Notes for Animal Farm by- George Orwell

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, especially after his experiences with the NKVD, and what he saw of the results of the influence of Communist policy ("ceaseless arrests, censored newspapers, prowling hordes of armed police" – "Communism is now a counter-revolutionary force"), during the Spanish Civil War. In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as his novel "contre Stalin".
The original title was Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, but the subtitle was dropped by the US publishers for its 1946 publication and subsequently all but one of the translations during Orwell's lifetime omitted the addition. Other variations in the title include: A Satire and A Contemporary Satire. Orwell suggested for the French translation the title Union des républiques socialistes animales, recalling the French name of the Soviet Union, Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques, and which abbreviates URSA, which is the Latin for "bear", a symbol of Russia.
Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005); it also places at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels. It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 and is also included in the Great Books of the Western World.
The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders but also how wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed and myopia corrupt the revolution. While this novel portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution (and not the act of revolution itself), it also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen if a smooth transition to a people's government is not achieved.

Plot Summary

Old Major, the old boar on the Manor Farm, calls the animals on the farm for a meeting, where he compares the humans to parasites and teaches the animals a revolutionary song, 'Beasts of England'. When Major dies three days later, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, assume command and turn his dream into a philosophy. The animals revolt and drive the drunken and irresponsible Mr Jones from the farm, renaming it "Animal Farm".
The Seven Commandments of Animalism are written on the wall of a barn. The most important is the seventh, "All animals are equal". All the animals work, but the workhorse, Boxer, does more than others and adopts the maxim: "I will work harder".
Snowball attempts to teach the animals reading and writing; food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and set aside special food items, ostensibly for their personal health. Napoleon takes the pups from the farm dogs and trains them privately. When Mr Jones tries to retake the farm, the animals defeat him at what they call the "Battle of the Cowshed". Napoleon and Snowball struggle for leadership. When Snowball announces his idea for a windmill, Napoleon opposes it. Snowball makes a speech in favour of the windmill, at which point Napoleon has his dogs chase Snowball away. In Snowball's absence, Napoleon declares himself leader and makes changes. Meetings will no longer be held; instead, a committee of pigs will run the farm.
Using a young pig named Squealer as a "mouthpiece", Napoleon announces that Snowball stole the idea for the windmill from him. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. After a violent storm, the animals find the windmill anihilated. Napoleon and Squealer convince the animals that Snowball destroyed the windmill, although the scorn of the neighbouring farmers suggests that the windmill's walls were too thin. Once Snowball becomes a scapegoat, Napoleon begins purging the farm, killing animals he accuses of consorting with Snowball. Meanwhile, Boxer takes up a second maxim: "Napoleon is always right".
Napoleon abuses his powers, making life harder for the animals; the pigs impose more control while reserving privileges for themselves. The pigs rewrite history, villainising Snowball and glorifying Napoleon. Squealer justifies every statement Napoleon makes, even the pigs' alteration of the Seven Commandments of Animalism. "No animal shall sleep in beds" is changed to "No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets" when the pigs are discovered to have been sleeping in the old farmhouse. "No animal shall drink alcohol" is changed to "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess" when the pigs discover the farmer's whisky. 'Beasts of England' is banned as inappropriate, as according to Napoleon the dream of Animal Farm has been realised. It is replaced by an anthem glorifying Napoleon, who appears to be adopting the lifestyle of a man. The animals, though cold, starving and overworked, remain convinced that they are better off than they were when under Mr Jones. Squealer abuses the animals' poor memories and invents numbers to show their improvement.
Mr Frederick, one of the neighbouring farmers, swindles Napoleon by buying old wood with forged money, and then attacks the farm, using blasting powder to blow up the restored windmill. Though the animals win the battle, they do so at great cost, as many, including Boxer, are wounded. Despite his injuries, Boxer continues working harder and harder, until he collapses while working on the windmill. Napoleon sends for a van to take Boxer to the veterinary surgeon's, explaining that better care can be given there. Benjamin the donkey, who "could read as well as any pig", notices that the van belongs to "Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler", and attempts to mount a rescue; but the animals' attempts are futile. Squealer reports that the van was purchased by the hospital and the writing from the previous owner had not been repainted. He recounts a tale of Boxer's death in the hands of the best medical care. Shortly after Boxer's death, it is revealed that the pigs have purchased more whiskey.
Years pass, and the pigs learn to walk upright, carry whips and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are reduced to a single phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and the humans of the area, who congratulate Napoleon on having the hardest-working animals in the country on the least feed. Napoleon announces an alliance with the humans, against the labouring classes of both "worlds". He abolishes practices and traditions related to the Revolution, and changes the name of the farm to "The Manor Farm".
The animals, overhearing the conversation, notice that the faces of the pigs have begun changing. During a poker match, an argument breaks out between Napoleon and Mr Pilkington when they both play the Ace of Spades, and the animals realise that the faces of the pigs look like the faces of humans and no one can tell the difference between them.

"Seven Commandments" redirects here. For the Noahide code, see Seven Laws of Noah.
The pigs Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer adapt Old Major's ideas into an actual philosophy, which they formally name Animalism. Soon after, Napoleon and Squealer indulge in the vices of humans (drinking alcohol, sleeping in beds, trading). Squealer is employed to alter the Seven Commandments to account for this humanisation, which represents the Soviet government's revisions of communist theory to make it more a reformation of capitalism than a replacement.
The Seven Commandments are laws that are supposed to keep order and ensure elementary Animalism within Animal Farm. The Seven Commandments were designed to unite the animals together against the humans and prevent animals from following the humans' evil habits. Since not all of the animals can remember them, they are boiled down into one basic statement: "Four legs good, two legs bad!" (with wings counting as legs for this purpose, Snowball arguing that wings count as legs as they are organs of propulsion rather than manipulation), which the sheep constantly repeat, distracting the crowd from the lies of the pigs. The original commandments were:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
Later, Napoleon and his pigs are corrupted by the absolute power they hold over the farm. To maintain their popularity with the other animals, Squealer secretly paints additions to some commandments to benefit the pigs while keeping them free of accusations of law-breaking (such as "No animal shall drink alcohol" having "to excess" appended to it and "No animal shall sleep in a bed" with "with sheets" added to it). The changed commandments are as follows, with the changes bolded:
No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
Eventually the laws are replaced with "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", and "Four legs good, two legs better!" as the pigs become more human.

An aged prize Middle White boar provides the inspiration that fuels the Rebellion in the book. He is an allegory of Karl Marx and Lenin, the founders of communism, in that he draws up the principles of the revolution. His skull being put on revered public display also recalls Lenin, whose embalmed body was put on display.
"A large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way", An allegory of Joseph Stalin, Napoleon is the main villain of Animal Farm. He begins gradually to build up his power by taking Jessie and Bluebell's newborn puppies and training them to be vicious attack dogs, whom he uses as his secret police. After driving Snowball off the farm, Napoleon usurps full power, using false propaganda from Squealer and threats and intimidation from the dogs to keep the other animals in line. Among other things, he gradually changes the Commandments for his benefit. By the end of the book, Napoleon and his fellow pigs have learned to walk upright and started to behave much like the humans against whom they originally revolted.
In the first French version of Animal Farm, Napoleon is called César, the French form of Caesar, although another translation has him as Napoléon.
Napoleon's rival and original head of the farm after Jones' overthrow. He is mainly based on Leon Trotsky, but also combines elements from Vladimir Lenin. He wins over most animals and gains their trust by leading a very successful first harvest, but is driven out of the farm by Napoleon. Snowball genuinely works for the good of the farm and the animals, and devises plans to help the animals achieve their vision of an egalitarian society, but Napoleon and his dogs eventually chase him from the farm. Thereafter, Napoleon spreads rumours to make him seem evil and corrupt, even claiming that he secretly sabotaged the animals' efforts to improve the farm.
A small white fat porker who serves as Napoleon's right hand pig and minister of propaganda, holding a position similar to that of Molotov. Squealer manipulates the language to excuse, justify, and extol all of Napoleon's actions. Often attempting to confuse and disorient the animals, Squealer will make erroneous claims, like that the pigs need extra luxury in order to function properly. However, when questions persist, he usually uses the threat of the return of Mr Jones to justify the pigs' privileges. Squealer uses statistics to convince the animals that their life is exponentially improving. Most of the animals, having only dim memories of life before the revolution, are easily convinced. He is the first pig portrayed to walk on his hind legs.
A poetic pig who writes the second and third national anthems of Animal Farm after the singing of "Beasts of England" is banned.
The Piglets
Hinted to be the children of Napoleon (albeit not explicitly stated) and are the first generation of animals actually subjugated to his idea of animal inequality.
The young pigs
Four pigs who complain about Napoleon's takeover of the farm but are quickly silenced and later executed.
A minor pig who is mentioned only once; he is the pig that tastes Napoleon's food to make sure it is not poisoned, in response to rumours about an assassination attempt on Napoleon.
The former owner of the farm, Jones is a very heavy drinker and the animals revolt against him after he drinks so much that he does not feed or take care of them. The attempt by Jones and his farmhands to recapture the farm is foiled in the Battle of the Cowshed.
Mr Frederick
The tough owner of Pinchfield, a well-kept neighbouring farm. He buys wood from the animals for forged money and later attacks them, destroying the windmill but being finally beaten in the resulting Battle of the Windmill. There are stories of him mistreating his own animals, such as throwing dogs into a furnace. Pinchfield is noted as being smaller than Pilkington's Foxwood farm but more efficiently run, and Frederick briefly enters into an "alliance" with Napoleon by offering to buy wood from him but then betrays the deal and mounts a bloody invasion of Animal Farm.
The easy-going but crafty owner of Foxwood, a neighbouring farm overgrown with weeds, as described in the book. At the end of the game, both Napoleon and Pilkington draw the Ace of Spades and begin fighting loudly. Foxwood is described as being much larger than Pinchfield, but not as efficiently run.
Mr Whymper
A man hired by Napoleon for the public relations of Animal Farm to human society. Whymper is used as a go-between to trade with human society for things the animals can't produce on their own, at first, this is a legitimate need because the animals can't manufacture their own windmill components, but Whymper is eventually used to procure luxuries like alcohol for the pigs.
Mrs Jones
The wife of Mr Jones. When the animals begin their revolt, she escapes from the farm with a pillowcase filled with her possessions and pet raven Moses following behind. Her character is expanded upon in the 1999 film version, where she is at first somewhat sympathetic to the animals' plight regarding the poor care her husband gives them. Her husband passes away years later in a home for the elderly, but her final fate is unknown.
Boxer is a loyal, kind, dedicated, and respectable horse. He is physically the strongest animal on the farm, but impressionable (a major theme in the book), which leaves him stating "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right" despite the corruption.
Clover, a mare, is Boxer's companion, constantly caring for him; she also acts as a matriarch of sorts for the other horses and the other animals in general (such as the ducklings she shelters with her forelegs and hooves during Old Major's speech).
Mollie is a self-centred, self-indulgent and vain young white mare whose sole enjoyments are wearing ribbons in her mane, eating sugar cubes, and being pampered and groomed by humans. She quickly leaves for another farm and is only once mentioned again.
Benjamin, a donkey, is one of the longest-lived animals. He has the worst temper, but is also one of the wisest animals on the farm, and is one of the few who can actually read. He is able to "read as well as any pig." Benjamin is a very dedicated friend to Boxer, and does nothing to warn the other animals of the pigs' corruption, which he secretly realises is steadily unfolding. When asked if he was happier after the revolution than before it, Benjamin remarks, "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey." He is sceptical and pessimistic, his most-often-made statement being "Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is, badly."
Other animals
A wise old goat who is friends with all of the animals on the farm. She, like Benjamin and Snowball, is one of the few animals on the farm who can read (with some difficulty as she has to spell the words out first) and helps Clover discover that the Seven Commandments have been continually changed.
The Puppies
Offspring of Jessie and Bluebell, taken away from them by Napoleon at birth and reared by Napoleon to be his security force. These dogs are trained to be vicious, going so far as to rip many of the animals to shreds including the four young pigs, a sheep and various hens. They attempt to do the same to Boxer, who halts one of the puppies under his hoof. The puppy begs for mercy and through Napoleon's orders, Boxer sets the puppy free.
Moses the Raven
An old crow who occasionally visits the farm, regaling its denizens with tales of a wondrous place beyond the clouds called Sugarcandy Mountain, where he avers that all animals go when they die—but only if they work hard. He is interpreted as symbolising the Russian Orthodox Church, with Sugarcandy Mountain an allusion to Heaven for the animals. He spends his time turning the animals' minds to thoughts of Sugarcandy Mountain (rather than their work) and yet does no work himself. He feels unequal in comparison to the other animals, so he leaves after the rebellion, for all animals were supposed to be equal. However, much later in the novel he returns to the farm and continues to proclaim the existence of Sugarcandy Mountain. The other animals are confused by the pigs' attitude towards Moses; they denounce his claims as nonsense, but allow him to remain on the farm. The pigs do this to keep any doubting animals in line with the hope of a happy afterlife, keeping their minds on Sugarcandy Mountain and not on possible uprisings. In the end, Moses is one of the few animals to remember The Rebellion, along with Clover, Benjamin, and the pigs.
The Sheep
They show limited understanding of the situations but nonetheless blindly support Napoleon's ideals. They are regularly shown repeating the phrase "four legs good, two legs bad". At the end of the novel, one of the Seven Commandments is changed after the pigs learn to walk on two legs and their shout changes to "four legs good, two legs better". They can be relied on by the pigs to shout down any dissent from the others.
The Hens
The hens are among the first to rebel against Napoleon: in response to their being forced to give more eggs, they destroy their eggs instead of handing them to the higher powers (the pigs), who want to sell them to humans. Napoleon then uses fear and starves them until the pigs get what they want. Although this results in nine of them dying, their bodies are nevertheless given decent burials in the orchard, with a cover story given related to their deaths.
The Cows
Their milk is stolen by the pigs, who learn to milk them, and is stirred into the pigs' mash every day while the other animals are denied such luxuries.
A dog on the farm who has her puppies taken away by Napoleon for "advanced education" (these dogs later run Snowball off the farm). In the 1999 film version she is the narrator and main protagonist.

The Cat
Never seen to carry out any work, the cat is absent for long periods, and is forgiven because her excuses are so convincing and she "purred so affectionately that is was impossible not to believe in her good intentions". She has no interest in the politics of the farm, and the only time she is recorded as having participated in an election, she is found to have actually "voted on both sides".


George Orwell wrote the manuscript in 1943 and 1944 subsequent to his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, which he described in his 1938 Homage to Catalonia. In the preface of a 1947 Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, he explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him "how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries." This motivated Orwell to expose and strongly condemn what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals.
Immediately prior to his writing, the Ministry of Information had put out a booklet for propagandists with instructions on how to quell ideological fears of the Soviet Union, which included directions to claim that the Red Terror was a figment of Nazi imagination, and Orwell had quit the BBC.
In that preface, Orwell also described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm:
...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.
Orwell encountered great difficulty getting the manuscript published, as it was feared that the book might upset the alliance between the US, UK and the Soviet Union. Four publishers refused; one had initially accepted the work but declined after consulting the Ministry of Information. Eventually Secker and Warburg published the first edition in 1945.


In the Eastern Bloc both Animal Farm and later, also Nineteen Eighty-Four were on the list of forbidden books up until die Wende in 1989, and were only available via clandestine Samizdat networks.
The novel's Battle of the Windmill is referred to by Sant Singh Bal as one "of the important episodes which constitute the essence of the plot of the novel." Harold Bloom writes that the "Battle of the Windmill rings a special bell: the repulse of the Duke of Brunswick in 1792, following the Prussian bombardment that made the windmill of Valmy famous." By contrast, Peter Edgerly Firchow and Peter Hobley Davison consider that in real life, with events in Animal Farm mirroring those in the Soviet Union, this fictional battle represents the Great Patriotic War (World War II), especially the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Moscow. Prestwick House's Activity Pack for Animal Farm also identifies the Battle of the Windmill as an allegory for World War II, while noting that the "catalyst for the Battle of the Windmill, though, is less clear." During the battle, Fredrick drills a hole and places explosives inside, and it is followed by "All the animals, except Napoleon" took cover; Orwell had the publisher alter this from "All the animals, including Napoleon" in recognition of Joseph Stalin's decision to remain in Moscow during the German advance.
The Battle of the Cowshed represents the allied invasion of the Soviet Russia in 1918, and the defeat of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War.


The Corruption of Socialist Ideals in the Soviet Union

Animal Farm is most famous in the West as a stinging critique of the history and rhetoric of the Russian Revolution. Retelling the story of the emergence and development of Soviet communism in the form of an animal fable, Animal Farm allegorizes the rise to power of the dictator Joseph Stalin. In the novella, the overthrow of the human oppressor Mr. Jones by a democratic coalition of animals quickly gives way to the consolidation of power among the pigs. Much like the Soviet intelligentsia, the pigs establish themselves as the ruling class in the new society.
The struggle for preeminence between Leon Trotsky and Stalin emerges in the rivalry between the pigs Snowball and Napoleon. In both the historical and fictional cases, the idealistic but politically less powerful figure (Trotsky and Snowball) is expelled from the revolutionary state by the malicious and violent usurper of power (Stalin and Napoleon). The purges and show trials with which Stalin eliminated his enemies and solidified his political base find expression in Animal Farm as the false confessions and executions of animals whom Napoleon distrusts following the collapse of the windmill. Stalin’s tyrannical rule and eventual abandonment of the founding principles of the Russian Revolution are represented by the pigs’ turn to violent government and the adoption of human traits and behaviors, the trappings of their original oppressors.
Although Orwell believed strongly in socialist ideals, he felt that the Soviet Union realized these ideals in a terribly perverse form. His novella creates its most powerful ironies in the moments in which Orwell depicts the corruption of Animalist ideals by those in power. For Animal Farm serves not so much to condemn tyranny or despotism as to indict the horrifying hypocrisy of tyrannies that base themselves on, and owe their initial power to, ideologies of liberation and equality. The gradual disintegration and perversion of the Seven Commandments illustrates this hypocrisy with vivid force, as do Squealer’s elaborate philosophical justifications for the pigs’ blatantly unprincipled actions. Thus, the novella critiques the violence of the Stalinist regime against the human beings it ruled, and also points to Soviet communism’s violence against human logic, language, and ideals.

The Societal Tendency Toward Class Stratification
Animal Farm offers commentary on the development of class tyranny and the human tendency to maintain and reestablish class structures even in societies that allegedly stand for total equality. The novella illustrates how classes that are initially unified in the face of a common enemy, as the animals are against the humans, may become internally divided when that enemy is eliminated. The expulsion of Mr. Jones creates a power vacuum, and it is only so long before the next oppressor assumes totalitarian control. The natural division between intellectual and physical labor quickly comes to express itself as a new set of class divisions, with the “brainworkers” (as the pigs claim to be) using their superior intelligence to manipulate society to their own benefit. Orwell never clarifies in Animal Farm whether this negative state of affairs constitutes an inherent aspect of society or merely an outcome contingent on the integrity of a society’s intelligentsia. In either case, the novella points to the force of this tendency toward class stratification in many communities and the threat that it poses to democracy and freedom.

The Danger of a Naïve Working Class
One of the novella’s most impressive accomplishments is its portrayal not just of the figures in power but also of the oppressed people themselves. Animal Farm is not told from the perspective of any particular character, though occasionally it does slip into Clover’s consciousness. Rather, the story is told from the perspective of the common animals as a whole. Gullible, loyal, and hardworking, these animals give Orwell a chance to sketch how situations of oppression arise not only from the motives and tactics of the oppressors but also from the naïveté of the oppressed, who are not necessarily in a position to be better educated or informed. When presented with a dilemma, Boxer prefers not to puzzle out the implications of various possible actions but instead to repeat to himself, “Napoleon is always right.” Animal Farm demonstrates how the inability or unwillingness to question authority condemns the working class to suffer the full extent of the ruling class’s oppression.

The Abuse of Language as Instrumental to the Abuse of Power
One of Orwell’s central concerns, both in Animal Farm and in 1984, is the way in which language can be manipulated as an instrument of control. In Animal Farm, the pigs gradually twist and distort a rhetoric of socialist revolution to justify their behavior and to keep the other animals in the dark. The animals heartily embrace Major’s visionary ideal of socialism, but after Major dies, the pigs gradually twist the meaning of his words. As a result, the other animals seem unable to oppose the pigs without also opposing the ideals of the Rebellion. By the end of the novella, after Squealer’s repeated reconfigurations of the Seven Commandments in order to decriminalize the pigs’ treacheries, the main principle of the farm can be openly stated as “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This outrageous abuse of the word “equal” and of the ideal of equality in general typifies the pigs’ method, which becomes increasingly audacious as the novel progresses. Orwell’s sophisticated exposure of this abuse of language remains one of the most compelling and enduring features of Animal Farm, worthy of close study even after we have decoded its allegorical characters and events.

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Animal Farm is filled with songs, poems, and slogans, including Major’s stirring “Beasts of England,” Minimus’s ode to Napoleon, the sheep’s chants, and Minimus’s revised anthem, “Animal Farm, Animal Farm.” All of these songs serve as propaganda, one of the major conduits of social control. By making the working-class animals speak the same words at the same time, the pigs evoke an atmosphere of grandeur and nobility associated with the recited text’s subject matter. The songs also erode the animals’ sense of individuality and keep them focused on the tasks by which they will purportedly achieve freedom.
State Ritual
As Animal Farm shifts gears from its early revolutionary fervor to a phase of consolidation of power in the hands of the few, national rituals become an ever more common part of the farm’s social life. Military awards, large parades, and new songs all proliferate as the state attempts to reinforce the loyalty of the animals. The increasing frequency of the rituals bespeaks the extent to which the working class in the novella becomes ever more reliant on the ruling class to define their group identity and values.

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or

Animal Farm, known at the beginning and the end of the novel as the Manor Farm, symbolizes Russia and the Soviet Union under Communist Party rule. But more generally, Animal Farm stands for any human society, be it capitalist, socialist, fascist, or communist. It possesses the internal structure of a nation, with a government (the pigs), a police force or army (the dogs), a working class (the other animals), and state holidays and rituals. Its location amid a number of hostile neighboring farms supports its symbolism as a political entity with diplomatic concerns.

The Barn
The barn at Animal Farm, on whose outside walls the pigs paint the Seven Commandments and, later, their revisions, represents the collective memory of a modern nation. The many scenes in which the ruling-class pigs alter the principles of Animalism and in which the working-class animals puzzle over but accept these changes represent the way an institution in power can revise a community’s concept of history to bolster its control. If the working class believes history to lie on the side of their oppressors, they are less likely to question oppressive practices. Moreover, the oppressors, by revising their nation’s conception of its origins and development, gain control of the nation’s very identity, and the oppressed soon come to depend upon the authorities for their communal sense of self.
The Windmill
The great windmill symbolizes the pigs’ manipulation of the other animals for their own gain. Despite the immediacy of the need for food and warmth, the pigs exploit Boxer and the other common animals by making them undertake backbreaking labor to build the windmill, which will ultimately earn the pigs more money and thus increase their power. The pigs’ declaration that Snowball is responsible for the windmill’s first collapse constitutes psychological manipulation, as it prevents the common animals from doubting the pigs’ abilities and unites them against a supposed enemy. The ultimate conversion of the windmill to commercial use is one more sign of the pigs’ betrayal of their fellow animals. From an allegorical point of view, the windmill represents the enormous modernization projects undertaken in Soviet Russia after the Russian Revolution.

Important Quotations Explained

1. “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

This phrase, which occurs in Chapter III, constitutes Snowball’s condensation of the Seven Commandments of Animalism, which themselves serve as abridgments of Old Major’s stirring speech on the need for animal unity in the face of human oppression. The phrase instances one of the novel’s many moments of propagandizing, which Orwell portrays as one example of how the elite class abuses language to control the lower classes. Although the slogan seems to help the animals achieve their goal at first, enabling them to clarify in their minds the principles that they support, it soon becomes a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep (“two legs baa-d”), serving no purpose other than to drown out dissenting opinion. By the end of the novel, as the propagandistic needs of the leadership change, the pigs alter the chant to the similar-sounding but completely antithetical “Four legs good, two legs better.”

2. Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tiding
Of the golden future time.

These lines from Chapter I constitute the first verse of the song that Old Major hears in his dream and which he teaches to the rest of the animals during the fateful meeting in the barn. Like the communist anthem “Internationale,” on which it is based, “Beasts of England” stirs the emotions of the animals and fires their revolutionary idealism. As it spreads rapidly across the region, the song gives the beasts both courage and solace on many occasions. The lofty optimism of the words “golden future time,” which appear in the last verse as well, serves to keep the animals focused on the Rebellion’s goals so that they will ignore the suffering along the way.
Later, however, once Napoleon has cemented his control over the farm, the song’s revolutionary nature becomes a liability. Squealer chastises the animals for singing it, noting that the song was the song of the Rebellion. Now that the Rebellion is over and a new regime has gained power, Squealer fears the power of such idealistic, future-directed lyrics. Wanting to discourage the animals’ capacities for hope and vision, he orders Minimus to write a replacement for “Beasts of England” that praises Napoleon and emphasizes loyalty to the state over the purity of Animalist ideology.

3. At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their snapping jaws.

These words from Chapter V describe Napoleon’s violent expulsion of Snowball from Animal Farm, which parallels the falling-out between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Napoleon, who is clearly losing the contest for the hearts and minds of the lower animals to his rival Snowball, turns to his private police force of dogs to enforce his supremacy. As Stalin did, Napoleon prefers to work behind the scenes to build his power by secrecy and deception, while Snowball, as Trotsky did, devotes himself to winning popular support through his ideas and his eloquence. Napoleon’s use of the attack dogs in this passage provides a blatant example of his differences with Snowball and points beyond the story to criticize real leaders for their use of such authoritarian tactics.
More generally, this episode is the first of many in which the political positioning of the Rebellion’s early days gives way to overt violence, openly subverting the democratic principles of Animal Farm. It signals the deterioration of Animal Farm from a society based on equal rights to a society in which those who are powerful determine who gets what rights.

4. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The ultimate example of the pigs’ systematic abuse of logic and language to control their underlings, this final reduction of the Seven Commandments, which appears in Chapter X, clothes utterly senseless content in a seemingly plausible linguistic form. Although the first clause implies that all animals are equal to one another, it does not state this claim overtly. Thus, it is possible to misread the word “equal” as a relative term rather than an absolute one, meaning that there can be different degrees of “equal”-ness, just as there can be different degrees of colorfulness, for example (more colorful, less colorful). Once such a misreading has taken place, it becomes no more absurd to say “more equal” than to say “more colorful.” By small, almost imperceptible steps like these, the core ideals of Animal Farm—and any human nation—gradually become corrupted.
The revision of the original phrase also points to the specific form of corruption on Animal Farm. The initial, unmodified phrase makes reference to all animals, its message extending to the entire world of animals without distinction. Similarly, Old Major expresses ideals that posit the dignity of all, the comradeship of all, the inclusion of all in voting and decision-making, so that no one group or individual will oppress another. The revised phrase, however, mentions an “all,” but only in order to differentiate a “some” from that “all,” to specify the uniqueness, the elite nature, and the chosen status of that “some.” The pigs clearly envision themselves as this privileged “some”; under their totalitarian regime, the working animals exist only to serve the larger glory of the leadership, to provide the rulers with food and comfort, and to support their luxurious and exclusive lifestyle.

5. “If you have your lower animals to contend with,” he said, “we have our lower classes!”
This quip, delivered by Mr. Pilkington to Napoleon and his cabinet during their well-catered retreat inside the farmhouse in Chapter X, makes fully explicit the process of ideological corruption that has been taking place throughout the novella. Old Major’s notion of the absolute division of interests between animals and humans here gives way to a division between two classes, even cutting across species lines. Pigs and farmers share a need to keep down their laboring classes. Mr. Pilkington’s witticism lays bare the ugly but common equation of laborers with animals.
Moreover, the quote serves to emphasize directly the significance of Animal Farm as a social commentary, cementing the conceptual link between the downtrodden animals and the working classes of the world. Orwell explodes his “fairy story,” as he termed it, by bringing it into the realm of human consequence, thereby making its terrors all the more frightening to his readership.

Key Facts

Full title · Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

Author · George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair)

Type of work · Novella

Genre · Dystopian animal fable; satire; allegory; political roman à clef (French for “novel with a key”—a thinly veiled exposé of factual persons or events)

Language · English

Time and place written · 1943–1944, in London

Date of first publication · 1946

Publisher · Harcourt Brace & Company

Narrator · Animal Farm is the only work by Orwell in which the author does not appear conspicuously as a narrator or major character; it is the least overtly personal of all of his writings. The anonymous narrator of the story is almost a nonentity, notable for no individual idiosyncrasies or biases.

Point of view · The story is told from the point of view of the common animals of Animal Farm, though it refers to them in the third person plural as “they.”
Tone · For the most part, the tone of the novel is objective, stating external facts and rarely digressing into philosophical meditations. The mixture of this tone with the outrageous trajectory of the plot, however, steeps the story in an ever-mounting irony.

Tense · Past

Setting (time) · As is the case with most fables, Animal Farm is set in an unspecified time period and is largely free from historical references that would allow the reader to date the action precisely. It is fair to assume, however, that Orwell means the fable to be contemporaneous with the object of its satire, the Russian Revolution (1917–1945). It is important to remember that this period represented the recent past and present at the time of writing and that Orwell understands the significance of the story’s action to be immediate and ongoing rather than historical.

Setting (place) · an imaginary farm in England

Protagonist · There is no clear central character in the novel, but Napoleon, the dictatorial pig, is the figure who drives and ties together most of the action.
major conflict · There are a number of conflicts in Animal Farm—the animals versus Mr. Jones, Snowball versus Napoleon, the common animals versus the pigs, Animal Farm versus the neighboring humans—but all of them are expressions of the underlying tension between the exploited and exploiting classes and between the lofty ideals and harsh realities of socialism.

Rising action · The animals throw off their human oppressors and establish a socialist state called Animal Farm; the pigs, being the most intelligent animals in the group, take control of the planning and government of the farm; Snowball and Napoleon engage in ideological disputes and compete for power.