by George Orwell (1903-1950)
Type of work Allegorical political satire
Setting The Manor Farm (represents Russia during and after the Communist Revolution)
Old Major (ie Karl Marx), an ancient and venerated boar
Snowball (ie Trotsky), a young porcine intellectual
Napoleon (ie Stalin), an unscrupulous, aggressively fierce young pig
Boxer (ie the Russian worker), a huge, hardworking male horse
Mollie (ie the Russian bourgeois capitalist), a frivolous mare
Moses (ie organized religion), a tame raven
Squealer (ie Russia's propaganda machine), a young pig and fluent orator
Various dogs (ie Stalin's secret police), men (Capitalist enemies) sheep, hens and other animals (those who follow)
Farmer Jones (ie Czar Nicholas)
Farmer Frederick (ie Germany)
Farmer Pilkington (ie England)
George Orwell, a dedicated British Socialist, wrote this classic 1945 fable in embittered protest against what he saw as the perversion of socialism by post-Revolutionary communism in the USSR. Rather than highlighting factual incidents from the grim cauldron of horrors that had boiled to a climax under the Stalinist regime, Orwell chose to focus an allegorical mirror on the brutal dynamics that blazed beneath the action. And within this mirror, the pigs and sheep and horses of Animal Farm move as vivid and grisly reflections of the historical figures and factions they represent.
But Orwell's book mirrors more than the evils of Soviet Communism. Read closely, it is also an impassioned indictment of Capitalism. And read more closely still, the novel reflects the haunted and ironic image of the dark gulf which the author sees opening - perhaps inevitably - between the two eternal poles of idealism and expediency; between all noble ends and their self-betraying necessary means. This little "fairy story," as Orwell calls it, is in the end an angry, eloquent and almost despairing protest against the tragic potential for tyranny in all social institutions - including even language itself - over those very ideals and hopes for human transcendence that they are supposed to nurture and to serve.
One day on the Manor Farm, the Old Major, a venerable 11-year-old boar, gathered the animals together. "Now comrades," he said. "What is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious and short." He went on to detail Farmer Jones's cruel exploitation as he butchered the animals and plundered the products of their labor. "Is it not crystal clear then, comrades," concluded Old Major, "that all the evils of this life spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man and the produce of labor would be our own. All men are enemies. All animals are friends." At this passionate invocation of a world ruled by those whose lives and labor made it fruitful - the animals themselves - everyone broke into a rousing anthem until the disturbance was silenced - for the time being - by a round of shot fired above them by Farmer Jones.
Three days later, Old Major died, and the other pigs - generally recognized as the cleverest of the animals on the farm - began to expound his teachings on "Animalism." Napoleon and Snowball, pre-eminent among the younger pigs, led the discussions, which centered on open rebellion. At first the other animals objected: some were swayed by thoughts of food or loyalty; others, like Mollie, the carthorse - who loved the ribbons that Farmer Jones tied in her hair - actually enjoyed the frills that man provided. The pigs were angered by the apathy that greeted their call to battle. They were equally exasperated by the raven, Moses, who squawked of forbearance, and of a better life "in heaven" after death. Napoleon "had to argue very hard to persuade [the animals] there was no such place." Finally, however, he convinced the group to accept the Animalism credo.
Meanwhile, Farmer Jones, "fallen on evil days," began to neglect the animals. One day he failed to feed them altogether, and they broke into the stalls to get at the food. When Jones and his farmhands burst into the barn, whips at the ready, the enraged animals attacked the men and drove them completely off the farm. The animals were left victorious - and alone.
In their initial elation, the animals burned all the farm implements, along with any other items that smacked of man - including Mollie's ribbons. Then they warily entered the farmhouse - where, to their utter disgust, they found Mollie, trying on a fine ribbon. Seeing how weak and capricious even an animal could be, they agreed that in their new order no animal would inhabit the house, put on clothes, or in any other way imitate humans.
As the first order of business, Snowball removed the Manor Farm sign from the front gate and replaced it with a sign reading "Animal Farm." Then, in great white letters, on the barn wall the pigs painted the Seven Commandments of Animalism:
1. Whatever goes on two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes on 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 another animal.
7. All animals are equal.
Just then, the unmilked cows "set up a loud lowing" of complaint. The pigs, whose forehooves made "good milkers," soon filled many buckets from the cows' swollen udders; but they left the apportionment of the milk until later, after "more important work" in the fields. "When the animals came back in the evening, it was noticed that the milk had disappeared."
Later, when the pigs also appropriated the windfallen apples, they explained that "day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples." Napoleon and Snowball now organized committees to put the others to work - though, as managers, they themselves participated in none of the actual labor. But the animals were given all the hay they could eat, and gradually they accepted the pigs' dominance.