Animal Farm is a satirical novel by George Orwell, ostensibly about a group of animals who oust the humans from the farm they live on and endeavour to run it themselves, only to have it corrupted into a brutal tyranny on its own. It was written during World War II and published in 1945, although it was not widely recognized until the late 1950s.
Animal Farm is a thinly veiled critique on the Russian Revolution and satire of the corruption of Soviet socialism under Stalin.
After a revolution on Manor Farm (duly renamed Animal Farm), the pigs, who have developed the doctrine of Animalism and lead the revolution, gradually take over. The two boars, Napoleon and Snowball, engage in a power struggle culminating in the expulsion of Snowball by force. Life on the farm becomes harder and harder for the rest of the animals. The pigs impose more and more controls on them while reserving privileges for themselves, based on the 'first amendment' to the Principles of Animalism: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others, all of which is justified by the pig Squealer, effectively the farm's propaganda minister. With a pack of vicious dogs as enforcers, Napoleon conducts show trials and executions, grants himself glorious titles, and progressively annuls all the Principles of Animalism. The pigs finally take to walking on two legs and carrying whips, treating the other animals more or less as they were treated when humans had dominion. In the last scene of the book, the animals observe the pigs and men talking together but can see no difference between them.
There are a lot of similarities of communism, as you can see.
In the very beginning of the story, all the animals are called to the barn. They are called because Old Major, a rather elderly and much respected pig, had a strange dream to which he wanted to communicate to them. When they gather, Old Major tells them that he dreamed that all animals would revolt against their oppressive human masters and would be free. He tells they should start planning for this revolution, though it probably won’t be in there life time. But the animals get their chance sooner then they expect. One day Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm, comes home drunk an forgets to feed the animals. After a while one of the cows gets so hungry that she smashes her way to the food. All the other animals join her. Mr. Jones comes to see what is happening. The animals attack him a chase him out of the farm. When they realize what they have done, all the animals rejoice and burn all the knives, whips and other cruel tools. The next day the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, organize everyone in the barn (pigs were naturally left as the leaders as they are the smartest.) They tell everyone that they have boiled down the ideas of “Animalism” to seven commandments. They are:
- 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.
The pigs had taught themselves to read from an old spelling book left over from Mrs. Jones’ children. The animals then started the harvest. Snowball was very active, making clubs and committees, and holding debates and meetings. Napoleon on the other hand did little, he took some dog puppies to educate but that was it. One day, Mr. Jones and his men tried to retake the farm, but the animals, especially Boxer and Snowball fought bravely. Many weeks after, Snowball had an idea of making a windmill to generate electricity. Napoleon argued against the idea in a debate but Snowball won support of the animals. Then, suddenly, Napoleon called on the puppies he was educating, now full grown dogs. The dogs attacked Snowball and chased him out of the farm, a coup. Then Napoleon told the crowd that he had found out that snowball was a spy from the neighbouring farms. Napoleon cancelled all meetings, committees, debates and all other democratic activities. The dictatorship of Napoleon had begun. Napoleon ordered the windmill to be started. Once it was a fourth done, a heavy wind blew it over. The fall of the windmill was blamed on Snowball. From then on, when anything ever bad happened it was blamed on Snowball. They started to rebuild the windmill. But when it was almost done, a band of men from neighbouring farms came and blew it up with some TNT. Once again the windmill was started. Over the course of all this building, the pigs slowly started to humanize themselves. For instance; they drank alcohol and liked it, and when they did they changed the fifth commandment to “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.” They kept changing the commandments and when someone remembered the old ones they said that their memory wasn’t good. They finally finished the windmill. And in the end, the pigs invited all the farmers in the area. They put on coats and started walking on their hind legs. They got whips and started whipping the animals. They slept in the house. And, when the last remaining animal that could remember how to read tried to read the seven commandments, all it read was:
- All animals are equal,
- but some animals are more equal then others.
The events and characters in Animal Farm are all carefully drawn to represent the history of the Soviet Union and Orwell makes this explicit in the case of Napoleon who he directly connects to Stalin in one of his letters. The other characters have their analogies in the real world but care should be taken with these comparisons as they do not always match history exactly and often simply represent generalised concepts.
Napoleon - the corrupt pig who becomes leader of the farm. Based on Joseph Stalin.
Snowball - the military leader of the animal revolt who challenges Napoleon's power. Based on Leon Trotsky.
Boxer - hardworking horse. The farm's most loyal worker. Represents the spirit of the workers.
Squealer - Napoleon's "propaganda minister". Justifies Napoleon's actions. Based on Russia's propaganda towards the people.
Old Major - the old boar who tells his dream of an animal-controlled farm. Based on Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
- Clover - Boxer's close friend. Blames herself for forgetting the complete seven commandments when Squealer revises them. Represents the common people who acquiesce to the subversion of principles by the powerful.
- Moses - tame raven who spreads stories of Sugarcandy Mountain, the "animal heaven". Represents how tsarism and later communism exploited religion, could represent Rasputin, the "Mad Monk".
- Mollie - horse who likes wearing ribbons (ribbons represent luxury) and being pampered by humans. Represents people who fled from the U.S.S.R after the Russian Revolution.
- Benjamin - a donkey who is cynical about the revolution. Said to be inspired by Orwell himself.
- Muriel - goat who reads the commandments.
- Mr. Jones - original owner of Manor Farm. Based on Tsar Nicholas II.
- Mr. Frederick - tough owner of Pinchfield, a well kept neighboring farm. Based on Germany/Adolf Hitler.
- Mr. Pilkington - easy-going but crafty owner of Foxwood, a neighboring farm. Represents Britain/Winston Churchill.
- Mr. Whymper - human whom Napoleon hires to represent Animal Farm in human society. Based in part on George Bernard Shaw.
- Jesse and Bluebell - two dogs who give birth in Chapter III. Their puppies are nurtured by Napoleon to inspire fear, representing formation of the NKVD.
- Minimus - poet pig who writes a song about Napoleon, representing admirers of Stalin both inside and outside of U.S.S.R.
The book was an allegory about the events following the revolution in the Soviet Union, and in particular the rise of Stalinism. Many of the characters in the book are identifiable as historical figures. Napoleon and Snowball are direct representations of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky respectively. Their disagreement about the direction the farm should take is meant to represent the ideological disagreement between Trotsky (whose theory of "Permanent Revolution" would have sought to advance the revolution across the world) and Stalin (whose theory was to consolidate the revolution in Russia, commonly referred to as "Socialism in One Country"). Boxer, the ever-loyal cart horse, portrays the ill-educated and unskilled proletariat. Boxer, and the other cart-horse Clover, are manipulated by the persuasive arguments of the pigs but are ultimately taken for granted and fail to reap the benefits of the "Revolution". Comparisons can be drawn between Boxer and Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, after whom the Stakhanovite movement was named. The Hen's small rebellion, driven by their desire to keep the eggs they lay, draws close comparisons to when many peasants burnt their farms in the USSR, instead of handing them over to the government. There are many other small references scattered throughout the book. For example, the animals originally sung an anthem called Beasts of England, but later, Napoleon and the other pigs ordered that a new song be sung in its place. This is a reference to the replacement of The Internationale with the Hymn of the Soviet Union, probably for the purpose of distancing Soviet state socialism with Trotsky's revolutionary socialism.
Orwell wrote the book following his experiences during the Spanish Civil War which are described in another of his books, Homage to Catalonia. He intended it to be a strong condemnation of what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals, in which he believed and continued to believe after he saw a revolution betrayed, as in Spain.
In recent years the book has been used to compare new movements that overthrow heads of a corrupt and undemocratic government or organization, only to become corrupt and oppressive themselves over time as they succumb to the trappings of power and begin using violent and dictatorial methods to keep it. Such analogies have been used for many former African colonies such as Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo, whose succeeding African-born rulers were thought to be as corrupt as the European colonists they supplanted.
References and post-publication views of the book
Orwell originally prepared a preface on freedom of the press http://orwell.ru/library/novels/Animal_Farm/english/efp_go for the book which noted "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. ... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact." Somewhat ironically, the preface itself was censored and is not published with most copies of the book.
The book was the basis of an animated feature film in 1955 (Britain's first full-length animated movie), directed by John Halas and Joy Bachelor and quietly commissioned by the American CIA, which softened the theme of the story slightly by adding an epilogue where the other animals successfully revolt against the pigs. There was also a 1999 live action film directed by John Stephenson, with voices by Kelsey Grammer as Snowball, Patrick Stewart as Napoleon, and Ian Holm as Squealer. Despite a few differences (such as completely different songs and Jesse being the first to question the pigs), plot-wise, the film was very loyal to the book. The film also included an epilogue in which Jesse and several animals escape and return years later to a post-Napoleon era Animal Farm. In addition, radical socialist rappers Dead Prez released a song called "Animal in Man" off their debut LP, Let's Get Free, re-telling the story.
Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals was partially inspired by Animal Farm, categorising people as either pigs, dogs or sheep.
A modern revisionist view of the book's premise
In 2002, the American author John Reed published Snowball's Chance. This book adopts Orwell's allegory in order to conduct a parallel critique of capitalism. This decision reflects a long standing resentment among socialists at what they see as propagandistic exploitation of Orwell's novel by their political opponents. Using Animal Farm to praise capitalism over socialism does indeed change the ideas of the book somewhat, because pigs end up being just the same as farmers, not worse.
However, concentrating on the contrasts of capitalism and socialism, as portrayed in the book, fails to recognize the book's message of the corruption of the ideals of the Russian Revolution and the progressive subversion of the ideals of Lenin (Old Major) and Trotsky (Snowball) by Stalin (Napoleon). The humans (capitalists, fascists, and the tsar) are in no way portrayed sympathetically. Nevertheless, the book was released at a time when Stalin was widely admired by portions of the Western Intelligentsia, partly because the Soviet Union had suffered less from the Great Depression than most western countries, and because Stalin had led the Soviet Union in the successful and dearly-won victory over Nazi Germany. The Destalinization of Russia under Nikita Khrushchev was still more than a decade in the future.
ISBN 0606001026 (prebound, 1946)
ISBN 0582021731 (paper text , 1989)
ISBN 0582530083 (1996)
ISBN 0151072558 (hardcover, 1990)
ISBN 0582060109 (paper text, 1991)
ISBN 0679420398 (hardcover, 1993)
ISBN 0151002177 (hardcover, 1996, Anniversary Edition)
ISBN 0452277507 (paperback, 1996, Anniversary Edition)
ISBN 0451526341 (mass market paperback, 1996, Anniversary Edition)
ISBN 1560005203 (cloth text , 1998, Large Type Edition)
ISBN 0791047741 (hardcover, 1999)
ISBN 0451525361 (paperback, 1999)
ISBN 0764108190 (paperback, 1999)
ISBN 082207009X (e-book, 1999)
ISBN 0758778430 (hardcover, 2002)
ISBN 0151010269 (hardcover, 2003, with Nineteen Eighty-Four)
ISBN 0452284244 (paperback, 2003, Centennial Edition)
ISBN 0848801202 (hardcover)
- Read Animal Farm ATOM formatted http://www.orplex.com/gkcp/getfeed.aspx?book=Animal+Farm.xml
- Read Animal Farm online at online-literature.com http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/animalfarm/1/
- Read Animal Farm in the RSS Version http://rss.duchs.com/orwell/animal-farm/
- Animal Farm http://www.george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/index.html - Searchable, indexed etext.
- Animal Farm - Complete Novel http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/books/animalfarm.htm - Includes publication data and search feature.
- Excerpts from Orwell's letters to his agent concerning Animal Farm http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essays/letters-agent-af.htm
- George Orwell Web Ring http://t.webring.com/hub?ring=orwellwebring
- IMDB - Animal Farm (1954 animated film) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047834/
- IMDB - Animal Farm (1999 TV film) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0204824/
Last updated: 02-07-2005 02:39:51