Animal Farm Summary - As pertinent now as it was when it was first written in 1945. A novella full of double meanings and lessons for us all.
Often studied at school, but don't let that put you off.
This is a novella so it is a quick read, yet there is much to discuss:
Propaganda, communism and abuse of power to name three meaty topics.
Read on for an Animal Farm summary.
Major is a pig at Manor farm and he has a dream where animals are not ruled or controlled by humans. He tells the other animals on the farm about his dream in the form of a song called "Beasts of England"
He dies just a few days later but some of the other pigs (Napoleon Squealer and snowball) decide to carry out his dream.
They drive the farmer off Manor Farm and rename the farm "Animal Farm" The farm works well with the animals running it themselves and everyone seems really content.
But soon things start to go wrong as Snowball and Napoleon struggle to hold the most power. Snowball wants to build an electric windmill but Napoleon is opposed to the idea. Snowball gives a roaring speech as to why the windmill is a good idea and shortly after Napoleon's puppies (now trained as killer dogs) attack and chase Snowball off Manor Farm.
Napoleon decides that from now on the pigs will make all the decisions. He also decides that the Windmill is a good idea and works the animals hard to complete it. When the windmill collapses (potentially due to the design having thin walls) Napoleon blames Snowball.
The pigs start to act like humans, sleeping in beds in the house and drinking whiskey. All the original rules that were first set out are changed including "4 legs good 2 legs bad" as the pigs start to wear clothes and walk around on 2 legs. There is a degree of fear felt by the rest of the animals who feel compelled to do as they are told for their own safety.
The book ends with the farm being called Manor Farm again with the pigs doing business with humans from the other neighbouring farms
(Animal Farm Summary)
When you start reading Animal Farm, it's clear that the characters are meant to represent real life people.
Here are some of the main Animal Farm characters and the individuals that they represent:
The Major - his socialist dream sparks the rebellion. He is based on the German political economist Karl Marx and the Russian revolutionary leader Lenin.Napoleon Animal Farm
- Based on Stalin due to his use of violence to control the animals through his fighter dogs
Snowball - Based on Leon Trotsky, a Russian marxist revolutionary who was opposed to Stalin. He was banished from Russia and lived in exile in Mexico.
Mr Jones The Farmer - Abuses his animals with lack of food and therefore represents Tsar Nicholas II. Wikipedia states that "The Imperial Army's severe losses and the monarchy's incompetent handling of the first world war, along with other policies directed by Nicholas during his reign, are often cited as the leading causes of the fall of the Romanov dynasty."
Mr Frederick - another local farmer who double crosses them. Based on Adolf Hitler.
Boxer - Whilst not based on anyone in particular, Boxer the horse, is instrumental in the completion of the windmill and works tirelessly towards the goals of animal farm. He is however rather dim and is unable to really think about what he is doing and why - perhaps showing how the masses reacted under communist rule.
(Animal Farm Summary)
Communism in the Soviet Union
The story of animal farm is that of what happened in the Soviet Union and the rise of Stalin. The socialist ideals were in place in the Soviet Union but as Stalin rose to power and strenghthened his power through violence and fear, these ideals became corrupted.
Trotsky (Snowball) was the weaker one of the two and as such Stalin
(Napoleon) was able to over power him and banish him from the country,
giving Stalin a free reign to become a tyrant.
Orwell clearly does favour socialism and has no issue with communism done well. But what the book clearly shows, is how these socialist ideals are used and abused as the power goes to Napoleon's head.
The Abuse of Power
How quickly the power goes to the pigs heads and how quickly they become everything that animal farm was against in the first place.
The pigs quickly allow all the other animals to do the hard work whilst they do very little but drink whiskey and fraternise with the other farmers. Not an uncommon analogy to many work places!
The changing of the rules by changing the odd word here and there, as well as the use of propoganda through Squealer, all makes for a total abuse of power and total manipulation of the animals.
This is best seen through many of the smaller characters, who get on with what is asked of them without questioning why. Boxer in particular illustrates his hardworking ethos but is incapable of thinking for himself. It is this naivety that allows the revised rules to be accepted.
There are a few examples of this in the book. Mr Frederick double crosses the animals in their deal, and of course, Napoleon betrays snowball and all of the animals by changing the rules so considerably.
(Animal Farm Summary)
Discuss the main characters and who they depict e.g. Stalin, HItler etc.
If Orwell had written the book today, who would he have based his characters on?
What abuses of power are prevalent in today's society?
The ignorance of the animals or the strategy of the pigs - which is more to blame for the tyrannical rule of the pigs?
Is a class system inevitable? Is someone in power always necessary or can everyone be equal?
How are Snowball and Napoleon different?
Would the outcome of the story be different if Snowball had been the pig in charge and not Napoleon?
Do we get to know Orwell's opinion on socialism, communism and tyrannical leaders?
(Animal Farm Summary)
We read this just before our Christmas Party as it was a short and quick read. I'm not sure we discussed it enough given we had our best books awards night too.
But overall we all enjoyed the read and it made us all feel quite emotional about the abuse of power in the world today.
An absolute classic that every high school student should read so as such things never happen again!
As valid today as it was in 1945.
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