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Brief summary of the plot The plot of Animal Farm chapter by chapter A Ready Reference The Characters in Animal Farm Themes in Animal Farm Key Concepts in note form Spot the speaker/s and situation/s Much more than a fairy story Who was George Orwell? Animal Farm – Examination Practice 03 16 20 28 33 35 37 40 43 02
A Brief Summary of the Plot Just before he dies, Old Major, a respected pig on Manor Farm stirs the animals up with his revolutionary ideas of rebellion against the tyrant Man. Before long, the ineffective farmer, Mr. Jones, is over thrown and expelled from the farm. The animals adopt the name Animal Farm. The animals draw up a set of principles which will guide their new lives: the Seven Commandments. Before long, the pigs emerge as leaders and start to assume minor privileges over the other animals. The two leading pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, quarrel and Napoleon eventually drives his rival off the farm by force. Despite hardships, the farm makes progress, and the animals embark on the construction of a windmill which will supposedly ease their lives. Unfortunately, the windmill is destroyed and the animals must start again. Boxer, the cart-horse, is a tower of strength. Napoleon assumes more and more power, and governs by fear and terror. Opponents are killed. The pigs now enjoy a luxurious style of life, far removed from the hardships of the other animals. Napoleon is cheated by Frederick, a neighbouring farmer, over the sale of some timber. Frederick attacks and destroys the windmill a second time. The over-worked Boxer falls ill and is treacherously shipped off to the knacker's by Napoleon.
Over the years, the pigs continue to benefit at the expense of the other animals. The Commandments are changed, corrupted and perverted. At the end of Napoleon and are discovered playing cards and other men. toasts the farm 'Manor Farm'. the novel, his henchpigs, drinking and with Pilkington Napoleon even by its old name
The bewildered animals who witness this scene through the farmhouse windows are finally unable to tell the difference between the pigs and the humans who had previously ruled over them and exploited them. Absolute power has corrupted the pigs - absolutely.
The Plot of Animal Farm Chapter by Chapter
Chapter 1 The novel opens with Mr. Jones, the proprietor of Manor Farm, lurching across his yard and going off drunk to bed. The animals, after waiting for his light to go out, assemble in the barn to hear what Old Major, the prize boar, has to say to them. We meet the animals on the farm as they arrive and already know something of their characters as they settle down to listen. Major has had a dream. He is approaching death and wishes to communicate to the others the wisdom he has acquired during his long, thoughtful life. This, briefly, is what he tells the animals: (a) Animals' lives are 'miserable, laborious and short'; they live at subsistence level while working to capacity; the moment they cease to be useful they are cruelly killed; misery and slavery is the fate of all animals in England. (b) The land can support them but the produce of their labour is stolen by Man; remove Man and the problem is solved. 3
(c) Man is the only creature that consumes without producing, taking everything from the animals except what is necessary to keep the animals alive and working. (d) Animals are not even allowed to live out their natural span but are slaughtered when their usefulness is at and end. (e) Therefore, animals must work night and day to overthrown Man. In a single word: Rebellion! Major sums up by telling the animals that 'All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.' He then describes his dream of a world without Man and teaches them a song, 'Beasts of England', that presents his dream-world. As the animals are singing, Jones wakes up and shoots his gun across the yard. The meeting breaks up. This is the list of Commandments that the animals all agree to obey when they create Animal Farm. They are based on Major's speech. They are meant to be 'an unalterable law by which all the animals on Animal Farm must live for ever after.' But as time passes, some of these Commandments are broken, or at least twisted. It is not always obvious to the animals when this happens as the pigs are clever at deceiving them and the pigs try to persuade them that they have not broken the original Commandments at all> 1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend 3. No animals shall wear clothes 4. No animals shall sleep in a bed 5. No animals shall drink alcohol 6. No animal shall kill any other animal 7. All animals are equal
Chapter 2 Three days after his inspiring speech Old Major passes away peacefully. His ideas are taken up by the pigs - who are clever animals - a political philosophy called Animalism is worked out. The other animals are not very interested and the pigs have a hard time trying to educate them, especially where the tales of Moses are concerned. Boxer and Clover are loyal and supportive. The rebellion takes place almost accidentally because the animals are hungry and can stand it no longer - Jones has neglected them - so they break out and help themselves to food.
The animals eventually manage to expel Jones and his men from Manor Farm and they joyfully discover that it is theirs. The pigs reveal that they have quietly taught themselves to read and write. Snowball changes the name on the gate to 'Animal Farm' and writes up on the barn in letters for all to see the principles of Animalism - the Seven Commandments. The pigs have taken over quite naturally as leaders and Snowball urges them off to the hayfield to bring in the harvest while Napoleon stands guard over the milk which the pigs have just milked from the cows. Snowball is shown to be lively, energetic, inventive and practical while Napoleon is, as yet, a shadowy but dangerous presence. The characters of Mollie and Boxer are also brought out clearly in this chapter - again a strong contract being made. Mollie is interested only in a comfortable life, in sugar and ribbons, while Boxer accepts everything the pigs say. Mollie does not want to part with her pretty ribbons and eventually runs away in order to keep them; Boxer throws 5
his fine straw hat, used to keep the flies off in summer, on the bonfire and sets about working himself to death. Chapter 3 The animals have worked hard and the first harvest is a great success. We hear how the different animals measure up as workers and Boxer gets a special mention, having done the work of three horses. On Sundays there is no work but a ceremony where the flag is raised followed by a meeting where resolutions are put forward and debated. It is always the pigs who put forward resolutions and we notice that Snowball and Napoleon can never agree. We hear the pigs have set aside the harness room for a study and workshop area and that Snowball has formed many committees to educate the animals and encourage them in their efforts and attitude. We hear how the animals fare at reading and writing and that the principles of Animalism are reduced to a slogan: four legs good, two legs bad, as many of the animals cannot read very well. Snowball, however, has developed his ideas in a complicated manner and uses long words which the animals cannot understand (but they are impressed). The puppies of Bluebell and Jessie are taken away by Napoleon to be educated. The milk and apples have been appropriated by the pigs; this is explained and justified by Squealer and accepted by the animals. Chapter 4 Some months have passed since the Rebellion and the news has spread to other farms, assisted by the pigeons sent out by Snowball and Napoleon. Jones is apparently making no effort to win back his farm. The neighbouring farmers are too involved in their own disagreements to unite and help him win back Manor Farm. Pilkington and Frederick, his neighbours, scoff at the idea of a farm run by animals and spread tales about the terrible goings-on at Animal Farm. However, they are both frightened that their own animals might rebel and they flog any animal heard singing Beasts of England, which is becoming very popular. There are small rebellions on other farms but they are easily snuffed out. Jones, Frederick and Pilkington do eventually get together and mount an attack on Animal Farm but, thanks to the strategy of Snowball, they 6
are repulsed at the Battle of the Cowshed. Snowball, Boxer and a dead sheep are decorated for their part in the battle. Snowball's character is developed in this chapter. He has planned the battle in advance and he leads the animals to victory, fighting bravely even when wounded. The animals obviously trust him and follow his lead. Snowball is seen to be working continually for the well-being of the farm and presents an attractive personality; however, we see that he is fundamentally an intolerant revolutionary when he says 'the only good human being is a dead one'. Boxer and Mollie are again contrasted. Boxer fights bravely and exhibits his great strength; Mollie hides away as soon as the battle begins, concerned only about herself and her safety. Boxer is shown to be tender-hearted when he shows great concern for the enemy stable boy he thinks he has killed but who in fact has only been stunned. The fantastic ideas - the animals having celebrations and decorations, naming the battle and important dates in the history of the Rebellion give a fairy-tale atmosphere but also an accurate imitation of human behaviour. Chapter 5 Mollie begins to act strangely and Clover becomes concerned about her behaviour and takes her aside to tell her that she has seen Mollie's activities with the neighbouring farmer - Mollie has been allowing him to stroke her nose. Mollie denies this but Clover later finds sugar and ribbons on her stall. Eventually Mollie defects (joins the enemy) and is seen in Willingdon pulling a dogcart. We hear that the pigs decide all policy matters connected with the farm having appointed themselves the Senior Management Team. Disagreements break out between Napoleon and Snowball, especially over the windmill which Snowball wants to build to make the running of the farm easier and the life of the animals more comfortable. Napoleon argues that the immediate concern of the farm must be to produce more food. Eventually two factions develop under the slogans 'Vote for Snowball and the three-day week' and 'Vote for Napoleon and the full manger'. They also have a major disagreement over the defence of the farm; Snowball believes that if the other farms have rebellions there would be no need to defend the farm so the best thing would be to send out pigeons and help these rebellions come about. Napoleon thinks it is 7
more important to defend their own farm, Animal Farm, and wants to get hold of firearms, guns and rifles. When Snowball gets up and passionately defends his ideas, the puppies, who have turned into savage young dogs, attacked Snowball and drive him off the farm. Snowball just manages to escape with his life. Napoleon has trained the dogs to act as his police and bodyguard. Napoleon takes advantage of the confusion to remove all the democratic rights from the other animals. There will be no more Sunday meetings. Animals will not be permitted to vote on the pigs' proposals. The pigs will now be in control of all farm matters. There is some protesting but this is immediately quashed by the growling of the dogs. Squealer later goes round the farm to justify Napoleon's actions, stressing the importance of discipline. The animals learn that the windmill is to be built after all and that the plans were actually stolen from Napoleon by Snowball. This chapter is the turning point of the fable. The progress in the life of the animals has reached its peak and the downward movement is about to begin. Napoleon has been biding his time. When he does make his move it is an effective climax for we have, with the animals, been full of admiration for Snowball and have been giving him our full attention. The careful reader will have noticed clues and hints about Napoleon, small incidents that have been leading up to this climax: the milk and apples, the taking away of the puppies, his non-appearance at the Battle of the Cowshed. As the animals are soon to learn, Napoleon is now fully in control of their lives and destinies. Chapter 6 The animals are working like slaves but are happy in their work because they are working for themselves, not working to support idle and wasteful human beings. We also learn that because of the building of the windmill, some tasks are left undone. The windmill is difficult to build as the animals are not physically adapted to the task but they find ways around the difficulties. Boxer comes into the limelight again as his great strength and persistence is an asset. He puts his all into the work, so much so that Clover warns him not to overstrain himself.
Despite their efforts, the animals do not have the materials they require and this presents another difficulty. Napoleon decides to get round this by trading with the humans, something that upsets some of the animals as they remembered it had been agreed never to have anything to do with humans, the enemy. Protestors are silenced by the snarling of the dogs. Squealer tells them later they must have been dreaming, that no such decision was ever made. The pigs make their way into the farmhouse and sleep in the beds; Squealer justifies this by altering the Commandment. Animal Farm is beginning to be accepted by the humans, grudgingly. They no longer support the drunken Jones who has given up hope of ever being restored to the farm. When the windmill is blown down by a November gale, Napoleon blames Snowball and the animals believe him. They are deeply shocked that Snowball should do such a thing. It is, of course, ironic that the animals are happy to work so hard and for such long hours because they are working for themselves and not for someone who is exploiting them. In fact, they are working for a far more ruthless exploiter, Napoleon and his henchpigs, they have not yet recognised this reality. Napoleon has declared that all work is 'strictly voluntary', but if it is not done, there will be a fifty per cent reduction in food ration for offenders.
Napoleon also convinces the animals that Snowball is responsible for the destruction of the windmill. Why do they not realise that Napoleon is lying, we may ask, for all the facts seem to prove it? Napoleon has realised something important about human nature: people will often believe what they want to believe rather than face up to the truth. All the animals are shocked but not one of them openly questions Napoleon's statement: they now no longer question anything, believing what they are told absolutely. This chapter presents the process by which they have been brought to this state of constant confusion and fear. Truth is ceasing to exist on Animal Farm and the animals no longer believe the evidence of their own senses and memories. Chapter 7 It is a bitter winter and the animals' life is hard. They are often cold and hungry and have been depressed by the ruin of the windmill. They are not as hopeful as before but must succeed because the rest of the countryside is watching, ready to rejoice if they fail. Food becomes very short and rations are reduced, the potatoes are spoiled and starvation seems a possibility. They have to conceal this fact from the outside world as new lies are being put about by human beings that famine and disease are rife, that cannibalism and infanticide are practised. Napoleon fills the food bins with sand and puts the grain on top of it to hide the truth from Whymper, who is deceived. Eventually it is decided that the hens must give up their eggs so that they may be sold for grain and meal. The hens protest and smash their own eggs but Napoleon starves them into submission. He is advised by Whymper to sell off some timber to Pilkington or Frederick who both want to buy it. In the spring Snowball is discovered to be coming into the farm at night and sabotaging the work of the animals. Napoleon decides an investigation should be made when it is discovered that Snowball has always been an agent of Jones and intends to attack the farm. The animals do not believe him. Boxer, especially, speaks up on Snowball's behalf, reminding everyone of how bravely Snowball fought at the Battle of the Cowshed. Squealer, however, manages to carry the day but it is obvious he is displeased with Boxer. Four days later, 10
the dogs attack four pigs and Boxer too. Boxer fights them off but the pigs confess to have been plotting with Snowball and are executed. The pigs who confess and are executed are those pigs who protested when the Sunday Meetings were abolished, and again when trading with humans was begun. (The incident has, of course, been organised and stage-managed by Napoleon and Squealer.) The hens who had started the egg rebellion are also eliminated. The animals are deeply shocked and creep away confused and miserable. When the comfort themselves by singing Beasts of England, Squealer arrives and tells them that this song is now outlawed and they are forbidden to sing it. A new song is composed which they must sing at Sunday meetings. We, the readers, are roused to anger and left with a feeling almost of despair when Squealer arrives to announce that the song which has carried them through so much and which represents the spirit of the animals is forbidden. Napoleon is going to crunch even this. It is not enough for him to control their actions and direct their thoughts; Napoleon intends to become 'an engineer of the soul' - songs that express that he wishes the animals to feel will replace those that express what they actually do feel. Chapter 8 The chapter begins with another example of a Commandment being adjusted and the animals' uneasiness about the matter is relieved. They learn to accept executions as part of their way of life. We hear that they now have to work very hard indeed, even harder than when Jones was in charge, and food is still very short. However, as they can no longer remember these times very clearly, Squealer has no difficulty in persuading them that they are wrong. Napoleon is becoming a cult figure; he is absolute ruler and is given inflated titles which suggest his good leadership and general benevolence. He is praised for everything that goes well. He has a hymn composed to him which is written up on the wall of the barn at the opposite end to the Commandments. He also has a young pig to taste his food in case it is poisoned. He begins complicated 11
dealings with Pilkington and Frederick over the timber they both wish to buy. Rumours of an attack by Frederick are heard and about the cruelty he inflicts on his own animals and feelings against him run high. The windmill is eventually finished and is to be called Napoleon Mill. Napoleon amazes the animals by telling them that he has sold the timber to their greatest enemy, Frederick, and that the rumours about him were the work of Snowball who has been on Pilkington's farm all the while. Napoleon claims that he pretended friendship with Pilkington to get Frederick to raise the offer for the timber. However, the banknotes with which Frederick paid Napoleon are useless forgeries and Frederick then attacks Animal Farm with guns and blows up the windmill. Eventually he and his men are repulsed by the animals who suffer great losses in the Battle of the Windmill but Napoleon declares it has been a great victory and orders celebrations. The pigs discovery whisky and get drunk, later pretending that they were ill. Snowball is caught altering the Commandment but the animals are too bewildered, confused and stupid to realise what he is doing. Just how stupid are these animals? we begin to ask ourselves. Have they been so morally corrupted by Napoleon that they can no longer recognise evil when they see it? Thought-control is one of Napoleon's crimes but the animals are not entirely innocent either. Look at these animals being duped, tricked, says Orwell, and ask yourself if you too could be so easily deceived in similar circumstances. And if you are, shouldn't you be doing something about it? The character of Benjamin needs to be looked at in closer detail at this point. Benjamin has kept well out of things; he did not believe in the revolution, nor in the hope that life would improve in any way. Here he refuses, as usual, to go and read the Commandment. How much blame does Benjamin deserve for doing nothing to avert the tragedies? He has brains - why does he not use them to guide his comrades until it is too late? Is Orwell asking us to look at people like him and question their policy of letting well or ill alone? Or does Benjamin recognise, as Orwell seemed to do, that in human history we dethrone one set of tyrants simply to enthrone another? It is worth looking carefully at Benjamin's character. In this chapter he looks on in wry amusement while Frederick and his men get ready to blow up the windmill - only he knows that is going on. Is this an occasion for 'amusement' or is there no other course for Benjamin? When what we call human values are at stake, he acts quite 12
differently; he is devoted to Boxer but is finally roused to action only when Boxer is being carted away.
We should also ask ourselves why the Battle of the Windmill is much more ferocious than the Battle of the Cowshed . In the second battle, the animals are fighting for their farm, or so they think. In reality, they are fighting for Napoleon who appeals to their patriotism to sacrifice their lives if necessary. It is one more way of getting people to do what we want by appealing to their better instincts for the wrong reasons. Chapter 9 Boxer is growing old and his wounds from the battle heal slowly. Clover and Benjamin urge him not to overwork himself but he continues with the rebuilding of the windmill. He will soon be of retiring age and we hear that there is a rumour that a new place will soon be designated for retired animals mow that he original meadow has been used to grow barley. Life on the farm is getting harder and harder and rations are drastically reduced. Squealer, with is statistics, argues the opposite, presenting the facts and figures in a distorted and misleading way. The animals are ready to believe, as usual, that things are not so bad as they were before the rebellion. Their morale is kept up by the 'Spontaneous Demonstrations' that Napoleon organises and by the tales of Moses who has been allowed back on the farm by the pigs. Boxer works so hard that he strains himself and falls ill. His popularity is shown by the fact that half the farmyard rush to where he lies. Squealer says that it has been decided to send him to hospital and a van arrives one day to take him away. Benjamin rushes out to tell the animals and to tell them what is written on the van. They are sending Boxer to the knacker's! They shout to Boxer and try to rouse him to break out of the van but Boxer has no strength left to save himself. The pigs deny this has happened and explain the mistaken rumours by saying the van changed hands. It now belongs to the vet but he has not had time yet to the paint out the name on the side of the van - the name of the local Horse Slaughterer. The animals are so cowed and beaten that we are told they are 'glad to believe' this lie. 13
The pigs promise to hold a memorial feast for Boxer but instead they drink a case of whisky which has obviously been paid for by the sale of Boxer to the Knackery. Napoleon has become an absolute dictator and his position is officially recognised - he is the only candidate for the Presidency of the newly proclaimed Republic. All opposition has been physically or psychologically removed and the animals, who has just been described as 'no longer slaves', are less free now than they were in Jones' day when they could at least think their own thoughts and believe the evidence of their own senses. When the animals are 'enormously relieved' to hear what Napoleon has to tell them, we are reminded of the swift way they accommodated to the confessions and executions - because they wanted to! This is a very important point that Orwell is making. We do not feel that the animals have once more been deceived by the lies of the pigs so much as feel that they are to blame for being so ready to be deceived. Chapter 10 Years pass - 'the seasons came and went, the short animal lives fled by - until there is no one left on the farm who remembers when it was owned by Jones, except Clover, Benjamin, Moses and some of the pigs. We hear that no animal has ever retired. The farm has become prosperous and been enlarged, and the windmill has been built. However, the prosperity is not used to improve the life of the animals but to mill corn for profit. The pigs and dogs have increased in number and consume a large proportion of the farm's produce without themselves producing anything. They are too busy with essential paperwork, Squealer tells the animals. Despite their very hard life, the animals feel privileged to belong to Animal Farm for it is still the only farm in England owned and run by animals. There are still celebrations which make the animals feel proud. One day Squealer takes away the sheep to teach them a new song and, on their return, Squealer is seen walking on his hind legs. Napoleon follows, also walking upright, and carrying a whip in his hands. Immediately the sheep begin to bleat in unison, 'Four legs good, two legs better!' Clover has noticed some change on the wall of the barn and Benjamin 14
consents to read what is written there. He reads: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. This justifies all the existing privileges and all the new ones the pigs give themselves.
Napoleon is visited by a delegation of farmers who he entertains in the farmhouse. The animals creep up to look in the window. Napoleon is now on equal terms with the farmers and they make jokes about lower orders and lower animals, which amuses them hugely. Napoleon declares that 'Comrade' will no longer be used and that the name of the farm will be changed back to Manor Farm. A quarrel breaks out when it is discovered that someone is cheating at cards. As the animals look from pig to human and from human to pig they notice that something has happened to the faces of the pigs they cannot tell the difference between them and the humans.
A READY REFERENCE George Orwell did not give titles to his chapters. Talk about the contents of each chapter with the help of the notes below and think of a good title for each chapter. The title should give readers a clue about what they might be about to read. This exercise will also be useful in reminding you about the essential stages in the story. Chapter 1 - Meeting in the big barn at which Old Major encourages the animals to rebel. - The animals all sing 'Beasts of England'. - Farmer Jones fires his gun and all the animals free. Chapter 2 - Major dies. - Pigs begin to organise rebellion. - Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer begin to preach Animalism at secret meetings. - Mr. Jones forgets to feed the animals. They help themselves to food. - Jones and his man are driven out of the farm when they try to whip the animals. - All traces of Jones' control over the animals are destroyed. - Mollie is rebuked for still wanting ribbons. - Seven Commandments are written on the barn wall. - The milk disappears. Chapter 3 - Record harvest, finished in record time. - Boxer displays incredible strength and keenness. - Sunday meetings for raising of flag, discussion and planning. - Snowball and Napoleon never seem to agree. - Snowball invents slogan: 'Four legs good, two legs bad’. 17
- Snowball concentrates on committee work; Napoleon on educating the young (especially the puppies). - Squealer justifies keeping milk and apples for pigs. Chapter 4 - Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington, whose lands are next to Animal Farm, become worried that their animals are catching the infection of rebellion. - The farmers invade Animal farm but are driven out, thanks to careful planning by Snowball. - The Battle of the Cowshed becomes a national anniversary. Chapter 5 - Mollie disappears. - Snowball wants the animals to build a windmill so that they would only have to work for three days a week. Napoleon disagrees and says that food production must be the first priority. - Napoleon wants firearms for defence: Snowball wants to send out pigeons to spread the word of rebellion to other farms. - Napoleon gets his dogs to chase Snowball off the farm. - Napoleon clamps down and abolishes Sunday meetings. - Napoleon decides to build the windmill claiming that Snowball had stolen the plans from him. Chapter 6 - The animals are working harder than ever, even on Sundays - Progress on the windmill is slow, in spite of the determined efforts by Boxer - Napoleon begins trading with other farms - Pigs move into Jones' house - Gale destroys windmill: Napoleon blames Snowball
Chapter 7 - News of starvation on Animal Farm begins to circulate - Mr. Whymper, the agent, is shown round the farm to prove that everything is all right - The hens start a rebellion and smash their own eggs in protest at having to sell them to Whymper. Nine hens die. - Snowball gets blamed for everything that goes wrong, and is accused of being in league with Mr. Jones. - Execution of four pigs who had objected to cancellation of Sunday meetings and three hens who had led the egg rebellion - The singing of 'Beasts of England' is forbidden. Chapter 8 - Squealer reassures animals that production of food is increasing. - The windmill is completed. - Napoleon sells timber to Frederick but is paid in forged notes. - Frederick attacks the farm and blows up the windmill. - Pigs discover a case of whisky and get drunk celebrating the victory over Frederick. Chapter 9 - The cold winter brings suffering as food becomes scarce. - Napoleon orders frequent Spontaneous Demonstrations. - Animal Farm is declared a republic and Napoleon is unanimously elected President. - Boxer collapses from overwork and is taken to the knacker's yard. - The pigs hold a memorial banquet in Boxer's honour. Chapter 10 - The years pass by and there is a new generation of animals who believe in Animalism without really understanding it. - The farm is better off and the windmill is at last completed. 19
- Animals work harder than ever but the pigs and dogs deal with the paperwork and spend lives of leisure. - Pigs walk on two legs and behave increasingly like humans. - Pigs hold party and invite their human neighbours. - The other animals look through the window and are amazed: they cannot tell which is man and which is pig.
THE CHARACTERS IN 'ANIMAL FARM' OLD MAJOR Although Old Major appears only in the first chapter of the novel, he is very important because it is his ideas which spark off the rebellion. He is an old Middle White boar, greatly respected by the other animals. He is a fine speaker who cleverly arouses the enthusiasm of the other animals for his cause. Notice the brilliant touch of finishing his speech with the song Beasts of England, which stirs all the animals to fever pitch. In fact, Major's speech is a good example of a political speech, full of passion, persuasion and emotive language, but with very little substance. Major dies before the Rebellion, but he is clearly the 'Father of the Revolution', whose ideas and vision of a better, more just society awaken the desire to rebel in the minds of others. However, through the character of Old Major, Orwell may be criticizing those politicians and thinkers who create unrest by proposing ideas which are splendid in theory but which are too idealistic to work out in practice. NAPOLEON Napoleon is a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar. He is described as being 'not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way.' Napoleon may have taken part in the rebellion for genuine reasons at first, but within a few days of the expulsion of Jones, he begins to show his true colours. He (and Snowball) quickly assert the pigs' superiority over the other animals and undertake to dispose of the cows' milk (to their own benefit, of course). Before long, Napoleon becomes the powerful and ruthless tyrant that he remains for the rest of the novel. He is shrewd, cunning and practical; these qualities prompt him to train his own 'police force' of fierce dogs which he sets loose on Snowball when the time is ripe. 21
Once in power, Napoleon is ruthless at keeping it. Snowball is the first to suffer, when Napoleon drives him from the farm. He also uses lies, propaganda and 'brain-washing' to keep the other animals under his control. He deals with revolts (or supposed revolts) by harshly putting down those he claims to be the ringleaders. He is adept at making an example of a few victims, for example the hens, in order to terrorize the other animals. Later in the novel we see Napoleon's other unpleasant qualities. He is greedy, selfish and vain, taking titles for himself and demanding the credit for every good thing. He is also a physical coward, keeping well out of harm's way during the Battle of the Cowshed. Napoleon has no moral conscience whatsoever. Although Boxer has been utterly loyal and devoted to him, Napoleon sells him to the local Knackery when Boxer's usefulness is over, and buys whisky for himself and his henchpigs with the proceeds of the sale. In general terms, Napoleon represents any cruel, absolute dictator who perverts the goals of a revolution for his own personal gain and glory. We see how any such leader goes from bad to worse, adopting more and more vicious tactics to retain his hold on power. Napoleon is vivid proof of the saying that 'power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' In terms of the Russian Revolution, Napoleon represents Stalin, a similarly cruel and despotic leader, who rose to the top by force and then used police-state methods to stay there. SNOWBALL Snowball is a more lively and vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in thought and speech, and more inventive. He was not considered to have the same depth of character nor the same ruthless streak. Snowball may also be seen as the most 'intellectual' of the animals. He is best at writing and it is Snowball who explains the more abstract ideas of Animalism to the others. It is Snowball who designs the Farm Flag that flutters over Animal Farm. Although Snowball's interest in bettering the education of the other 22
animals is genuine, his ideas are often impractical and fail for that reason. For instance, he organizes several useless Committees such as the Egg Production Committee and the Clean Tail League. Snowball's other great dream is, of course, the windmill: “in glowing sentences, he painted a picture of Animal Farm as it might be when sordid labour was lifted from the animals' backs.” However, Snowball's ability to design the windmill does demonstrate his intelligence as do the brilliant tactics he devises for the Battle of the Cowshed. There is no doubt that Snowball is brave; he leads the charge against Jones at the Battle of the Cowshed. In general terms, Snowball represents the idealistic 'thinkers' of a revolution whose admirable ideas often fail for practical reasons - and who cannot defend themselves against their more unscrupulous and ruthless colleagues. Snowball can be easily identified with the historical figure of Leon Trotsky, one of the early leaders of the Russian Revolution. Like Snowball, Trotsky was an intellectual and a clever military tactician. And like Snowball, Trotsky was exiled from his country by a ruthless rival (Stalin) and later used as a scapegoat. Trotsky was eventually murdered on Stalin's orders in 1946. NAPOLEON & SNOWBALL Students are often asked to compare and contrast Napoleon and Snowball. Snowball is good at organizing, at planning. He is intelligent and his aim is to educate the animals so that they are able to help in the governing of the farm. Snowball would also like to export the revolution to as many neighbouring farms as possible to set animals free from slavery. Napoleon is taciturn (tight-lipped, uncommunicative, unforthcoming), he keeps his ideas to himself and works in the background (taking the puppies away to train), while Snowball works in the open. Napoleon plays no part in the Battle of the Cowshed where Snowball is fighting so bravely after working out the strategy by which victory is achieved. Snowball wins support by his ability to arouse enthusiasm for his ideas and projects; Napoleon has to resort to deception, lies and force, expelling Snowball with the dogs after Snowball has won the argument 23
over the windmill. As the story develops, the character of Napoleon is presented more openly. He does not hide his real nature and deals with opposition in a most ruthless manner. Looking back, we can see that Napoleon prepared for his policies of confessions and executions by training the dogs to act as his vicious police. Napoleon is so utterly corrupt with no motive other than his desire for absolute power that Orwell's main theme - power corrupts - is presented in clear and stark terms. We do not need to question why Napoleon acted as he did. In the fable he represents the ruthlessness, violence, treachery and self-interest of men such as Hitler and Stalin. Napoleon displays not a single redeeming virtue because he has none. BOXER Boxer is the most likeable character on Animal Farm. He is an enormous cart-horse, very strong, although 'not of first rate intelligence' which is Orwell's kind way of saying that Boxer is rather dim-witted. Boxer is very industrious, and in times of difficulty, takes the slogan: “I will work harder.” For Boxer, working harder is the solution to problems he cannot really grasp with his mind. At times it seems as if Animal Farm will collapse and it is only kept going by Boxer's determination and strength. One function of Boxer's character is to serve as a contrast to the lazy, self-serving pigs. It is tragic that Boxer remains fiercely loyal to Napoleon who callously (cold-hearted and cruel) send him to the Knackery once his usefulness has gone. Orwell cleverly builds up the character of Boxer as gentle, humble, thoughtful and self-sacrificing so that his ultimate betrayal inspires anger and disgust in the reader against the pigs and Napoleon in particular. In human terms, Boxer represents the ordinary working man. Orwell reveals his respect and admiration for the working-class, and perhaps also frustration that a group with so much potential so often allow themselves to be used and exploited by those in power. 24
Ultimately, Boxer is too loyal and trusting for his own good. BOXER and NAPOLEON Boxer is the animal that most readers remember best along with Napoleon and he forms another of the important character contrasts with Napoleon. The way we view Boxer is essential to the way we view Napoleon. Boxer is presented simply and sympathetically to reinforce our hatred of all that Napoleon represents. Through Boxer we come to see Napoleon as ruthless, exploitative, and power-hungry, and we loathe him for the way he treats Boxer. The fact that Boxer himself cannot hate Napoleon because he is duped, tricked and deceived by him throughout the story makes us despise Napoleon even more. Boxer is presented as one of Napoleon's most devoted followers, never doubting for more than a moment what the Leader says anymore than he would shirk his workload, taking upon himself far more than his share of the work until it kills him. Boxer represents those people who believe that more of the same thing will solve a problem when the present amount is failing rather than standing back to consider whether the course of action might be wrong. It is Boxer's presentation as a simple, sincere and compassionate creature that causes the reader to be outraged, angry, and eventually deeply saddened and grieved that this noble animal is treated in such a shabby, sordid manner. We find a balance of opposites: Napoleon is ruthlessly cruel (the confessions and executions, Boxer's death); Boxer is compassionate (the injured stable boy in the Battle of the Cowshed); Napoleon is all-powerful in his cunning; Boxer is quite helpless in his trust and loyalty; Napoleon is motivated by greed and selfishness; 25
Boxer is motivated only by a desire to do his best for all. Many more contrasts could be listed, but we can already see quite clearly Orwell's intention in his characterization of this hard-working, devoted and betrayed horse. SQUEALER Squealer is a “small fat pig with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, and a shrill voice.” His persuasive nature makes him ideal for the job of propaganda agent for the pigs and for Napoleon in particular. Squealer's name suggests his nature: he is a sneak and a tell-tale. Throughout the novel he is portrayed as an unpleasant character, always distorting the truth or telling pure lies. He is a flatterer, a toady who worms his way into Napoleon's confidence and serves Napoleon whole-heartedly so that he can share in Napoleon's status and privileges. Squealer has no beliefs, no ideals of his own, he exists to serve the greatest power that he finds around him. Squealer is also a coward who vanishes during the Battle of the Windmill. He hates being opposed and never forgives Boxer for standing up against the animals who are to be executed. He takes delight in getting revenge by helping to send Boxer to the Knocker’s Yard and then telling the absurd lie that the van was transporting the faithful carthorse to the vet's. Like all pompous cowards, Squealer is also rather ridiculous (e.g. falling off the ladder while altering the Commandments). By the end of the novel Squealer has become extremely fat, lazy and more pompous than ever. Squealer represents the propaganda agents of the state who strive to keep the dictator in power no matter what lies they have to tell or whose lives have to be sacrificed. MINOR CHARACTERS There are many minor characters in Animal Farm but they are all 26
memorable, and they all have some importance in getting across the total message of the novel. Benjamin Benjamin, the donkey, is the oldest animal on the farm and may also be the wisest. He sees through the pigs' exploitation of the other animals but his cynical, pessimistic nature prevents him from doing anything about it. He represents the disillusioned people who realize that all revolutions are probably pointless and merely lead to new forms of tyranny. Benjamin represents those people who believe that there is something fundamentally wrong, fundamentally corrupt with human nature itself. Moses Moses, the pet raven, is a spy and a tale-bearer. He is a sweet-talker who tells the animals of a beautiful place called Sugarcandy Mountain (Heaven) where they will go when they die. Moses represents religion and the idea that we should accept the misery and despair of human existence because after we die we will all go to a Heaven where we will be happy forever. He represents those who want to use religion as a way of keeping the mass of the people content with their miserable existence so that they will not object to the fortunate few who grab everything they can in this life. Mollie Mollie is the silly and vain white mare. She has no liking for the hard life after the Rebellion and quickly returns to the world of men, servitude, and physical comfort. The Cat The cat is lazy and independent. She avoids work whenever possible, often with some plausible excuse. She represents those people in society who adapt to whatever the conditions are, but who never accept any responsibility or make any commitments. The cat wants to take what she can get from the community without contributing anything towards it. Minimus 27
Minimum, the pig, is a kind of official poet and song-writer, composing second-rate poetry to praise Napoleon and Animal Farm. Minimus represents the kind of artists who 'sell-out' to the leaders of the Revolution and who prostitute their art by producing what the leaders want to hear and see rather than pointing towards the truth, which is the first function of all Art. Clover Clover, like Boxer, is compassionate, gentle, and dim-witted, but unlike Boxer is not prepared to give unquestioning loyalty and obedience to Napoleon. Nor is Clover prepared to work herself to death for something she feel intuitively may be wrong. The Sheep The sheep are the stupidest animals on the farm. They can be easily convinced of anything by the sharp-witted pigs and can even change their views completely with a little prompting. The sheep represent the ignorant masses of people in a country who blindly follow the instructions of whoever happens to be in power at the moment. The Dogs The dogs have been raised and trained by Napoleon to be vicious and blindly obedient to their master. They represent such forces at Stalin's secret police or Hitler's Gestapo who used brutal methods of intimidate or eliminate any opposition to the dictators. The Humans Frederick - Pilkington Whymper
THEMES IN ANIMAL FARM GEORGE ORWELL felt very strongly about political leaders who try to gain absolute power and who will not allow other people or other politicians a fair share in the running of the country. He, therefore, decided to write a story warning of the dangers of trusting political leaders who on the one hand promise a better and more equal society but on other hand never let ordinary people share in making the decisions which affect their lives. In order to obtain as wide an audience as possible for his ideas Orwell knew that he had to write a story which could be easily understood and which could be translated into any language. He decided to give his story instant appeal by making it seem simple and childlike. That is why he called it a fairy story. Fairy stories are not always as simple and innocent as they seem. They first began to be told among the poorer sections of society many hundreds of years ago. They were not only for children; in fact many of them had deeper meanings that were for adult ears only. The parables told by Jesus worked in a similar way: they seemed like ordinary accounts of everyday life but they always had a deeper meaning. It is the same with Animal Farm. On the surface it is an interesting story about farmyard animals; beneath the surface it is about how humans organize and govern themselves in different kinds of society. In Animal Farm, George Orwell is trying to help us think seriously about very serious issues that we all have to face as adults: how shall we organize ourselves into a fair society, how will we govern that society and what are the dangers which face it. We can call these deeper questions, the THEMES of the novel, the ideas which Orwell is trying to make us think about. George Orwell cared passionately about the beliefs he leads us to think about in the novel; he was prepared to fight and risk his life for what he believed in and to try to put these beliefs in the form of a book which is accessible to as many people as care to read and understand it. THE OVERALL THEME of Animal Farm is very clear: it is a criticism of any kind of government in which a small group of people make the laws for the great majority of people without consulting them in any form about what they actually want. This is called totalitarianism and it 29
has produced the greatest horrors of the 20th century: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, and the China of Mao Tse Tung. In a totalitarian society the rulers have absolute power over the property and lives of every person who lives in that society. They make the laws and the administer the laws. No one is allowed to question these laws and those who do are severely punished, often executed without even the pretence of a trial. We can break down Orwell's overall theme into four main elements: 1 Power corrupts those who seize it 2 Propaganda 3 The abuse of socialism 4 The dangers of revolution Power Corrupts There is a saying that 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely', and this is certainly shown to be true in Animal Farm. There is no doubt that all the animals took part in the revolution with the genuine intention of bringing Old Major's noble ideals to reality. However, almost immediately after the rebellion, the thrill of power is felt by the pigs who are more natural leaders than the other animals. Even Snowball, who seems to be more high-minded than the rest, gives into the temptation of the milk and apples. Orwell seems to hint that Snowball would also have developed into a tyrant. The pigs' degeneration is rapid; once they realize what power they have, they soon grow to love it and will stop at nothing to increase it and hang on to it. Orwell's purpose is clear; it is very dangerous to place too much power into the hands of individuals. Propaganda propaganda (prop-a-gan-da) n. Something written or spoken with the intention of making people believe what you want them to believe. 30
The aim of propaganda is to persuade people to accept certain beliefs or facts without question. Propaganda is not necessarily good or bad. It depends what people use it for. When wars are being fought it becomes essential to keep up the spirits and morale of your own side/country and at the same time persuade the enemy that they are fighting a lost cause without any hope of victory. In Animal Farm propaganda is used for a wicked purpose because its aim is to trick and deceive the very animals that is meant to serve. In Animal Farm propaganda becomes a twisted mass of lies and halftruths intended to hide the reality of the situation from the animals; it is used to confuse and bewilder them; and above all, to stop them thinking for themselves. Squealer is in charge of all the propaganda for Napoleon. Every time something happens which makes the animals question the way the revolution is progressing, Squealer uses his skills with language to persuade them that everything is for the best. Here are some of the main techniques used in propaganda: Selection Out of a mass of complex facts, the propagandist selects only those which support his arguments and assertions. Lying Telling lies is always a major tool of the propagandist. Remember what Hitler said: 'If you tell a BIG LIE often enough and loudly enough people will begin to believe it.' Repetition If you keep repeating a statement again and again, it will eventually be accepted by your listeners. Pinpointing the enemy The propagandist often tries to find an enemy, real or imagined, to attack. This unites everybody against the 'enemy' and they stop thinking for themselves. Assertion The propagandist rarely argues. He just makes bold statements that he asserts to be true - and goes on and on making them. Rhetorical questions The propagandist often peppers his speeches with questions which he intends to answer himself. He does not want his listeners to answer them because he does not want them to think. 31
He will do their thinking for them. SQUEALER'S SPEECH Squealer uses many of the techniques of propaganda listed here. Go through the speech in fine detail and write out the bits which match the appropriate headings in the boxes above. Here, Squealer is justifying the pigs keeping the milk and apples for themselves. “Comrades!” he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself! “Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (and this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of a pig. “We pigs are brain workers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. “Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! “Surely, comrades,” cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” The abuse of socialism George Orwell was a socialist. He believed in the theory that wealth should be more evenly distributed, to benefit the poor rather than remaining forever in the hands of the rich. What he is criticizing in Animal Farm is not the socialist ideals of the animals; from his description of the farm immediately after the Rebellion, we can see that the animals were happier and better off. What angered Orwell was when those ideals were perverted and corrupted by those who gained power under such a system. He is savagely critical of those countries, e.g. Communist Russia and Communist China which claim to be socialist but are in reality totalitarian states. 32
The Dangers of the Revolution This is related to the previous theme. Orwell shows that a revolution which destroys an unjust and tyrannical regime may not produce anything better to take its place. In the case of Animal Farm, the animals are better off for a short time after they get rid of Jones. However, he is soon replaced as their master by Napoleon and the other pigs. Under this new leadership the animals are ultimately no better off than they were before, and probably even worse off. Orwell's message is again quite clear: that a popular revolution may well backfire on those who support it if every member of the community is not vigilant in ensuring that democratic rights and freedoms, so hard-won, are not preserved, protected and practised.
NAPOLEON - Key Concepts 1 large, fierce-looking Berkshire boar 2 'with a reputation for getting his own way' 3 greedy and selfish (milk/apples) 4 powerful and ruthless tyrant (Snowball/Boxer) 5 shrewd, cunning, practical (trains dogs) 6 uses lies, propaganda and brain-washing 7 uses terror (execution of hens and sheep) 8 self-centred and vain (President) 9 takes credit for everything (the windmill) 10 no moral conscience (treatment of Boxer) 11 physical coward (Battle of the Cowshed) 12 represents any cruel, absolute dictator who perverts a revolution for his own personal gain and glory). SNOWBALL - Key Concepts 1 2 3 4 5 6 more lively and vivacious than Napoleon quicker in thought and speech more inventive and practical (windmill) great organizer (Battle of the Cowshed) no so ruthless as Napoleon most intellectual (invents Animalism) organizes classes for animals 7 brave (leads charge against Jones) 8 enthusiastic, an inspiring leader 9 rather naive (does not suspect Napoleon) 10 idealistic, but his good ideas often fail for practical reasons BOXER - Key Concepts 1 2 3 4 5 most likeable character enormous carthorse, great strength “not of first rate intelligence” - dim-witted “I will work harder.” Animal Farm kept going by Boxer's strength and determination 6 so different from the lazy, selfish pigs 7 Boxer is loyal and devoted to friends (even to Napoleon) 8 Boxer is gentle (e.g. the stable boy) 9 thoughtful and self-sacrificing 34
10 Boxer is too loyal and trusting for his own good. SQUEALER - Key Concepts 1 “twinkling eyes, shrill voice, nimble movements” 2 very persuasive - could prove that “white is black”. 3 exists to serve Napoleon, to share in his privileges 4 sneak and a tell-tale 5 invents statistics, distorts truth, tells pure lies 6 cowardly nature 7 malicious and vengeful (never forgives Boxer) 8 pompous and ridiculous (falls off ladder) 9 becomes extremely fat and lazy 10 has no beliefs or ideals of his own BENJAMIN - Key Concepts 1 2 3 4 5 oldest animal on the farm may be the wisest cynical and pessimistic does nothing to stop the pigs disillusioned - believes that nothing ever really changes 6 but loyal and devoted on a personal level (Boxer) 7 believes there is something fundamentally corrupt with human nature itself 8 witnesses the transformation of the pigs
SPOT THE SPEAKER/S AND THE SITUATION/S Here are 20 quotations from Animal Farm. Can you say who said each one and upon what occasion? This is not only an excellent way to testing and revising your knowledge about the characters and events in the novel but also provides a number of quotations, some of which you might find useful to include in your examination essay. It is likely that you will be able to take a copy of the novel into the examination and it will be a great help if you have in your mind a number of quotations which may prove useful. You may like to challenge a partner, taking it in turns to identify the speaker and the situation. 1. Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious and short. 2. Will there still be sugar after the rebellion? 3. Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. 4. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings. 5. ...there lies Sugarcandy Mountain, that happy country where we poor animals shall rest forever from our labours! 6. Fools! Do you not see what is written on the side of that van? 7. It was the most affecting sight I have ever seen! I was at his bedside at the very last. 8. Let us make it a point of honour to get in the harvest more quickly than Jones and his men could do. 9. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. 36
10. Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey. 11. War is war. The only good human being is a dead one. 12. I have no wish to take life, not even human life. 13. Have you any record of such a resolution? Is it written down? 14. Comrades, here and now I pronounce the death sentence upon Snowball. 15. I do not believe that. Snowball fought bravely at the Battle of the Cowshed. I saw him myself. 16. It does not matter. I think you will be able to finish the windmill without me. 17. ...it appears to me that the wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be? 18. If you have your lower animals to contend with, we have our lower classes! 19. Gentlemen, I give you a toast: to the prosperity of Animal Farm. 20. Gentlemen, here is my toast. To the prosperity of the Manor Farm!
ANIMAL FARM Much More Than A 'FAIRY STORY'
You probably realised very quickly when you began to read Animal Farm that it is much more than the 'fairy story' which Orwell used as a sub-title for his book. A more accurate description than 'fairy story' would be 'a fable' which is a story which uses animal characters to tell us something about human nature and institutions. In a fable the characters are often representative types, not fully rounded characters such as we would expect to find in a novel: the fox will always be crafty, the sheep will always be stupid, the pigs will always be lazy and selfish. Orwell does present his characters as types with easily-distinguished qualities - the pigs are exploiters, the horses are labourers, the sheep are easily led, the dogs are trained to be vicious - but at the same time he gives the most important characters their own particular personalities which makes them much more memorable and moving. Allegory Animal Farm is an allegory. That is, the characters and events in the book all stand for something else. In fact, we can clearly see three levels of meaning in the novel: Literal Historical General A kind of fairy story or fable about animals A criticism of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. A general criticism of how political hopes and ideals can be betrayed.
Satire To 'satirise' something is to ridicule it by mocking or making fun of it.
Orwell uses satire to criticise what he saw as the failure of Communism in Russia. The satire in Animal Farm is very obvious because real historical figures such as Stalin are portrayed as animals (Napoleon), most of them in an uncomplimentary way. For many years Animal Farm was banned in Russia because the authorities there were so sensitive about its critical content. However, you do not have to know anything about the connection between the novel and Stalin's Russia to appreciate and enjoy Animal Farm. The novel does a wonderful job in satirising any group of people who try to take over a country or an organisation and begin to run it for themselves without taking into account the rights of other people who belong to that country or institution. 38
As we can tell from the novel, Orwell was against the use of fancy, complicated, highflown language which is used to conceal the truth rather than reveal it. It is worth noting that Orwell is critical of the wordy language and jargon used by Snowball and Squealer in the novel. The presentation of the story as a kind of fable demands simple, direct language, but Orwell made it clear in his other works that be believed writing should be kept as simple and natural as possible. Much younger readers can enjoy Animal Farm as a fable without having to understand and appreciate its deeper levels of meaning. Here are Orwell's own rules for writing:
1 Never use a long word where a short one will do 2 If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out 3 Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent 4 Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print 5 Never use the passive where you can use the active 6 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
Irony Irony is hard to define precisely and there are different types of irony. Generally, irony exists when the readers are aware of something which the characters are not aware and which changes the reader's perspective on the situation. Perhaps the greatest irony in Animal Farm is at the end when the pigs become so like their human masters that the other animals cannot tell the difference. The pigs themselves are unaware of what has happened to them, and the irony is that they have become what they hated and feared most at the start of the novel. 39
When something is the story seems to be the case and we, because we have been given a privileged view of the events, know it is not the case (and very often the precise opposite of the case), irony is at work. Irony can be comic; irony can be savage. For example, there is strong irony when Boxer asks Napoleon for permission to release the dog which has attacked him (Chapter 7). We readers realise what Boxer does not that it was Napoleon who had ordered the dogs to attack him in the first place. There are many examples of irony in Animal Farm. Take a closer look at these and discuss what is so ironical about the incidents: Ch. 2 The pigs solve the problem of the milk. Ch. 8 Napoleon discovers the banknotes are forged. Ch. 9 The pigs acquire another crate of whisky. Ch. 9 Boxer is sent to his death.
Humour In many ways Animal Farm is a very grim novel giving a very dark and pessimistic view of human nature, but there is also a great deal of humour in the tale. For it is part of the human condition that men (and women) are often able to find humour in the grimmest of situations. Some of the humour is created by the idea of animals thinking and acting like humans, but that is humour at a low level. The real humour is when the reader of Animal Farm discovers so much that it comic and amusing about human beings themselves, especially when the reader discovers something of himself in the characters of the novel. We all have a Boxer within us, a Snowball, a Squealer, and Mollie, too. Here are some comic moments. What makes them humorous? Can you add your own favourite comic moments to the list? the cat persuading the birds to join a committee the vanity of Mollie Snowball's 'proof' that a wing is a leg the way the old ram (in Ch. 7) is said to have been killed - the 'Comrade Napoleon is dying' story (Ch. 8)
GEORGE ORWELL 1903-1950 Who was George Orwell? The author of Animal Farm was born in 1903 in India when it was part of the British Empire. His real name was Eric Blair and he came from an upper middle-class background. His father and both is grandfathers made their livings in Burma and India which were under British rule until 1947. What were his schooldays like? Orwell's early school days were spent in a private boarding school, called St Cyprians, which he hated. He hated the snobbery, the dictatorial regime, the extremely Spartan conditions, the terrible food and the frequent bullying. There can be little doubt that Orwell based some of his descriptions in Animal Farm on his miserable life at St. Cyprians where he stayed until he was nearly fourteen. Perhaps it was here that he first learned to hate injustice and unchecked power. After St. Cyprians, Orwell won a scholarship to Eton, one of England's most famous and exclusive public schools. He enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere which gave him more room to 'develop his individuality'. How did Orwell learn about imperialism? When he left Eton, Orwell followed the family tradition by joining the Indian Imperial Police. He served in Burma where he observed the workings of imperialism at close quarters. He knew it was an unjust system and gradually came to despise the way in which it exploited and oppressed the poor and the hungry. How did Orwell become a writer? After working in Burma for five years, Orwell resigned from the Police Force and returned to England to try his hand at becoming a writer. To gather material for a book he decided to take to the road and learn about people who had fallen on hard times: tramps, beggars, 41
prostitutes and criminals. He explored the worst areas of London and Paris doing casual work and sleeping rough. He was determined to find out at first hand what it was like to live at the bottom of society. In 1933, at the age of thirty, Orwell published his first book, called Down and Out in Paris and London. It was the first time he used the name of George Orwell. He probably took the surname from the River Orwell which ran close to his parents' home in Suffolk. How did Orwell become a socialist? A socialist believes that all people in any society are of equal worth and value because we are all human beings. Therefore, a socialist believes that everybody in any society should be given equal opportunities and that society has a duty and a responsibility to make sure that all its members have reasonable standards of care and help throughout their lives. A socialist believes that every member of society is ultimately responsible for every other member of society. George Orwell became a socialist. In 1936 Orwell was asked by his publisher to write a book about the poor and unemployed in the north of England, especially the mining community. It was a time of mass unemployment and great hardship for working people. Orwell was very moved by what he saw and his anger at the injustices he witnessed helped to make him into a committed socialist. The book in which he described his experiences is called The Road to Wigan Pier. After several years of living rough Orwell took a job as a teacher in a private school in order to earn some money. He worked hard at his job and also managed to write two more novels. Around this time Orwell went to live in the country with Eileen O'Shaughnessy who he had married a year earlier. Orwell goes to war Orwell's life was dramatically changed by the Spanish Civil War which broke out in 1936. He and Eileen went out to join the Republican forces in their struggle against the fascists led by General Franco. Writers, intellectuals and trade unionists from all over Europe, many of them from Britain, flocked to join the International Brigade. The Communist Party, backed Stalin, was also fighting against Franco's 42
fascists. At first they worked together with the International Brigade but gradually the Communists turned against them and began persecuting Spanish socialists because Stalin did not want to see them really changing society and winning real freedom. Orwell saw that the Communism preached by Stalin was really another form of fascism, another form of rule over the very many by the very few, just another form of totalitarianism. Orwell writes Animal Farm Orwell was badly wounded in the neck while he was fighting in Spain. When he returned to England, he began to plan some kind of attack on al forms of totalitarianism. Animal Farm was the result. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, he published Animal Farm which became an enormous success. Shortly afterwards his wife died and Orwell brought up their adopted son on his own. In 1948 he published his most famous book, 1984, in which he imagined what Britain would be like under a totalitarian dictatorship. George Orwell remained a firm socialist until his death in 1950 at the age of 47. The origins of Animal Farm George Orwell was once asked where he had got the idea for Animal Farm. He replied: “...the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart horse 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.”
ANIMAL FARM - Examination Practice
A Mr. Whymper, a solicitor living in Willingdon, had agreed to act as intermediary between Animal Farm and the outside world, and would visit the farm every Monday morning to receive his instructions. Napoleon ended his speech with the usual cry of 'Long Live Animal Farm!', and after singing of 'Beasts of England' the animals were dismissed. Afterwards Squealer made a round of the farm and set the animals' minds at rest. He assured them that the resolution against engaging in trade and using money had never been passed, or even suggested. It was pure imagination, probably traceable in the beginning to lies circulated by Snowball. A few animals still felt faintly doubtful, but Squealer asked them shrewdly, 'Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you any record of such a resolution? Is it written down anywhere?' And since it was certainly true that nothing of the kind existed in writing, the animals were satisfied that they had been mistaken. Every Monday Mr. Whymper visited the farm as had been arranged. He was a sly-looking little man with side whiskers, a solicitor in a very small way of business, but sharp enough to have realised earlier than anyone else that Animal Farm would need a broker and that the commissions would be worth having. The animals watched his coming and going with a kind of dread, and avoided him as much as possible. Nevertheless, the sight of Napoleon, on all fours, delivering orders to Whymper, who stood on two legs, roused their pride and partly reconciled them to the new arrangements. Their relations with the human race were now not quite the same as they had been before. The human beings did not hate Animal Farm any less now that it was prospering, indeed they hated it more than ever. Every human being held it as an article of faith that the farm would go bankrupt sooner or later, and, above all, that the windmill would be a failure. They would meet in the public-houses and prove to one another by means of diagrams that the windmill was bound to fall down, or that if it did stand up, then it would never work. And yet, against their will, they had developed a certain respect for the efficiency with which the animals were managing their own affairs. One symptom of this was that they had begun to call Animal Farm by its proper name and ceased to pretend that it was called the Manor Farm. They had also dropped their championship of Jones, who had given up hope of getting his farm back and gone to live in another part of the county. Except through Whymper there was as yet no contact between 44
Animal Farm and the outside world, but there were constant rumours that Napoleon was about to enter into a definite business agreement either with Mr. Pilkington of Foxwood or with Mr. Frederick of Pinchfield - but never, it was noticed, with both simultaneously. It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and took up their residence there. Again the animals seemed to remember that a resolution against this had been passed in the early days, and again Squealer was able to convince them that this was not the case. It was absolutely necessary, he said, that the pigs, who were the brains of the farm, should have a quiet place to work in. It was also more suited to the dignity of the Leader (for of late he had taken to speaking of Napoleon under the title of 'Leader') to live in a house than a mere sty. Nevertheless some of the animals were disturbed when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing-room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds. Boxed passed it off as usual with 'Napoleon is always right!', but Clover, who thought she remembered a definite ruling against beds, went to the end of the barn and tried to puzzle out the Seven Commandments which were inscribed there. Finding herself unable to read more than individual letters, she fetched Muriel. 'Muriel,' she said, 'read me the Fourth Commandment. Does it not say something about never sleeping in a bed?' With some difficulty Muriel spelt it out. It says, “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets”' she announced finally. QUESTIONS 1 2 3 In what ways had the attitude of humans changed towards Animal Farm since the Revolution? (10) In what ways is Squealer's behaviour in this passage typical of his behaviour throughout the novel? (15) 'Animal Farm gives a very black picture of human nature.' What evidence is there for and against this statement in the novel, and how far do you agree with it? (25)
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