Animal Farm

By George Orwell

Plot Summary

Mr Jones is the proprietor of Manor Farm, located in a country which is geographically similar to England (and indeed called England), whilst supposedly representing Russia. Orwell actually kept the location fairly neutral to indicate that the novel was meant as a fable rather than absolutely as an allegory, therefore indicating a universal significance. Indeed, the name Mr Jones itself suggests an archetypal farmer - Mr Jones is the clichéd name for farmers in jokes and shaggy dog tales. Mr Jones has taken to drink and as his dipsomania increases, so to does his neglect of his animals. Old Major, an ancient and wise boar, calls the animals together one evening when he feels that things have got too bad to bear. His focus upon the wickedness of man as the only problem with the farm (a microcosm which represents the world) leads to the downfall of the model society. In his speech to the animals he asserts:

"Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."

When Major describes the animals' lives as "miserable, laborious and short," he recalls Thomas Hobbes' depiction of Man's life in a state of nature: "nasty, brutish, and short." It is ironic that Major is describing the animals' (nature's) state of servitude to man - a parody which Orwell makes much of during the novel.

Old Major's view of the world is expressed through the song 'Beasts of England'. Whilst expressing a need for a new order, it also harks back to a better time and trades in clichéd nostalgia. After giving his speech, and telling the animals about their destiny - either consumed by or eternally enslaved by man - Old Major keels over and dies. Therefore we can see that the instigators of the codes by which a society is ruled rarely live to see the implementation of these codes. However, Orwell wants us to taste the bitterness of a revolution betrayed. He shows us the hope and idealism of the animals, made all the more powerful by the impartial voice with which narrates the events apparently divorced from the actions and their implications. We are not presented the 'action' from one particular viewpoint. Instead our removed stance as reader allows us paradoxically to connect more with the animals' enthusiasm and eventual despair than if we were limited by viewing the events from one particular standpoint. The regret and disillusionment of the revolution's betrayal are made more profound by the optimism during this opening section.

The animals take their first opportunity to overthrow Mr Jones, driving him from the farm. They rename the farm 'Animal Farm'. During this section we can detect some of Orwell's sympathy for the animals. He says that they rush madly about the farm, "as though to make sure that no human being was hiding anywhere upon it". Here we are introduced more fully to the different characteristics of the individual animals, their interrelationships, and their various ways of casting off the pall of their erstwhile enslavement to man. They turn the farmhouse into a museum and bury hams and symbols of the end to the shadow of death which hung over their former lives. Finally they paint the Seven Commandments on the wall of the barn. If the novel were to be reduced to its essence, it is about the gradual betrayal of the Commandments down to the final, most important betrayal. All animals are equal, it transpires, but some are more equal than others. The animals work together going about the tasks associated with the everyday running of the farm: the pigs milk the cows, the animals go together to gather in the harvest. Already we can see the pigs beginning to take control of the society: "'Never mind the milk, comrades!' cried Napoleon, placing himself in front of the buckets. 'That will be attended to. The harvest is more important. Comrade Snowball will lead the way. I shall follow in a few minutes. Forward, comrades! The hay is waiting.'" When the animals get back from the harvest, the milk has disappeared - gone to enrich the pigs' mash. Already we see those in power growing fat through the toil of those who work underneath them.

Mr Jones returns with support from other men. However, Snowball has been studying Caesar's war plans and tutors the animals in how to resist the men. The battle is fought, and the animals win, although a sheep is killed and Snowball is injured attacking Mr Jones. All the animals work together once again, fighting side-by-side to repel the intruders. Boxer believes (erroneously) that he has killed a stable boy and is filled with guilt. However: "'No sentimentality, comrade!' cried Snowball, from whose wounds the

blood was still dripping. 'War is war. The only good human being is a dead one.' 'I have no wish to take life, not even human life,' repeated Boxer, and his eyes were full of tears."

The animals name their victory "The Battle of the Cowshed" and declare it a national holiday. Boxer and Snowball are awarded medals for their valour. Mollie, the vain and frivolous horse, is seen talking to a man. She soon deserts the farm and is taken on by a man who feeds her and pets her. As winter draws on, cold and unforgiving, the pigs exert their power more and more: "It had come to be accepted that the pigs, who were manifestly cleverer than the other animals, should decide all questions of farm policy, though their decisions had to be ratified by a majority vote". Furthermore, the rift between Napoleon and Snowball widens as they begin to argue about all manner of things. It is a battle of power and there will be only one winner. Snowball is the better speaker, and Orwell's sympathies are certainly with him. However Napoleon is manipulative and conniving, raising support for himself with the weaker animals, getting the sheep to bleat during Snowball's speeches, and whilst the other animals admire Snowball's plans for a windmill,

"He (Napoleon) walked heavily round the shed, looked closely at every detail of the plans and snuffed at them once or twice, then stood for a little while contemplating them out of the corner of his eye; then suddenly he lifted his leg, urinated over the plans, and walked out without uttering a word."

Napoleon is more pragmatic than Snowball. He is less eloquent and less intelligent, but he knows what issues the animals care most about: "Vote for Napoleon and the full manger" is his rally cry in a brilliant parody of modern politics. We can here see Orwell's attention to the difference between Trotsky and Stalin. The rift between Snowball and Napoleon represents the disagreement between various Communist factions. Some took Trotsky's view: industrialisation and expansionism. Some took Stalin's way: agriculture and consolidation within the Soviet Union. This is demonstrated most clearly in the question of the windmill. When the animals meet to discuss whether or not it should be built, the sheep try to bleat down Snowball. As the meeting reaches its climax, Napoleon calls in the dogs that he has been specially training, and they attack Snowball and drive him from the farm. The animals, though dismayed, cannot express their feelings:

"Even Boxer was vaguely troubled. He set his ears back, shook his forelock several times, and tried hard to marshal his thoughts; but in the end he could not think of anything to say."

Language, like all other parts of animal life which can be used for dissident purposes, is controlled by the ruling elite.

Napoleon creates a ceremony to replace the Sunday meeting where Old Major's skull is paraded past, and the dead boar is held up as a patriarchal figure for the animals to worship. Democracy is no longer even pretended at. Napoleon now decides to build the windmill after all. It is revealed that it was his idea originally and was stolen and used by Snowball as a political initiative. No reason is given as to why Napoleon has performed such a volte-face. The animals begin to work on the windmill, whilst the pigs show how far they have moved away from the original Seven Commandments by beginning to trade with humans at neighbouring farms.

The pigs carry on consolidating their totalitarian state. Animals are executed in the Sunday meetings and "Beasts of England" is banned as the song's aim - the perfect state - has, according to the pigs, been achieved. The chickens are stirred to rebellion when Napoleon tries to take the hens' eggs and exchange them for grain, the winter having been long and cruel. Napoleon simply cuts off their food. They give up after nine hens have died.

Napoleon holds purges, even from within his own circle of pigs, to create a regime of fear within the farm. Even Boxer is attacked by the dogs, who are Napoleon's secret police force, after the reservations he shows about Snowball's role in the Battle of the Cowshed. The animals realise that their new state of enslavement is a mere mirror of what went before under the humans. Clover, regards the farm for which she had such hopes: "Never had the farm- and with a kind of surprise they remembered it was their own farm, every inch of it their own property- appeared to the animals so desirable a place. As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears". The animals realise that the pigs have been rewriting the Seven Commandments, and that they are truly living under the pigs' tyranny.

The Battle of the Windmill is the second great battle in the farm's history. Again, the tone Orwell uses is rather comic, although he does not ignore the tragedy of the events. The animals secure a Pyhrric victory, driving the humans away at great loss to themselves. Napoleon creates the Order of the Green Banner which he then awards to himself (despite having made little contribution to the fighting). Once again it is the innocent animals who work hard to preserve the farm's independence, whilst the pigs reap the fruit of their work.

Boxer's death is Orwell's representation of the future - the Communists ultimate betrayal of the workers. Boxer - hard working and loyal - collapses when working in the fields. He recovers and dreams of a happy and relaxed retirement. However, a van comes to take him away and Benjamin the donkey reads on the side Boxer's eventual destination: the slaughterhouse.

The novel ends with the pigs walking upright and carrying whips - just like the humans before them. The sheep begin to bleat: "Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!" The pigs fraternise with humans. Finally the Seven Commandments are replaced by: "ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS". This represents the ignominious end to Old Major's dream of an animal society based on equality and communal spirit.