharing equally in the benefits of the farm, if they
overthrow Jones and
run the farm themselves. The old pig even teaches them
a rallying song:
England, beasts of Ireland,
later, after Old Major dies, the animals plot the
rebellion, led by the
most intelligent among them, the pigs—in particular,
Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer. The government
system they design is
called “animalism.” While the planning continues,
Farmer Jones goes on
a drunken binge and neglects to feed the animals. On
the second day of
his drinking bout, they break into the feed stores and
attack and drive
off Jones, his wife, and his workers. At the entrance
of the farm, they
put up a new sign. In bold letters, it says "Animal
of every land and clime,
to my joyful tidings
the golden future time.
or late the day is coming,
Man shall be o’erthrown,
the fruitful fields of England
be trod by beasts alone.
revolution has succeeded. A new day has dawned.
Napoleon and Snowball then
present the seven commandments that make up their
goes upon two legs is an enemy.
goes well. Only Benjamin, a donkey, and Mollie, a
mare, seem dissatisfied.
Benjamin, an old cynic, believes nothing will really
change. Mollie, a
mare who pulled Mr. Jones’s buggy, yearns for the
attention—and the sugar
cubes—she received from human beings. One day, she
leaves Animal Farm to
work for a man who feeds her sugar to pull his cart.
The rest of the animals
enthusiastically embrace the new order. Boxer, a
cart horse, adopts a slogan:
“I will work harder.” Special committees—including
The Egg Production Committee
for Chickens and The Clean Tails League for
Cows—form to improve the animals’
way of life. The animals also design and raise their
own flag and take
the time to explain and simplify the rules for
animals with low
intelligence, such as the sheep. Animals at other
farms hear about Animal
Farm and are heartened.
goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
shall wear clothes.
shall sleep in a bed.
shall drink alcohol.
shall kill another animal.
are created equal.
a time, the pigs reserve the apple crop and the cows’
milk for themselves,
claiming they need the provisions to replenish the
enormous energy they
expend in setting policy and managing the day-to-day
operation of the farm.
Farmer Jones attempts to reclaim the farm with the
help of men from neighboring
farms, the animals drive him off in the Battle of the
Cowshed. Boxer and
Snowball earn medals of valor.
when the animals think nothing can go wrong, Napoleon
and Snowball quarrel
over policy, including Snowball’s proposal to
construct a windmill to provide
unleashes on Snowball a pack of nine vicious dogs—the
offspring of two other dogs, Bluebell and Jessie—which
he trained from puppyhood. They chase Snowball off the
farm, leaving Napoleon
in control, with Squealer as his fawning propagandist.
A pig named Minimus
composes propagandistic rallying songs and poems.
keeps the attack dogs at his side to intimidate
malcontents and keep order.
Napoleon then dissolves the animal committees, saying
the pigs will do
all the thinking. Surprisingly, he decides to go ahead
with the windmill
project that Snowball had proposed. He also engages a
human, Mr. Whymper,
to obtain nails and other human-made products that the
animals need to
carry out projects and maintain the farm.
a storm topples the windmill, Napoleon blames
Snowball, saying he had sneaked
back onto the farm and sabotaged it. He sets a bounty
for his capture and
executes animals accused of conspiring with Snowball.
Napoleon, hours are long and hard and work becomes
drudgery. The pigs move
into Jones’s house, altering the fourth commandment of
to say that “No animal shall sleep in a bed with
sheets.” They drink beer
and whiskey and conduct trade with humans. Squealer
justifies these and
other forbidden activities by amending the
constitution again and again.
A poem extolling Napoleon appears on the side of the
the pigs live in luxury, the other animals work their
paws and hoofs to
the bone as they till the fields and rebuild the
windmill, all the while
barely getting enough to eat. To raise capital,
Napoleon sells timber to
the operator of the neighboring Pinchfield Farm, Mr.
Frederick, who pays
with counterfeit bank notes. When Napoleon realizes he
has been duped,
he pronounces a death sentence on Frederick. Frederick
then attacks the
farm, blowing up the second windmill, but the animals
repel his forces
in a fierce battle in which Boxer suffers debilitating
his health declines and he falls on the job, Boxer
disappears from the
farm. Squealer says he died in peace in a hospital, a
true and loyal animalist
to the end. In truth, Napoleon sold Boxer to a glue
factory for money to
time, the pigs become more and more like the humans
they overthrew, walking
upright on two legs, wearing clothes, and even
entertaining humans at dinners.
Eventually, the seven commandment—“All animals
are created equal”—becomes “All animals are
created equal, but some animals are more equal.”
declares that Manor Farm should be the proper name for
the business enterprise
after all, then replaces the Animal Farm sign with a
Manor Farm sign. Life
goes on, with the “human” pigs in full control.
Places, and Things
of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union.
private bodyguard and police force represent the
secret police of totalitarian
societies, such as the Soviet Union's Komitet
(Committee of State Security, known by the
abbreviation KGB) and Nazi Germany's
Geheime Staats Polizei (Secret State Police, known
by the acronym Gestapo).
who appears to represent realists aware that the
Russian Revolution will
not change anything.
cart horse who represents the common people
oppressed and manipulated by
Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) and his Communist
Russia (Russia before the 1917 revolution).
operator of Pinchfield farm, who attacks Animal Farm
but is repulsed, appears
to represent Adolf Hitler, whose forces attacked the
Soviet Union in World
War II but were defeated.
Jones: A cruel
and neglectful farmer, Jones represents Nicholas II
(1868-1918), the czar
who ruled Russia before the 1917 revolution. His
autocratic rule was in
part responsible for provoking the revolution.
who profits from trade with Communists.
mare who enjoys the attentions of human beings,
appears to represent the
manipulated masses that are easily satisfied with
small rewards that keep
them satisfied. She also may represent Russians who
opposed the revolution,
preferring czarist rule.
power-hungry pig who represents the Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin. Stalin
succeeded Lenin and ruled with an iron fist.
Napoleon also represents any
tyrant of any age, such as Nero (Roman emperor),
Napoleon Bonaparte (French
emperor), Adolf Hitler (German dictator), Idi Amin
or Pol Pot (Cambodian dictator).
pig who represents Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Lenin
founded the Russian Communist
Party and led the 1917 Russian Revolution.
pig who represents Leon Trotsky, the Communist
theorist who helped bring
about the 1917 Russian Revolution but was later
expelled by Stalin.
clever propagandist. He represents anyone who
distorts the truth or tells
outright lies to promote a cause. Paul Joseph
Goebbels (1897-1945), director
of propaganda under Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany,
was a real-life counterpart
Heaven, the afterlife. Karl Marx (1818-1883), who
co-authored the Communist
Manifesto with Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) as a
founding document of Communism,
believed that religion was the "opium of the
people." Napoleon does not
discourage the animals' belief in Sugarcandy
Mountain, for it keeps their
Napoleon's agreement to sell timber to Pilkington
represents the nonagression
treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany. Germany
later violated the
failed projects to improve life in the Soviet Union.
conflict first centers on the struggle between the
farm animals and their
human oppressor, Mr. Jones. After the animals
overthrow Jones, the conflict
centers on the struggle between the rank-and-file
animals and the power-hungry
animals that control the government and become the
under Joseph Stalin betrayed the ideals of the 1917
who overthrew the old government. Napoleon the pig,
the Stalin figure in
the novel, abandons the ideals that the oppressed
animals worked for and
becomes a ruthless dictator, as Stalin did. Stalin
(1879-1953) was secretary-general
of the Soviet Communist Party between 1922 and 1953
and premier of the
Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953. Stalin was a
ruthless dictator who used
secret police (symbolized by the attack dogs in Animal
control of the press through propaganda (symbolized
by the activities of
Squealer in the novel) to maintain an ironclad hold
Acton's thesis: Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Orwell is warning his readers that
any political enterprise—no
matter how worthy—is doomed to failure if
its leaders sniff too often from the bouquet of
can be dressed up in the clothing of truth.
Napoleon's propagandist, Squealer,
amends the seven commandments of animalism again and
them into lies that benefit the pigs but making them
look like other versions
of the truth.
allegiance to authority invites abuse of power.
After overthrowing Mr.
Jones and establishing their new government, the
animals blindly follow
Napoleon, failing to question his revisionist
policies. Their submissiveness
serves only to invite further abuses of power.
climax of a narrative work can be defined as (1) the
turning point at which
the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or
worse, or as (2) the
final and most exciting event in a series of events.
The climax of Animal
Farm occurs, according to the first definition,
when Napoleon seizes
control of the farm. According to the second
definition, the climax occurs
when the ruling pigs begin imitating human behavior
and the government
reverts to its pre-revolutionary status.
Farm is a straightforward and easy-to-understand
novel with an engrossing,
fast-moving plot and interjections of wit. As a
satire, it uses hyperbole
and irony often, and as an allegory it frequently
employs symbolism and
allusion. For example, Napoleon the pig symbolizes the
Joseph Stalin; his name is an allusion to the French
general and emperor
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Snobbish college
professors sometimes criticize
Orwell's style for its simplicity, but that is the
very quality that makes
Farm a great work.
Orwell (1903-1950) was the pseudonym of Eric Arthur
Blair. Orwell, a British
citizen, was born in Motihari, India, in 1903, and
attended school in England.
Between 1922 and 1927, he served the British
government in Burma as an
officer of the Indian Imperial Police. After becoming
British treatment of the native Burmese, he left the
police service, traveled
in Europe, and in 1934 published his first novel,
Burmese Days, which impugned
British imperialism. He also wrote several fine short
"Shooting an Elephant," which are based on his
experiences in Burma. His
most famous works, both of which warn of the dangers
are his novels
Animal Farm and 1984.
Questions and Essay Topics
Jones had treated
the animals well, would they have revolted?
events in George's Orwell's
life helped inspire him to write Animal Farm?
you feel about laboratory
experiments on animals to test the efficacy of
medicine that may benefit
the pig apparently
represents the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
(1879-1953). Research the
life of Stalin, then write an essay detailing the
atrocities he committed.
is a propagandist.
What is a propagandist? What techniques does a
propagandist use? Identify
examples of propaganda in American commercial and
world leaders today most
closely resemble the pig Napoleon?
the most admirable
animal character in the novel?
the smartest animal
attack dogs represent the
police force. What were the names of the secret
police in the Soviet Union
and Nazi Germany? What powers did they have?