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Title: Animal Farm

Genre: dystopian drama, “fairy story,” allegorical tale

Author: George Orwell
Period/ School: Postmodern
Publication Date: 1945

The Author and His Times: George Orwell grew up in India, became a member of the Indian
Imperial Police, and was educated at Eton. He detested his upper-class background. He lived
during World Wars I and II.

Form, Structure, Plot: The structure of the story is short and simple. Linear. The story takes place
over the time of a few seasons. There is foreshadowing at the beginning of the Revolution as the
pigs slowly begin to manipulate the other animals without their noticing. There are ten chapters.
There is a da capo ending, as the pigs become worse than the original oppressors and
indistinguishable from the humans.

Point of View: The novel is written in third person objective, though there is one scene that is
written in third person omniscient. This shift occurs during one of the most shocking and
emotional scenes in the novel, and in this case highlights the feelings of hopelessness and
impotence that the animals feel in the face of their pig oppressors. The objective quality of the
majority of the narration makes the animals seem like more simplistic, archetypal characters.

Characters: There are about nine major named animal characters, several unnamed animal
characters, and four major human characters. The characters are mostly flat and unchanging. The
character’s traits are revealed primarily through how they act, what they say about themselves or
each other often isn’t true. There is no clear protagonist and many characters have antagonist
qualities, though the main villain is Napoleon.
Napoleon: middle aged, power-hungry, smart, manipulative; pink, pig; wants to control the other
animals and all the farm activities, knows that education is power; represents Stalin; interprets
Old Major’s dream for the other animals and ultimately destroys it. His name shows that he is
militaristic and desires to control everything.
“ ‘Never mind the milk, comrades!’ cried Napoleon, placing himself in front of the buckets. ‘That will be
attended to. The harvest is more important. Comrade Snowball will lead the way. I shall follow in a few
minutes. Forward, comrades! The hay is waiting.’ ”
This quote shows how good Napoleon is at subtly manipulating the other animals. He has the
ability to think ahead, perceive the truth of a situation, and alter it so that it will turn out in his
favor without arousing suspicion from any of the other animals.
Squealer: Young adult, clever, good communicator, dishonest; small, pig; talks the other
animals into following Napoleon’s orders, makes it sound like everyone on the farm is happy;
helps keep Napoleon in control by easing the animals’ anxieties; represents government
propaganda. His name draws the reader’s attention to his oratory skills.
“ ‘I do not believe that,’ he said. ‘Snowball fought bravely at the Battle of Cowshed. I saw him myself.
Did we not give him “Animal Hero, First Class,” immediately afterwards?’
‘That was our mistake, comrade. For we know now—it is all written down in the secret documents that
we have found—that in reality he was trying to lure us to our doom.’
‘But he was wounded,’ said Boxer. ‘We all saw him running with blood.’
‘That was part of the arrangement!’ cried Squealer. ‘Jones’s shot only grazed him. I could show you this
in his own writing, if you were able to read it. The plot was for Snowball, at the critical moment, to give
the signal for flight and leave the field to the enemy. And he very nearly succeeded—I will say, comrades,
he would have succeeded if it had not been for our heroic leader, Comrade Napoleon.’ ”
This interchange reveals Squealer’s ability to manipulate the truth in order to promote the goals
of Napoleon. Through his use of words, Squealer makes the other animals doubt themselves and
convince themselves that their own memories—and thus their identity as individuals—is wrong
and dangerous for the principals of Animalism and the success of the farm. Squealer proves that
the ability to speak convincingly, to learn, and to know, is the true conduit to power.
Boxer: Middle aged; hardworking, simple, naïve; large, cart horse; takes on the work of saving
the farm, believes that the only solution is to work harder and that everything will be all right,
committed to the survival of the farm and Napoleon, believes whatever authority figures tell him.
Represents the repressed working classes and ideal workers. His name indicates that he is strong.
“Nothing could have been achieved without Boxer, whose strength seemed equal to that of the rest of the
animals put together. When the boulder began to slip and the animals cried out in despair at finding
themselves dragged down the hill, it was always Boxer who strained himself against the rope and brought
the boulder to a stop. To see him toiling up the slope inch by inch, his breath coming fast, the tips of his
hoofs clawing at the ground, and his sides matted with sweat, filled everyone with admiration. […] His
two slogans, ‘I will work harder’ and ‘Napoleon is always right,’ seemed to be a sufficient answer to all
This passage reveals two of Boxer’s most defining qualities—his immense physical prowess, and
his steadfast dedication to everything related to Animalism. Boxer does not have the strongest
mental capacity, so he contributes to the farm physically, becoming a model for all the other
animals. This passage also contains foreshadowing of his tragic death, a death that proves—
perhaps more than any other event on the farm—how far Napoleon’s leadership has strayed from
the original dream that incited the Revolution.
Benjamin: middle aged-old, his age is difficult to pin down; wise, cynical, aloof; gray, donkey;
does not buy into the idea of Animalism and doesn’t believe that things will ever change, is
smart but doesn’t show it, mostly observes the events on the farm, rarely intervenes, expect in
the case of Boxer. Represents the intellectuals and historians who have seen the patterns of past
Revolutions and know that they always disintegrate.
“Old Benjamin, the donkey, seemed quite unchanged since the Rebellion. He did his work in the same
slow obstinate way as he had done in Jones’s time, never shrinking and never volunteering for extra work
either. About the Rebellion and its results he would express no opinion. When asked whether he was not
happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only ‘Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever
seen a dead donkey.’ ”
This quote enforces the eternal, inhuman quality that Benjamin possesses throughout the novel.
He is distant, seems to know more than the other animals, but keeps his information to himself.
While the other animals are caught up in the fervor of the Rebellion, Benjamin is emotionally
distant, rarely interacts, and seems to think that nothing the animals do will ever make a
significant difference. In this way he is the wisest of the animals, and the most bitter.

Setting: England, on a farm. The farm represents Communist Russia.

Diction: sparse and simple, probably to ensure that nothing detracts from the character dynamics
of the novel. It would be ironic of Orwell to use elaborate, flowery diction in a work that harshly
criticizes the act of trying to manipulate responses through the clever choice of words.
“ ‘Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable,
laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just enough food as will keep breath in our bodies, and
those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant
that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.’ ”
In this passage, Old Major speaks with the fervor of a revolutionary reader. His specific words
are important because they foreshadow the ultimate destiny of the Rebellion. His words are
inspiring to people and animals alike, showing the appeal of revolution, and make the ultimate
destruction of Old Major’s ideal all the more painful.
“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 t convince them that this was not the case.”
It is important to note the division between the pigs and other animals in this passage. Pigs are
not grouped under the heading of “animals,” showing that their loyalty to their comrades is
weakening. The use of passive voice is also interesting—none of the animals can quite remember
who exactly passed the original resolution, but they all know who is telling them that they are
wrong. The use of the word “again” also fills the passage with a sense of fruitless repetition.
“But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the
farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in
progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The
source of this trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades
This passage contrasts the behavior that one expects of humans with that of animals in an attempt
to show how closely intertwined the two now are. Banging and shouting are vulgar behaviors
associated with animals, whereas suspicion and denial are thought to be human characteristics
because they require the conscious intent to deceive. The fierce words that Orwell uses when
describing the conflict, the reader is led to believe that the connections between the animals and
humans have been severed and another rebellion might be in progress, but in reality that source
of their anxiety is only a game.
Syntax: Sentences are sparse and simple, but formal. Parallel sentence structure is used
occasionally, as is passive voice. Simpler characters often use more fragmented language, while
smarter characters speak in a more complex manner.
“ ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? […]
Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proven by
Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are
brainworkers. 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!’ ”
This speech by Squealer makes good use of rhetorical questions, propaganda, and careful
selection of pronouns. It shows what a clever speaker Squealer is, but inspires in the reader—
who can see through the ruse—a sense of dread of the things to come, and foreshadows the
dangers that the pigs will create.

Concrete Detail/ Imagery: imagery does not play a large role in this novel. The major recurring
idea is the painting of the seven commandments, which appears several times in increasingly
mutilated forms. The most emotionally gripping moments are the major battles, the slaughter of
the animals thought to be traitors to the Rebellion, the death of Boxer, and the final scene.

Symbolism: Mr. Jones – Czar Nicholas II, Old Major – Carl Marx, Animalism – Communism,
Snowball – Trotsky, Puppies – KGB, Napoleon – Stalin, Squealer – Propaganda department,
Moses – church, Mollie – defectors, vain, selfish people, Romanov family, Boxer – dedicated
followers of Communism, Benjamin – skeptical intellectuals.

Figurative Language: the animals are personified as people. The entire book is an allusion to the
Russian Revolution. There is not a heavy emphasis on figurative language throughout the book,
making the story seem more universal and easier to transplant to other times and situations. The
lack of figurative language also makes the story feel somewhat bare and prevents the reader from
being caught by the romantic fantasy that seizes the majority of the animals—it keeps the reader
at a distance from the events in the story.

Ironic Devices: the pigs become more repressive than the humans, and change the rules of
Animalism in order to suit their own needs, thus killing the original idealism and high
expectations behind the Revolution. Those who claim to be the most noble, such as Napoleon,
are actually cruel, and use language as a manipulating device. The hardest working character,
Boxer, meets the worst fate whereas Mollie, who is not loyal to anyone gets exactly what she
wants. Irony is used consistently to point out the failures of the Revolution and the futility of
idealism. Verbal irony is used most often by the pigs, especially Squealer.

Tone: Most situations are treated in an objective way, allowing readers to draw their own
conclusions. The novel is intended to be a satire, but does not play for humor. The events in the
book are serious, but the tone on the whole is distant and unemotional.
Theme: Any attempt to change how the world works is futile. No matter how hard someone
works or how hard they dream, everyone inevitably ends up just as bad as they began. There is
no such thing as an ideal world or perfect society, the only way we can have on is to imagine it.
this is because people are imperfect—they are either selfish and power-hungry or are not capable
of understanding the world around them. People are the ultimate destroyers of themselves, and of
their own dreams. Nothing that seems perfect can survive them.

Significance of Title: Informs the reader that the novel is about animals on a farm. The name of
the farm mirrors the state of the Rebellion.

Memorable Quotes:
“ ‘I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our farm. It must be
due to some fault in ourselves. The sole solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall
get up a full hour earlier in the mornings.’ ”
This quote captures the essence of the fruitless idealism that is center to the animals’ faith in
their farm, and exemplified the most by Boxer. It is fundamental to human nature to want to
believe that working harder will make life better, to trust those in charge because they know
more, and to believe that if something has gone wrong with the system, you can improve it by
improving yourself. Boxer represents how these seemingly natural laws can fail, and his death
how cruel and illogical society can become.
“For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall.
There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT
SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS. After that it did not seem strange when the next day the
pigs who were supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters.”
This passage is important because it gives the reader a vivid and visual indication of how far that
Rebellion has strayed from its original intent.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but
already it was impossible to say which was which.”
This sharp ending to the novel leaves the reader with a sense of ineffectuality and despair.
“The time had been when a few kicks from Boxer’s hoofs would have smashed the van to matchwood. His
strength has left him; and in a few moments the sound of drumming hoofs grew fainter and died away.”
This is the most wrenching moment in the novel because it shows how the Rebellion has robbed
Boxer of the one attribute that he had and rendered him useless in this new, cruel society.

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