The theme of Animal Farm is not difficult to understand. Orwell intended to criticize the communist regime he saw sweeping through Russia and spreading to Europe and even the United States. Though he agreed with many Marxist principles, Orwell was unable to accept the communist interpretation of socialism because he saw many similarities between the communist governments and the previous czarist regimes in old Russia. Communism, he thought, was inherently hypocritical.In his self-proclaimed “fairy-story,” Orwell uses his allegorical farm to symbolize the communist system. Though the original intention of overthrowing Mr. Jones (who represents the Czars), is not inherently evil in itself, Napoleon’s subsequent adoption of nearly all of Mr. Jones’ principles and harsh mistreatment of the animals proves to the reader that indeed communism is not equality, but just another form of inequality. The pigs and dogs take most of the power for themselves, thinking that they are the best administrators of government. Eventually the power corrupts them, and they turn on their fellow animals, eliminating competitors through propaganda and bloodshed. This is of course a reference to Stalin, who murdered many of his own people in order to maintain his dictatorship of Russia.
In Orwell’s first chapter, the reader is introduced to all of his wonderful animals— with two important exceptions: Snowball and Napoleon (two characters who will become the focus later). Obviously most of the chapter is intended to spark pity and a sense of sympathy for the poor, suffering farm animals, but the old Major’s words are very telling. The “wise” old pig addresses the central conflict of the book, and of Orwell’s intended meaning– tyranny. The first (and seemingly only) dictatorship the animals must overcome is the rule of Mr. Jones and the other humans.
Orwell’s second chapter is drenched with metaphors— most of which will not come to light until later in the novel. The first is old Major’s death. This represents the end to the older regime, the initial revolution. Now someone else will have to step into authority. Secondly Orwell strangely describes a pig named Squealer. The name sounds fairly pig-like but his actions don’t. Supposedly Squealer has a special ability to persuade others. Orwell boasts, “…he could turn black into white.” Obviously a pig like this could be used by the right people (animals). Orwell uses chapter 2 to really make Mr. Jones into a bad guy, although he admits that he was at one time a good master. Mr. Jones’ main problem is that he drinks too much and neglects the farm. Even his men are “idle and dishonest.” Soon the animals are fed up with Jones (pardon the pun) after not being fed for over a day, so they organize and successfully carry out the long- awaited revolt. The animals rename Manor Farm Animal Farm yet agree not to live in the house. Yet some of the “elite” pigs have already adopted some of Man’s ways; Snowball and Napoleon have suddenly taught themselves to read and write, and soon a list of 7 Commandments is written on the tarred wall. Unfortunately only a few of the animals can actually read the rules. This will come back to haunt them later. Orwell again closes with a eerie foreshadowing. After Snowball and Napoleon order the animals to work in the hay field, the milk which many of the lower animals asked to drink mysteriously disappears. Napoleon, however, dismisses the milk plea by proclaiming, “The harvest is more important.”
Chapter 3 is uneventful for the most part although it does have a few more important metaphors. For one thing, the pigs are starting to emerge as the “elite” class of animals although all animals are supposed to be equal. Orwell narrates, “The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others.” Of course the rational is classic and easy to see through. Orwell continues, “With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership.” Snowball and Napoleon start to fight and argue over everything. Both pigs enjoy the apples and milk only given to them. Of course this is just in the farm’s “best interest.” Really pigs don’t like the taste of milk and apples, but force it down in order to stay healthy and help supervise (haha).
Orwell’s fourth chapter is a look into the outside world. This is really more or less a reality check after so much narrative about the utopian lifestyle of Animal Farm. The passage does clear up a few questions any inquisitive reader would have about the outside world. I mean, wouldn’t you think that the other neighboring farmers might think something’s up if one day they see a bunch of pigs supervising horses plow a field? Anyway, Orwell explains, “It was lucky that the owners of the two farms which adjoined Animal Farm were on permanently bad terms.” Anyone considering the allegorical significance of Foxwood and Pinchfield might guess that they are really just deep metaphors for the nations bordering Russia. Anyway, these farmers just shrug off the animal rule as a gimmick and don’t think much of it until they realized that the animals are actually being more productive than Jones had been. They also get a little nervous when they realize that the Animal Farm pigeons have gone to neighboring farms, teaching other animals the “Beasts of England” song and encouraging them to revolt. So the farmers next strategy is to criticize the farm, saying that the animals “practiced cannibalism, tortured one another with red-hot horseshoes, and had their females in common.” This symbolizes the outcry of America and other Western nations during the beginning stages of the cold war. Ridicule was really the only tactic they had left after being scared to death of the Soviet powers after World War II. The real action in the chapter is when Jones and his men try to recapture the farm. Napoleon and his pig allies had long expected this to happen, so they plan a very extensive defense strategy. When the Jones crew attacks, “they were gored, kicked, bitten, and trampled on.” So many of the men die, thus concluding the Battle of the Cowshed.
Orwell’s fifth chapter is an action-packed tale of two animals who leave the farm. First Mollie, who never was too fond of the whole idea of revolution since it meant she wouldn’t have any more sugar lumps, is seen talking to a neighbor man and letting him stroke her nose. When confronted by Clover, she denies it, then runs away forever. “None of the other animals ever mentioned Mollie again.”
Orwell mostly uses chapter 6 as a series of foreshadows. The first involves, of course, Napoleon. This time he’s beginning to trade with the neighboring farmers, Foxwood and Pinchfield. The necessity comes from materials only humans can make. But the picture-perfect world the animals imagined had no conflicts like this. I mean, who could have imagined that Boxer might need new horseshoes? Well, ok maybe the animals were being naive. Anyway, Napoleon decides that he will conduct trade with the “outside” world. But some of the animals think that maybe this was once forbidden. Soon the animals have more reason to be uneasy. They notice that the pigs have recently begun to sleep in beds, which, of course, is one of the forbidden associations with humans. Muriel reads the commandments to the confused Clover from the barn wall and notices that one of them has been altered. Now it reads, “No animals shall sleep in a bed with sheets.” Toward the end of the reading, the windmill, which was Snowball’s idea stolen by Napoleon, mysteriously collapses in the middle of the night. Of course all the animals are upset that such a terrible event could make worthless the object for which they had labored so long. Napoleon and Squealer completely blame Snowball with no hesitation.
Chapter 7 continues Orwell’s portrayal of the animals’ plight. Animal Farm has seemed to have fallen on hard times. The crops are not as bountiful as before and the pigs are increasingly forced to trade with the outside world in order to get many of the supplies they need. “…Napoleon ordered the almost empty bins in the store-shed to be filled nearly to the brim with sand, which was then covered up with what remained of the grain and meal. On some suitable pretext Whymper was led through the store-shed and allowed to catch a glimpse of the bins. He was deceived, and continued to report to the outside world that there was no food shortage on Animal Farm.” The cornerstone of this chapter is the savage act of Napoleon. Bothered by their “conscious,” many animals come forward saying they had been told in a dream by Snowball to murder Napoleon or a similar such act. So Napoleon, with the help of his dogs, slaughters anyone who is said to be disloyal. “…the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones.” To top it off, Napoleon outlaws Beasts of England, which had served as one of the only remaining ties between Animal Farm and old Major.
As with the sleeping beds, some of the animals think they remember something in the commandments against animals killing animals. But when Muriel reads the writing on the barn wall to Clover, interestingly, the words are, “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” To replace Beasts of England, Napoleon forces to animals to sing his own little self-worship song, called Comrade Napoleon. And to further distance the animals from their ties of respect and admiration for Snowball, Napoleon (with help from Squealer no doubt) tells them that really Snowball was no hero at the Battle of Cowshed, but in fact a coward who ran away from the danger. Napoleon goes on to say that the award Snowball received was really just a myth too. “Once again some of the animals heard this with a certain bewilderment, but Squealer was soon able to convince them that their memories had been at fault.” Orwell goes on to say, “It was a few days later than this that the pigs came upon a case of whisky in the cellars of the farmhouse.” And surprise, surprise, Napoleon suddenly becomes “sick” and is said to be dying. Obviously, he has broken the commandment about drinking alcohol, and sure enough, after the hang-over the Leader is better and soon is perfectly fine. But to justify this little episode, arrangements to amend the rules are made. “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”
Orwell basically uses chapter 9 to continue the fall of Animal Farm and to foreshadow his dramatic conclusion in chapter 10. For example, the rations of the everyday lowly animals are again reduced by Napoleon and the elite. “A too rigid equality in rations, Squealer explained, would have been contrary to the principles of Animalism.” Of course this comment is taken totally out of context since the principles of Animalism guarantee equality of all animals. But the animals have been too well brainwashed by the pigs; the rules of the revolution have long since passed. Orwell writes, “Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories.” The next bizarre event is Moses’ sudden and unexplained return. This raven and former friend of Mr. Jones now seems to feel right at home telling the animals about SugarCandy Mountainto keep them working. What links the parallel between Napoleon and Jones even further is the fact that Moses is paid by Napoleon in beer. ( For the symbolism of Moses and SugarCandy Mountain, click on the side links.) Last in the chapter is the touching yet destined death of Boxer. After working so long for his master (dictator) Napoleon, any reader could have guessed the outcome. The troubling part, however, is the way Napoleon and the pigs handle his death. Instead of letting him enter his leisurely retirement, they force him into a glue-making truck and then lie about it to the other animals. Squealer says that Boxer has died in a hospital bed, despite receiving the best possible care (obviously a lie).
Chapter 10 is Orwell’s most dramatic and thought-provoking of the chapters. While the others seems to have at least a shred of comedy, chapter 10 is almost pure tragedy and metaphor for Russia. For more on the symbolism of characters and connection to Stalin and all of Russia, visit the character profiles and metaphors sections on the left. In the chapter review’s, the main purpose is to provide a brief synopsis of each section without getting too into the symbolism, which may bore some readers, although it’s really the most fascinating part of the book. The fall of the ideals of Animalism is summed up in Orwell’s first page of the chapter. “Squealer was so fat that he could with difficulty see out of his eyes.” Chapter 10 takes place in the future and so there are some drastic changes. For example, Napoleon says with no hesitancy, “The truest happiness lay in working hard and living frugally.” This is a stark change from the beginning of the book when Napoleon is considered the generous leader who wants unlimited food for all! Even more disgustingly, the hypocrisy of the statement is obvious. For Napoleon, of all animals, doesn’t work hard or even lift a finger anymore. Orwell goes on to state, “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.” The parallels between Jones and Napoleon are strengthened again when Orwell hints at the prospect of a new rebellion against Napoleon. “Some day it was coming: it might not be soon, it might not be within the lifetime of any animal now living, but still it was coming. Even the tune of Beasts of England was perhaps hummed secretly here and there.” And even more stunning (although one might have guessed it would happen sooner or later) is the sight of a pig walking on his hind legs. Even the sheep have been conditioned to it. They suddenly break out into a chant of “Four legs good, two legs better!” To top it off, the pigs break the ultimate rule about wearing human clothes. Even so, the animals are ignorant and “very stupid.” Orwell narrates, “It did not seem strange when Napoleon was seen strolling in the farmhouse garden with a pipe in his mouth— no, not even when the pigs took Mr. Jones’s clothes out of the wardrobes and put them on, Napoleon himself appearing in a black coat….” Lastly, Napoleon invites all the neighbors over to celebrate the “success” of Animal Farm, which is changed back to the name of Manor Farm. Orwell narrates, “Mr. Pilkington once again congratulated the pigs on the low rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of pampering which he had observed on Animal Farm.” The closing paragraph is purely haunted. Orwell describes a human-like fight between the pigs and humans during the celebration. “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”