Author: George Orwell
Animal Farm is an allegoric novel, in that it has a secondary meaning representing a different idea. In the case of Animal Farm, the story is meant to resemble the problems and ideas that overtook Russia in the early 20th century.
The story involves a group of farmyard animals who overthrow the drunk mean Farmer Jones and then rename their farm ‘Animal Farm’. After their success the animals plan a better life. Seven rules are created to ensure all animals are equal and that the wickedness of Farmer Jones is not repeated.
However, the pigs – who are the smartest animals – begin to seek power. The two leaders, Napoleon and Snowball, cannot agree on anything. Finally Napoleon makes a move for complete control. Using a pack of dogs as his soldiers, he chases Snowball off the farm.
Napoleon makes himself a dictator, using his dogs to crush protest. He also has another pig, Squealer, convince the animals that Napoleon is improving the farm. Any disaster on the farm is blamed on Snowball. Meetings between all the animals are replaced by a committee of pigs.
Finally, the pigs begin to work with the humans. They have complete control, and the farm is back to the style of Farmer Jones. The seven rules have become one rule: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’.
Although the book was written as an allegory to Russian politics, it can also be read as an allegory to many other countries’ political problems.
The animals are, it is believed, made to represent the following:
– Old Major, the original leader of the pigs who wants revolution, is Karl Marx and Lenin.
– Napoleon is Joseph Stalin
– Snowball is Leon Trotsky
– Squealer is Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s right-hand man
The original 7 rules were:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
They are later changed to:
No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
The final changes:
‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’
The way in which Napoleon and the pigs dispose of Boxer, the farm’s horse, once he stops being useful, is one of the most famous parts of the book.
As they approached the farm Squealer, who had unaccountably been absent during the fighting, came skipping towards them, whisking his tail and beaming with satisfaction. And the animals heard, from the direction of the farm buildings, the solemn booming of a gun.
‘What is that gun firing for?’ said Boxer.
‘To celebrate our victory!’ cried Squealer.
‘What victory?’ said Boxer. His knees were bleeding, he had lost a shoe and split his hoof, and a dozen pellets had lodged themselves in his hind leg.
‘What victory, comrade? Have we not driven the enemy off our soil – the sacred soil of Animal Farm?’
‘But they have destroyed the windmill. And we had worked on it for two years!’
‘What matter? We will build another windmill. We will build six windmills if we feel like it. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground that we stand upon. And now-thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon we have won every inch of it back again!’
‘Then we have won back what we had before,’ said Boxer.
‘That is our victory,’ said Squealer.
They limped into the yard. The pellets under the skin of Boxer’s leg smarted painfully. He saw ahead of him the heavy labour of rebuilding the windmill from the foundations, and already in imagination he braced himself for the task. But for the first time it occurred to him that he was eleven years old and that perhaps his great muscles were not quite what they had once been.
Some critics felt that Animal Farm was too general in its allegory, and that Orwell didn’t really know Russia that well. However, others said it was a strong allegory that said a lot about the Russian state.
As time has passed, Orwell’s writing has become more popular, especially as readers have taken a wider view of the allegory: it does not only represent Russian politics but the way that ‘people’s revolutions’ around the world during the 20th century (including China and Korea) were quickly turned into dictatorships. It is now seen as a warning against trusting politicians who say they are ‘helping the people’.
Together with Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm has made Orwell one of the most respected writers on the dangers of unconditionally believing in the promise of governments and self-appointed leaders.