Animal Farm – Overview

The following information will be helpful as you prepare to read George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm. Be sure to read all the information that follows so that you will have a better understanding of the overall meaning of the work.

Synopsis
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a fable that criticizes the Soviet Union’s unfair treatment of its people. Written in 1945, the novel is an allegory or parable that shows what happens when wicked leaders take advantage of people. The animals on Manor Farm feel that the farm owner has unrealistic dreams. They see him as a bully, so they weaken the farmer and gain control of the farm. Now the animals are in control; however, the power begins to corrupt them as well. The weakest animals are in danger of being unfairly used by the more powerful animals. The characters represent historical figures who behaved the same way, which makes the tale even more interesting. Even though the Soviet Union has collapsed, the lessons of Animal Farm are still applicable today. The novel teaches us about the dangers of abusive leaders as well as how to interact with our neighbors.


Characters:


Old Major: Old Major is an elderly pig. He is the first to suggest revolution to the animals of Manor Farm. Historically, he is compared to the man whose ideas and treatises led to the Communist Revolution.

Snowball: Snowball is an intelligent and thoughtful pig. At the start of the
Revolution, he partners with Napoleon in an undefined, loose leadership role. Though he is not always practical, he has great faith in the animals and high hopes for their success.

Napoleon: Napoleon is a forceful, conniving, and self-possessed pig. Along with
Snowball he leads the animals on Manor Farm at the beginning of the novel. He is compared to the historical figure, Napoleon Bonaparte of France.

Squealer: Squealer is a young pig that serves as the mouthpiece for Napoleon. He symbolizes the mechanism by which propaganda is used historically in a totalitarian government.

Boxer: Boxer is a carthorse who is untiring in his devotion to the Revolution, its leaders, and its mission. Regardless of Napoleon’s behavior, Boxer stands by and supports him. He is symbolic of the oppressed peoples who are taken advantage of and abused by those in power, the leaders who improve their own lives and destroy the lives of the people they rule.

Mollie: Mollie is a young mare. She leaves Manor Farm because she does not want to do without the pleasure she derives from material goods such as colored ribbons and sugar lumps. Some of the animals feel that her desertion is treachery. Her character symbolizes the nobles who, following the Revolution, fled Russia as their loyalties were easily swayed.

Benjamin: Benjamin is a donkey whose mood is somber and glum. He is a cynic who is neither for nor against the Revolution. He is symbolic of people’s propensity for apathy, cynicism, and the assumption that things will never improve regardless of people’s efforts.

Moses: Moses is a raven full of marvelous stories about Sugarcandy Mountain, a fantastic place where work is obsolete. He is lucky, as he can come and go as he pleases. He represents organized religion in general, and, more specifically, the Russian Orthodox Church.

Muriel: Muriel is a goat. Her reading skills far surpass the majority of the animals on the farm, so she is often the one who reads the altered Commandments to the other animals. She does not always fully comprehend what she reads, but, symbolically, she is still seen as a revelatory figure.

Clover: Clover is a mare. Much like Boxer, she is loyal and committed to the Revolution and its mission.

Farmer Jones: Farmer Jones is the owner of Manor Farm. He is emblematic of those governments whose corruption and flaws put their peoples in a Revolutionary mindset.

Pilkington: Pilkington owns the farm that neighbors Manor Farm. He is indifferent and unconcerned about what is going on at Animal Farm. This is a commentary on some British gentlemen characterized by both their decadence and lack of political interest.

Frederick: Frederick is the other farmer in the negotiations to buy timber from the animals. He is wicked and malevolent. He is rumored to cruelly and strangely torture the animals on his farm. He is symbolic of Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jewish people and others condemned by them to the concentration camps.

Whymper: Whymper is a man who trades with the animals of Animal Farm through Napoleon. He is only interested in making money and cares nothing for the animals and their treatment. His activities symbolize countries that did business with communist regimes despite their behavior.