Animal Farm

Once upon a time, on a farm far, far away, there lived a group of animals who dreamed of a better life. Little did they know that their pursuit of happiness would lead them down a path of rebellion, corruption, and betrayal. The novella Animal Farm was written by George Orwell in 1945. This timeless classic is a witty and powerful allegory that uses barnyard animals to explore the themes of power, corruption, and the danger of blind loyalty. 

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Table of contents

    So put on your overalls and grab your pitchfork, because we're about to dive into a world where the pigs run the show and the rules are constantly changing.

    Animal Farm: George Orwell

    George Orwell was an English writer and journalist born in 1903. He was born in India to British parents but later moved to England with his mother and siblings. Orwell had a keen interest in social and political issues, and this passion led him to become a writer and journalist.

    In the years leading up to the writing of Animal Farm in 1943, Orwell had become increasingly concerned about the rise of totalitarianism and the threat it posed to individual freedoms and democracy. He had witnessed the brutalities of fascism in the Spanish Civil War and had become disillusioned with communism, which he saw as another form of totalitarianism.

    By the time he began writing Animal Farm in 1943, Orwell's mother had also passed away, and he had resigned from his post at the BBC. The world was also in the midst of World War II, with the Allies fighting against the Axis powers. In England, there was a strong sense of national unity and sacrifice as the country battled to defend its freedoms and way of life.

    Animal Farm was originally titled 'A Fairy Story' but Orwell changed it after the novella was rejected by multiple publishers.

    Orwell wrote Animal Farm against this backdrop, making it a satirical allegory that used farm animals to criticize the Soviet Union and the failures of communism. The novella was published in 1945, at the end of the war, and quickly became a critical and commercial success. Today, it is widely regarded as one of Orwell's most important works and a seminal text in the canon of political literature.

    Animal Farm, George Orwell, StudySmarterFig. 1 - George Orwell wrote Animal Farm during World War II.

    Animal Farm: summary

    Overview: Animal Farm

    Author of Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
    GenrePolitical Allegory
    Literary PeriodModernism
    First published1945
    Brief Summary of Animal Farm
    • Animal Farm is a satirical novella that tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human owner and establish a government run by the pigs, who gradually become corrupt and oppressive.
    List of main charactersNapoleon, Snowball, Squealer, Boxer, Benjamin, Old Major
    ThemesPower corrupts, totalitarianism, propaganda and manipulation, betrayal, and conformity.
    SettingA fictional farmyard.
    • The novella is an allegory for the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinist communism, with the pigs representing the Communist Party leadership and the other animals representing various segments of Soviet society.
    • The novella remains a powerful critique of totalitarianism and a warning against the abuse of power.

    Animal Farm is a satirical novella that tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer in search of a better life. After successfully overthrowing their owner, Mr Jones, the animals establish their own self-governing society that is run by the pigs. The pigs, led by Napoleon and Snowball, create a set of commandments that they call Animalism, which states that all animals are equal and that humans are the enemy.

    At first, the animals work together to build their new society. However, as time goes on, the pigs become increasingly corrupt and power-hungry. Napoleon in particular gradually consolidates power and uses his secret police force of dogs to eliminate any opposition to his rule.

    The other animals are gradually oppressed and forced to work harder and harder, with their lives becoming no better than they were under Mr Jones though they still believe in the society they had created. The pigs change the commandments to suit their own purposes and rewrite history to make themselves look better.

    As the story progresses, the pigs become more and more like the humans they once rebelled against. The book ends with the pigs and humans meeting and sharing a toast, with the other animals looking on in disgust as they realize that the pigs have become the very thing they once fought against.

    Through its use of animals to represent human society, the novella provides a biting critique of political systems that promise freedom and equality but end up becoming corrupt and oppressive.

    Animal Farm: characters

    Orwell's characters are based on historical figures. However, they are not one-to-one analogues, and the novella is not a straightforward retelling of Soviet history. Animal Farm is a complex and nuanced allegory that draws on a variety of historical and literary influences to explore universal themes about power and corruption.

    Animal Farm charactersDescriptionHistorical figure
    Old MajorAn aging pig who is the inspiration for the animals' rebellionKarl Marx/Lenin
    NapoleonA pig who becomes the authoritarian leader of the animal communityJoseph Stalin
    SnowballA pig who challenges Napoleon's leadership and represents a more idealistic vision of AnimalismLeon Trotsky
    BoxerA loyal and hardworking horse who represents the working classProletariat/Working Class
    SquealerA pig who serves as Napoleon's propaganda minister and justifies his actions to the other animalsVyacheslav Molotov
    BenjaminA cynical and intelligent donkey who represents those who are sceptical of revolutionSceptics/Cynics of the Communist Revolution
    Mr JonesThe owner of the farm who is overthrown by the animalsCzar Nicholas II
    MollieA vain and materialistic horse who is more concerned with her own comfort than with the goals of the rebellionBourgeoisie/Upper Class

    Animal Farm: book analysis

    Typical analysis of the novella Animal Farm includes that it is a political allegory that uses animals to satirize the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the early years of the Soviet Union. The themes of the book include:

    Animal Farm themesExample discussions
    Power corruptsAs the pigs gain more power, they become more and more like the humans they once rebelled against. The pigs use their power to oppress and control the other animals, and they change the rules to benefit themselves.
    TotalitarianismThe pigs create a system where they have complete control over the other animals and use propaganda to maintain their power. The animals are not allowed to question the pigs' authority, and those who do are punished severely.
    Propaganda and manipulationThe pigs use propaganda and manipulation to maintain their power over the other animals. They use slogans like 'four legs good, two legs bad' to control the thoughts of the animals and convince them that the pigs are always acting in their best interests. Napoleon is always right, after all!
    BetrayalThroughout the book, the animals are betrayed by those they once trusted. The pigs make promises that they don't keep and use the other animals to further their own interests. This theme is exemplified in the character of Napoleon, who betrays his fellow pig Snowball and later turns on his own followers.
    Class struggleThe animals represent the exploitation of the working class. They are initially united in their desire to overthrow their human oppressors, but once the pigs take control, they become a new ruling class that exploits the other animals.
    Revolution and IdeologyThe novella explores the role of ideology in driving social change, and how that can be turned into sinister intentions. The animals are inspired by the idea of creating a society where all animals are equal, but this ideal is quickly corrupted once the pigs take power.
    ConformityThe pigs use fear and intimidation to make the other animals conform to their will. Those who don't are punished, which emphasises the need for conformity of the public to maintain power.

    Can you think of other examples in the text that fit these themes? What do the pigs say to support your analysis of the themes?

    Overall, Animal Farm is a warning about the dangers of authoritarianism and the importance of questioning those in power. The book emphasizes the need for transparency and accountability in government, and it warns against blindly following leaders who may not have the best interests of the people at heart.

    Animal Farm has been banned multiple times since its publication because of its critique of Stalinism and totalitarianism, with over 20 countries (such as the United States and the United Arab Emirates) censoring or outright banning the book at some point. The book was banned in the Soviet Union from when it was first published in 1945 to the 1980s when the Soviet Union collapsed.

    Animal Farm: quotes

    The pigs in Animal Farm use several propaganda tactics in order to maintain control over the other farm animals. The following quotes are crucial examples of these tactics.

    THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.3. No animal shall wear clothes.4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.5. No animal shall drink alcohol.6. No animal shall kill any other animal.7. All animals are equal

    (Chapter 2)

    These commandments represent the founding principles of animalism, the political philosophy that aims to establish a society where all animals are equal and free from human oppression.

    As the story progresses, the pigs in charge of the animal farm change and manipulate the commandments to suit their own interests, which serves as a warning about the dangers of power and corruption. The commandments serve as a reminder of the principles that the animals originally aimed to uphold and the need to remain vigilant against those who may seek to undermine those principles.

    Four legs good, two legs bad

    (Chapter 3)

    This is a slogan that is repeated several times. It is a simplification of the pigs' principles of animalism, which are designed to create a society where all animals are equal and have the right to live free from human oppression.

    • Animals are creatures with four legs and are inherently good and pure. The animals on the farm are meant to represent the working-class people in society, who are often exploited and mistreated by those in power.
    • In contrast, the two legs refer to humans who are seen as the oppressors of animals and the source of all their problems. The phrase implies that humans are inherently evil and that animals must be wary of them.

    The slogan is a simplified version of the pigs' political philosophy, which is meant to be easily understood and remembered by the other animals. By repeating the slogan, the pigs are able to rally the other animals around the cause of animalism and convince them to work together to create a better society.

    The slogan serves as a warning about the dangers of blindly following a slogan or ideology without critically evaluating its underlying principles and the actions of those who claim to uphold them.

    Napoleon is always right.

    (Chapter 5)

    This quote is another slogan that is repeated several times in the novella. The slogan is used to reinforce the idea that Napoleon is infallible and should not be questioned. By repeating the phrase 'Napoleon is always right,' the pigs are able to convince the other animals to trust and obey them without question, even if their decisions may be harmful or unjust.

    The slogan is also a form of a cult of personality, where a leader is elevated to a position of almost divine authority and is beyond questioning or criticism. This is a common tactic used by authoritarian regimes to maintain power and control over their citizens. The slogans serve as a warning about the dangers of blindly following a charismatic leader without questioning their decisions or motives.

    They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.

    (Chapter 7)

    In this society that the farm represents, the people of the society are not allowed to express their opinions, thoughts, beliefs, or ideas and they are constantly monitored and punished for any dissent. They can also be killed for any acts of nonconformity. This creates an environment of fear and distrust because the people the animals represent are unable to communicate openly and honestly with one another. The people who are suspected of dissent or disobedience are forced to confess to crimes, and then they are publicly executed or tortured in front of others as a warning.

    The 'fierce, growling dogs' are a symbol of the government's power and control. They represent the force that the government uses to maintain its grip on society and intimidate its citizens into submission. Individual thought and freedom are suppressed in the name of state control.

    Animal Farm - Key takeaways

    • Animal Farm was published in 1945. The novella is a political allegory that uses animals to satirize the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the early years of the Soviet Union.

    • The book warns against the dangers of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability in government.

    • The theme that power corrupts absolutely is central to the book, as the pigs use their power to oppress and control the other animals, becoming more like the humans they once rebelled against.

    • Animal Farm explores the idea of class struggle and the exploitation of the working class, as the animals are initially united in their desire to overthrow their human oppressors but become exploited by the new ruling pig class.

    • The book shows how propaganda and manipulation can be used to maintain power, how conformity can be used to control the masses, and how revolutions can be corrupted by ideology and the desire for power.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Farm

    Who was Snowball in Animal Farm

    Snowball was a pig in George Orwell's book Animal Farm. He was one of the leaders of the animals' rebellion and a major figure in the early years of Animal Farm, but he was eventually ousted by his rival, Napoleon. 

    What is Animal Farm about?

    Animal Farm is a political allegory by George Orwell that tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where animals can be free and equal. However, the pigs in the group end up becoming corrupt leaders and betraying the other animals. 

    Who is Napoleon in Animal Farm?

    Napoleon is a pig in Animal Farm who becomes the leader of the animal rebellion after he ousts his rival, Snowball. He is a ruthless and manipulative leader who uses propaganda and violence to maintain his power and control over the other animals. 

    When was Animal Farm written? 

    Animal Farm was written in 1945, towards the end of World War II. 

    Who wrote Animal Farm?

    Animal Farm was written by George Orwell, who was a British writer and journalist known for his critiques of totalitarianism and social injustice 

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