by George Orwell

March 17, 1992

George Orwell's Animal Farm is a political satire of a
totalitarian society ruled by a mighty dictatorship, in all
probability an allegory for the events surrounding the Russian
Revolution of 1917. The animals of "Manor Farm" overthrow their
human master after a long history of mistreatment. Led by the
pigs, the farm animals continue to do their work, only with more
pride, knowing that they are working for themselves, as opposed to
working for humans. Little by little, the pigs become dominant,
gaining more power and advantage over the other animals, so much so
that they become as corrupt and power-hungry as their predecessors,
the humans. The theme in Animal Farm maintains that in every
society there are leaders who, if given the opportunity, will
likely abuse their power.
The book begins in the barnyard of Mr. Jones' "Manor Farm".
The animals congregate at a meeting led by the prize white boar,
Major. Major points out to the assembled animals that no animal in
England is free. He further explains that the products of their
labor is stolen by man, who alone benefits. Man, in turn, gives
back to the animals the bare minimum which will keep them from
starvation while he profits from the rest. The old boar tells them
that the source of all their problems is man, and that they must
remove man from their midst to abolish tyranny and hunger.
Days later Major dies, but the hope and pride which he gave
the other animals does not die. Under the leadership of the pigs,
the most intelligent of the animals, they rebel against their human
master managing to overthrow him. After the rebellion, under the
direction of Napoleon, the most outspoken pig, and Snowball, the
most eloquent pig, the animals continue to work the farm
As with all societies, the animals have laws which must be
obeyed. Their laws stated that animals shall never become like
humans; cruel and manipulative. They shall not wear clothing nor
sleep in beds. Most importantly, they are to respect one another's
equality and killing another animal is strictly forbidden.
Meanwhile, the pigs as leaders are taking bigger food rations
for themselves justifying their behavior as something necessary for
the "brains" of their animal society. At this point we begin to
suspect that the pigs will abuse their positions and power in this
animal society.
Mr. Jones tries to reclaim his power but the animals prevent
him from doing so in what they call "The Battle of the Cowshed".
After the battle, Napoleon drives Snowball off the farm telling
everyone that Snowball was on Mr. Jones' side. Napoleon is further
appreciated by the other animals for exposing and removing the
traitor, Snowball, from their midst. Slowly, Napoleon gets a
stronger and stronger hold over the other animals, dominating their
every action.
The situation at "Animal Farm", the new name for "Manor Farm",
really starts to change now. Napoleon moves into Mr. Jones' house,
sleeps in his bed, and even wears his clothes. In order to make
his actions appear legal, the law had to be interpreted
differently, which Napoleon arranged. In defiance of the original
laws, Napoleon befriends Mr. Pilkington, the human owner of a
nearby farm. Napoleon had such control over the other animals that
they accepted such a blatant disregard of their law about
fraternizing with humans.
The book ends with the pigs sitting at a table, eating with
humans. Napoleon announces to those around the table that the name
"Manor Farm" will be reinstated. The humans and pigs converse
while the other animals outside look on. They, the lowly creatures
according to the pigs and humans, look from pig to man and from man
to pig, unable to differentiate between the species.
The theme throughout Animal Farm is presented through the
allegory of corrupt pigs and the passivity of the other barnyard
animals. The humans in the story represent the Russian royal
family and aristocracy, tyrants who abused their power with no
regard for the peasants who, in essence, supported their royal
lifestyle. The pigs represent the Bolshevik revolutionaries who
led the masses in rebellion against the Czar and the entire royal
family. Unfortunately, as with the pigs, power corrupted and the
people were then oppressed by their "comrades" under the new
communist government.