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Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is a cautionary fable about the futile quest for equality through political change. Set on a British farm, the satirical novel is based on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and uses personified animal characters to expose the dangers of a totalitarian government.
The main characters are:
– Old Major, a highly respected boar who represents the historical figure, communist leader Karl Marx.
– Snowball is a boar and one of the leaders among the pigs who is young, but intelligent, and represents an abstract idea of evil.
– Napoleon is a stubborn boar who represents a communist tyrant.
– Squealer is a porker pig who is talented in the art of argument and deception. He represents the propaganda machine of a totalitarian government.
– Mr. Jones is a man who owns the land that is taken over by his animals. He represents a corrupt government.
– Pilkington is a man and the owner of another farm that is large and unkempt. He prefers pursuing his hobbies to maintaining his land and represents the Allied countries.
– Frederick is a cruel man and the owner of a small adjacent farm. He represents Adolf Hitler.
– Boxer is a large male horse who is respected for his steadiness of character and work ethic. He represents the uneducated and exploited working class, who take propaganda to heart and believe in the government’s cause without question.
– Whymper is a man and lawyer who acts as Animal Farm’s intermediary to the human world, while ignoring the atrocities committed there. He represents nations that profit from conducting business with brutal dictators.
– The sheep are naïve and loyal to the tenets of Animal Farm and represent ignorant masses who blindly follow their government.
The book opens with Old Major calling a meeting of all the animals in the big barn. He announces that human beings are the sole reason that animals in England are enslaved. They must overthrow mankind in a great Rebellion. Then he declares that “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.”
Old Major dies a few nights later and the other animals prepare for the Rebellion under the leadership of Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer. One night, Mr. Jones passes out drunk and neglects to feed the animals. They are so hungry that they break into the store-shed and then run Mr. Jones off the farm. Napoleon and Snowball invent a complete system of thought which they call Animalism. They reduce its principles to Seven Commandments. They are:
1. 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.
Soon after, their first harvest is a great success. Each animal works according to his ability and gets a fair share of food. Every Sunday, Snowball and Napoleon, who are the most intelligent of the animals, lead a meeting in the big barn, but Napoleon opposes all of Snowball’s ideas. The sheep, not intelligent enough to memorize the seven commandments, chant a single maxim: “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
As time goes by, the pigs increase their control over the animals and award themselves increasing privileges just as the human master once did. They quell the animals’ questions and protests by threatening Mr. Jones’ return. During this time, Napoleon also confiscates nine newborn puppies and secludes them in a loft in order to “educate” them into becoming fiercely loyal to only him.
Soon, Mr. Jones and other farmers try to recapture Animal Farm but fail. The animals celebrate their victory in what they call “The Battle of the Cowshed.” Afterwards, the animals agree to let the pigs make all the resolutions.
Snowball and Napoleon continue to be at odds and eventually clash over the prospect of building a windmill. Snowball believes it will shorten the work week and provide the farm electricity, but Napoleon opposes it. Napoleon summons the nine puppies he trained—now fierce dogs—to run Snowball off the farm. At this point, Boxer, the horse, takes on his own personal maxims, “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.” Soon, Napoleon announces plans to build the windmill, claiming that it was his idea all along—rewriting history.
Building the windmill forces the animals to work harder and on Sundays. As the animals are short on food and supplies, Napoleon opens up trade with the human world which makes the other animals uneasy. Through Squealer, Napoleon lies to the animals about the shortages and begins to hoard what little there is for himself. He enlists Whymper to be his intermediary for trade with humans.