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Animal Farm is difficult to read seriously for the first few chapters,
mostly because the
main characters are animals that talk not only amongst themselves, but also
with humans. After a
short period, though, the animals take on such believable personalities that
it is easy to forget that
they are not humans.
In the beginning, life is satisfactory at the Manor Farm. While food
rations are low, no
one is dying from starvation. One evening, an older member of the farm, a
boar named Old Major
announces that he will die soon. Before he dies, however, he wants to share
with the rest of the
animals his thoughts on how Man has ruined the animals’ life. He says that
if animals were to
grow their own food, Man would no longer be needed on the farm, leaving all
the profits to the
animals. Society without man, of course, would be simpler and more relaxed.
Old Major then
suggests a revolution with the best of intents. A vote taken at the meeting
proves Old Major’s
main idea, that "all animals are equal". All the animals on the
the meeting with fresh
energy, prepared to run Manor Farm on their own, although not sure how to
chase away their
human master, Mr. Jones.
Soon after Old Major’s speech he dies. One evening, Mr. Jones neglects to
animals. They become hungry and break into the storage shed to find some
food. When their
master finds his storage room a mess, he is furious, and begins to whip the
The animals decide this may be their only chance to get rid of their master,
fight back against Mr. Jones. He quickly flees from the farm with his wife.
The Manor Farm is quickly renamed the Animal Farm, and a variety of changes
The farmhouse is declared a museum, and a set of Seven Commandments is
created for the
animals to follow (Orwell, 40). The principle rules are "All animals are
equal" and the simple
phrase memorized by every animal, "Four legs good, two legs bad".
rules focus on
making sure no animal ever takes on evil human characteristics such as
drinking alcohol and
sleeping in beds.
Because the brains behind the Revolution, Old Major, is now dead, two pigs
themselves the leaders of Animal Farm, although the two do not agree.
Neither of the two pigs,
Napoleon or Snowball, hold all of the dreams which inspired the creation of
the farm. The only
character who constantly communicates the existence of "a better
after Old Major’s death
is Moses, a raven. He never actually does farm work, but is still given
food rations for keeping
the animals motivated by talking of a perfect afterlife. Snowball, one of
the head pigs in the
Animal Farm’s early days is more like Old Major than Napoleon, but still
leaves much to be
desired. Snowball’s first action as self-appointed ruler is to set up
committees so that each animal
can be actively involved in making Animal Farm a success (Orwell, 49).
Snowball has the brilliant
idea of building a windmill. He carefully draws detailed plans of how the
mill will operate and
what it will produce. All the animals love the idea except Napoleon.
Snowball seems to follow
the rule "every animal is equal" quite closely, and the animals on
seem to take his side in
arguments between him and Napoleon.
The fact that Snowball may be the favorite pig infuriates Napoleon. He is
a boar who is
quite secretive with his ideas, but always seems to firmly disagree with
distances himself from the other animals and creates an illusion of
supremacy for himself. One
evening, during one of Snowball and Napoleon’s frequent arguments Napoleon
sends his dogs to
attack his opponent. Snowball is brutally attacked and runs away, never to
be seen again on the
Therefore, Napoleon is left as the farm’s only leader. The farm animals
always seem to
quickly adjust to these leadership changes and immediately accept Napoleon
as the farm’s head.
The animals also seem to forget Snowball’s important part in leading the
Rebellion and his
concern for their welfare.
Napoleon’s concern for the supremacy of pigs becomes apparent quickly. He
the better foods, apples and milk, to be reserved for the pigs only (Orwell,
71). Eventually he
requires all "lower animals" to clear the path when a pig walks by
These changes come in a
subtle way and are peppered with reminders of how awful life was when humans
were in charge.
These threats cause the farm animals to barely notice how different their
farm is from Old Major’s
dream. Suddenly, Napoleon makes an announcement. He has decided to build a
also declares that Snowball’s original plans for the windmill were stolen
from Napoleon himself.
All the animals are eager to begin the windmill, which will generate
electricity to the barn. Soon
after the work on the windmill begins, all the animals, with the exception
of the pigs, are ordered
to work on Sundays. This is the first time the farm animals notice that
they are getting no more
rest than when Mr. Jones controlled them. This surprise, however, is soon
the excitement of the windmill. Slowly, Napoleon becomes more distant, and
one day moves into
the sacred farmhouse to live. A few animals remember on the Seven
"No animal shall sleep in a bed", but when they read the actual
read, "No animal shall
sleep in a bed with sheets" (Orwell, 79). From here, changes on the farm
occur more rapidly.
Napoleon takes the baby pigs born on the farm to live alone with him so that
he can instruct them
constantly. He also begins to only communicate with the "lower
through his attendant,
Eventually the windmill is finished and named the Napoleon Mill. The mill
is not used for
electricity as promised, but rather for grinding corn to sell to humans.
Food rations are slowly
decreased for all the animals except for the pigs. The animals grow older
and many forget the old
Manor Farm. Hard work becomes the only memories the farm possesses. The
two old horses on
the farm catch Squealer altering the Seven Commandments (Orwell, 116). This
instance is not
forgotten, but not discussed publicly either. The older animals are forced
to see that their lives on
Animal Farm are worse than they were with human leadership. Finally,
Napoleon makes an
appearance walking on two legs and wearing one of Mr. Jones’ old suits. He
one of the main beliefs of Animal Farm from "Four legs good, two legs
to "Four legs good,
two legs better".
The inevitable occurs, the farm makes serious human contact. Napoleon
local farmers to Animal Farm for a tour and dinner. Napoleon greets his
guests walking naturally
on his two hind legs and carrying a whip. As the gentlemen gather to eat,
the older farm animals
gather outside the farmhouse window and peer inside. Napoleon loudly
announces that the
Animal Farm is being renamed Manor Farm. The animals watch in shock as
slowly their leader’s
face is transformed into that of a human (Orwell, 138,139).
This book clearly is anti-utopian, or following the understanding that
nothing works out
exactly as it is planned and nothing in this world is perfect. Old Major
has a wonderful dream, but
it was impossible to fulfill. In the end the situation was worse than it was
before anyone cared.
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