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Animal Farm Summary and Key Themes

“Animal Farm” is a novella by George Orwell, first published in 1945. It is a dystopian allegory that uses a farm of animals to satirize the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the early years of the Soviet Union.

The story is known for its insights into human nature and the corrupting influence of power.

Full Summary

The book begins with the animals of Manor Farm, led by a wise boar named Old Major, revolting against their human farmer, Mr. Jones. 

Inspired by Old Major’s dream of an egalitarian utopia, the animals successfully overthrow the farmer and take control of the farm, which they rename Animal Farm. 

Initially, the farm thrives under animal rule, and the animals are united by their shared principles encapsulated in the commandments of “Animalism,” which promote equality and condemn human traits.

However, as time passes, the pigs, who are the most intelligent of the animals, begin to assume more control. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerge as leaders

Snowball is an enthusiastic, innovative, and visionary leader, while Napoleon is more cunning and power-hungry. Their differing philosophies and methods of leadership lead to a power struggle. 

Napoleon eventually usurps control, using his loyal dogs to exile Snowball from the farm.

Under Napoleon’s rule, the principles of Animalism are gradually distorted to justify his dictatorial regime. 

The commandments are subtly altered to benefit the pigs, who start to adopt human behaviors and collaborate with humans, the very creatures they originally sought to overthrow. 

The most significant change is to the commandment “All animals are equal” which is altered to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The other animals, most notably Boxer the horse, who is characterized by his hard work and loyalty, continue to believe in the original ideals of Animalism, despite the increasing hardships and the pigs’ obvious betrayal of these principles. 

The story ends with the pigs indistinguishable from humans, both in behavior and appearance, signifying the complete abandonment of the original ideals of the revolution.

Summary [Chapter by Chapter]

Chapter 1

Mr. Jones, who drinks a lot, closes up his farm at night and goes to bed. Once he’s gone, the animals on Manor Farm meet in the big barn. 

A wise old pig named Major gives a speech. He talks about a dream where animals are free from humans and live in peace. Major says humans are bad because they use animals and don’t let them keep what they make. 

This makes animal lives hard and short. Major tells the animals they should work together to kick out the humans. He teaches them a song, “Beasts of England,” and they sing it excitedly. 

The noise wakes up Mr. Jones, who shoots his gun into the farmyard. Scared, the animals go back to sleep.

Chapter 2

After Major dies, the animals, inspired by his speech, secretly plan to overthrow Mr. Jones. Two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, lead the rebellion, helped by another pig named Squealer. 

They learn to read and write and create a set of rules called Animalism, with the main idea that “All animals are equal.” They have secret meetings at night to teach other animals about Animalism. 

Not all animals are on board, though. Mollie, a vain horse, and Moses, a raven, don’t believe in the rebellion. But Boxer and Clover, two hardworking horses, support it.

Mr. Jones loses money and drinks even more. He and his workers don’t take care of the farm and don’t feed the animals enough. Finally, the animals get so hungry they break into the food store. 

Mr. Jones and his men try to stop them, but the animals fight back and chase them away. They take over the farm, rename it Animal Farm, and start their new life without humans. They destroy everything that reminds them of Mr. Jones and decide to turn the farmhouse into a museum. 

The pigs write their rules on the barn wall, milk the cows, and start working on the farm. But, when they come back from working, they notice the milk is gone.

Chapter 3

The animals work hard together and have a good harvest. Boxer, the horse, works the hardest. 

He always says, “I will work harder.” The animals create a routine: work on weekdays and relax on Sundays, which include flag ceremonies, committees, and learning to read and write. 

Snowball comes up with a simpler rule: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” He also makes a flag for Animal Farm. 

The pigs become the leaders and start keeping milk and apples for themselves, saying they need it for their brains. Napoleon takes nine puppies and raises them away from their mothers.

Chapter 4

News about Animal Farm spreads to other farms. Mr. Jones is upset about losing his farm, while his neighbors, Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick, think they can benefit from his loss. They spread rumors that Animal Farm will fail and that the animals are bad.

In October, Mr. Jones and some men try to take back the farm. But the animals fight hard and win what they call the Battle of the Cowshed. They take Mr. Jones’ gun and decide to fire it twice a year to celebrate their victory.

Chapter 5

Mollie, the young mare, doesn’t like the new way of life on Animal Farm. She hides things like sugar and ribbons and talks to humans from another farm. Soon, she leaves and starts a normal horse life in a village. 

This winter is very tough. 

The animals plan the year’s work in the barn. Snowball and Napoleon, both leaders, argue a lot, especially about building a windmill. Snowball says it will make life easier with electricity, but Napoleon disagrees, saying it’s impractical.

One day, Napoleon surprises everyone. He has trained the puppies into fierce dogs, which he uses to chase Snowball away from the farm. After this, Napoleon takes full control. He stops the Sunday meetings and sets up a group of pigs to make decisions. He also makes Squealer his spokesperson. Napoleon changes his mind and starts building the windmill, even though he was against it before. The animals don’t understand all of this but follow along because they trust Napoleon.

Chapter 6

The animals work extremely hard all year, and by autumn, they finish the windmill. Napoleon and his pig friends keep getting more powerful, using smart tricks and guard dogs to stay in charge. 

Napoleon starts trading with neighboring farms, hiring a human named Mr. Whymper to help. This worries the animals, but they are also proud to see Napoleon dealing with humans.

The pigs start sleeping in beds in the farmhouse, against the rules of Animalism. They change the commandment about beds to justify this. One stormy night, the windmill is destroyed. Squealer blames Snowball and says he must be caught and punished.

Chapter 7

The animals face a very hard winter with not enough food. They try to rebuild the windmill. 

When Mr. Whymper visits, Napoleon tricks him into thinking they have more food than they do. Rumors spread that Snowball is sneaking around the farm. Some animals admit to working with him, and Napoleon’s dogs execute them. This violence shocks the other animals and seems against their dream of a happy, free farm.

Squealer says they must stop singing “Beasts of England” because their dream is now real. They start singing a new song about loyalty to Animal Farm, but it’s not as good.

Chapter 8

The pigs keep changing the Seven Commandments to suit their actions, like killing other animals. 

They keep saying that the farm is doing well, even though there’s less food. Napoleon starts acting more like a dictator and calls himself “Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon.” 

He stops trading with Mr. Pilkington and starts dealing with Mr. Frederick, a cruel man the animals fear. But then, Napoleon says Snowball is living with Pilkington and sells timber to Frederick.

Frederick tricks Napoleon by paying with fake money and attacks Animal Farm, blowing up the windmill. 

The animals fight back and win, calling it the Battle of the Windmill. They mourn the animals who died and are hurt, including Boxer. Soon after, Napoleon pretends to be dying but recovers. 

The pigs find whiskey and start drinking, even though it’s against the rules. They change the rules and start growing barley for more alcohol.

Chapter 9

Boxer, injured from the battle, hopes to retire soon. He works hard on the farm, building the windmill and a school for piglets. 

The winter is hard, and the animals except the pigs and dogs get less food. Squealer convinces them this is fair and better than when Mr. Jones was in charge.

The pigs abuse their power, eating more food and making beer. Animal Farm becomes a republic, and Napoleon is the only president candidate. He makes big shows of himself and keeps blaming Snowball for problems. 

Moses the raven comes back and tells stories about a paradise for animals, but he doesn’t work.

Boxer gets weaker and collapses one day. Squealer says he’ll send Boxer to a hospital, but a van comes to take him to a slaughterhouse. 

The animals can’t save him. The pigs lie, saying Boxer died in a hospital, and they celebrate with more whiskey.

Chapter 10

Years pass, and many animals, including Mr. Jones, die. New animals don’t remember the old days. Napoleon and the other pig leaders get old and fat. 

The farm is bigger and has new machines, but only the pigs and dogs live better. The other animals still struggle with hunger and hard work. 

The pigs tell them things are improving, and the animals are proud of Animal Farm.

One day, the pigs start walking on two legs and change the commandment to “Four legs good, two legs better.” 

All commandments are replaced by “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The pigs start acting like humans, using phones, smoking, and wearing clothes.

Humans visit the farm and like how it’s run. The pigs party with them, and Animal Farm is renamed Manor Farm, its old name. 

The pigs and humans look the same as they argue over a card game, showing that the revolution has failed and the pigs are just like the humans they overthrew.

animal farm summary

Characters

Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones, the negligent and alcoholic owner of Manor Farm, is the catalyst for the animals’ rebellion. His incompetence and cruelty towards the animals result in his eventual overthrow. Symbolically, he represents Czar Nicholas II, whose poor leadership led to the Communist Revolution in Russia.

Major

Old Major, a wise and influential boar, sparks the idea of a revolution. Representing Karl Marx, he inspires the animals with his vision of a better life without humans. His teachings form the basis of Animalism, paralleling Marx’s influence on Communism.

Napoleon

Napoleon, a Berkshire boar, emerges as the farm’s dictator. Shrewd and manipulative, he represents Joseph Stalin, embodying the corruption of power in a communist regime. He sidelines his rivals and uses propaganda and fear to maintain control.

Snowball

Snowball, another boar and Napoleon’s initial comrade, is intelligent and passionate. He represents Leon Trotsky, being a fervent advocate for the revolution but eventually becoming an enemy of Napoleon and being exiled. Snowball’s idealism contrasts with Napoleon’s pragmatism.

Squealer

Squealer, a persuasive pig, is Napoleon’s mouthpiece. An expert in manipulation, he twists the truth to justify Napoleon’s actions, representing the deceptive nature of propaganda in totalitarian regimes.

Boxer

Boxer, a dedicated and strong carthorse, symbolizes the hardworking proletariat. His loyalty and strength are exploited by the pig leadership, reflecting how totalitarian regimes abuse the working class’s trust and labor.

Clover

Clover, a maternal and caring mare, is close to Boxer and represents the general populace’s initial faith in the revolution. Her eventual disillusionment mirrors the public’s awakening to the regime’s corruption.

Benjamin

Benjamin, a cynical donkey, sees through the farm’s politics but remains aloof. His character might represent George Orwell’s own perspective on political cynicism and the failure of revolutions to bring true change.

Mollie

Mollie, a vain and superficial mare, illustrates those who are indifferent to politics and easily swayed by superficial comforts. Her eventual abandonment of the farm reflects the flight of those disillusioned with revolutionary changes.

Moses

Moses, a raven, spins tales of Sugarcandy Mountain, a metaphor for religion used by leaders to pacify and control the masses. His character highlights the complex role of religion in political struggles.

Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick

These neighboring farmers symbolize the Western nations (Pilkington) and Fascist powers (Frederick) during Stalin’s era. Their interactions with Napoleon reflect the changing alliances and duplicity in international politics.

Mr. Whymper

Whymper, a human intermediary, represents Western journalists and intellectuals who were duped by Soviet propaganda, failing to see the regime’s true nature.

Minimus

Minimus, a sycophantic pig-poet, illustrates those who use their talents to glorify tyrannical regimes, showing how art can be co-opted for propaganda.

Key Themes

1. The Corruption of Power

Orwell explores how power can corrupt those who hold it and lead to the oppression of those who are governed. Initially, the animals’ revolt is driven by the desire for a society where all animals are equal and free from human tyranny. 

However, as the pigs gain power, particularly Napoleon, they become more oppressive than the humans they overthrew. 

This theme is epitomized in the transformation of the Seven Commandments of Animalism, especially the final alteration to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This reflects Orwell’s belief that in a totalitarian regime, power tends to concentrate in the hands of the few, leading to corruption and inequality.

2. The Role of Propaganda in Controlling the Masses

Orwell vividly illustrates the use of propaganda to manipulate and control the populace. The character of Squealer, the pigs’ spokesperson, is pivotal in this regard. He skillfully twists and distorts language to justify the pigs’ increasingly dictatorial actions and to pacify the other animals. 

This manipulation of truth is an essential tool for maintaining power in the farm. 

The theme reflects Orwell’s concern about how political leaders, especially in totalitarian states, use propaganda to suppress dissent and reshape reality to suit their purposes.

3. The Betrayal of Ideals in the Pursuit of Power

“Animal Farm” is fundamentally a story about the betrayal of revolutionary ideals. 

The animals’ initial uprising is fueled by a vision of a society based on equality, shared work, and mutual respect. However, as the narrative progresses, these ideals are slowly abandoned. 

The pigs, who become the ruling class, gradually start to resemble the human oppressors they had overthrown. 

This theme highlights Orwell’s critique of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union under Stalin, where the revolutionary ideals were betrayed by those who rose to power. 

The novel serves as a cautionary tale about how noble ideas can be subverted by those in leadership for their own gain.

Final Thoughts

“Animal Farm” is widely regarded as a critique of the betrayal of revolutionary ideals and the dangers of unchecked political power. Orwell, through this simple yet profound fable, highlights the tendency for those in power to become oppressive and for revolutions to replace one form of tyranny with another. 

The book remains a powerful and relevant commentary on the nature of power and the complexities of human social and political dynamics.

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