Animal Farm (1945) was an allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the tsarist dynasty was overthrown, the Bolsheviks came to power, and the revolution’s gradual betrayal of its followers under dictator Joseph Stalin (1879–1955). Orwell narrates a farmyard tale in which revolutionary heroes Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924), Leon Trotsky (1879–1940), and Stalin are casted as pigs who, together with other common farm animals such as horses and chickens, struggle against the tyranny of the tsar-like Mr. Jones. The story is set on a tiny English farm and follows a group of worker animals that believe they are recreating the farm as a republic while being exploited by pigs on a daily basis.
Animal Farm was written at the conclusion of World War II (1939–1945) when the Soviet Union was being praised by the Allies for its major wins over Nazi Germany at Stalingrad (1942–43) and Kursk (1943). Therefore, it was difficult for him to find a publisher willing to upset Russian sensitivities. In spite of this hesitation, when the novel was ultimately published in England in 1945 by Secker and Warburg, it was a runaway success, as it was the following year in the United States, no doubt aided by the disintegration of wartime alliances and the emergence of the Cold War. Animal Farm has long been regarded as one of the best books of the 20th century and is considered by many to be Orwell’s finest work and his first really popular book.
Mr. Jones, a rude and inebriated farmer, controls Manor Farm. The animals assemble to listen to Old Major, an old sage pig, talk one day. Old Major gives a lecture in which he invites animals to rebel against their human owners. The proposal captivated the animals. Several days later, Old Major dies. The pigs, the most intelligent animals on the farm, prepare for an uprising. Snowball and Napoleon have authority.
Three months later, the animals revolt against Mr. Jones and take control of the farm. The farm’s name is altered to “Animal Farm.” They concur that animals will totally manage the farm, a system they call “animalism.”Animalism is an equitable system that has seven main tenets. The most significant of them is “All animals are equal.” Four legs are excellent, two legs are bad, becomes a famous sheep song. In “Battle of the Cowshed.” Mr. Jones and his companions attack the farm to recapture it, but the animals drive them away. Mr. Jones escapes. He is never seen again.
Snowball and Napoleon had a disagreement because of their divergent views on how Animal Farm should be managed. Napoleon is opposed to Snowball’s plan to construct a windmill. Napoleon teaches nine puppies to become vicious canines. Once they reach adulthood, he intends to utilise them to drive Snowball off the land. Eventually, he seizes control of the farm and operates it by himself (as a dictator). While a pig named Squealer persuades the animals that everything is fine and that they should support Napoleon, the animals are continuously persuaded by Squealer. Concurrently, Napoleon employs the hounds to destroy any animal that opposes him.
Napoleon changes his mind and decides to erect a windmill, stating that it was always his idea. The initial windmill they constructed failed, and the blame is put on Snowball. He alleges that Snowball is spying on Animal Farm and causing havoc. Numerous creatures are brutally slaughtered for having “been in contact with Snowball.” Napoleon begins working with humans outside, despite this being previously prohibited. Mr. Frederick, their next-door neighbour, is one of them. He sent a number of soldiers to the property. They demolish the second wind turbine. In “Battle of the Windmill,” the animals defend themselves at great expense. As the animals were constructing the third windmill, Boxer, their strongest horse, loses his strength due to old age and falls. He is sent to his death despite Boxer’s loyalty to Napoleon. The pigs continue collaborating with humans and developing human traits, such as living in the farmhouse and walking on two legs. The shepherd teaches the sheep a new chant: “Four legs are good, two legs better.” The previous commandments are replaced with, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” Some animals witness the pigs speaking with a group of humans and decide that they cannot distinguish between the two species.
Despite being rejected by many publishers before publication, the book went on to become a bestseller. Animal Farm is one of Orwell’s two most famous works, the other being Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The central moral of Animal Farm is that total authority corrupts, despite being founded on good intentions. The plot parallels the 1917 Russian Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks overthrew the czar and established a communist regime.
Following the revolution, the Russian Communist Party transformed the previous empire into a federation of socialist republics based on German philosopher Karl Marx’s (1818–1883) theories. Initially led by Lenin, Soviet Russia then started a period of rebuilding during which it privatised all parts of the economy and worked to suppress any kinds of opposition to its Marxist-Leninist objectives. Stalin staged a coup d’état from inside the Communist Party after Lenin’s death, and despite declaring Marxist-Leninism a dogma, he transformed the party into a dictatorial bureaucracy. During the period known as the Great Purge, millions of state opponents were killed or transported to work camps. Meanwhile, famines were caused by premature attempts to improve peasant agriculture. This history is retold metaphorically in Animal Farm through the cunning manoeuvres of Napoleon the pig to oust his rivals and seize control of the farm.
The novel begins on a farm where animals are grown to produce like chickens, labour like cart horses, and be fattened for slaughter like pigs; Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin are shown in the figures of Snowball, Napoleon, and Old Major. While Mr. Jones and Mr. Jones’s animals engage in an impromptu duel, the Russian Revolution is satirised as a fight between the two. As a result of their victory, the animals seize control and begin carrying out routine activities, such as gathering hay. By choosing to forego the hardships of agricultural work and take full advantage of the luxuries on offer, the pigs have only just begun to adhere to the “seven commandments of Animalism,” which include the principle that “all animals are equal.” What leads to Napoleon’s rule here severely affects the lives of ordinary animals, who keep working in the delusion that they are building Old Major’s republic.
The central premise of Animal Farm is the ability of regular people to continue believing in a revolution that has been a complete deception. Orwell aims to demonstrate how people in authority, including Napoleon and his fellow pigs, subvert the democratic promise of the revolution. The story’s emotional impact derives from the author’s portrayals of the common animals that unquestioningly serve a system that exploits them cruelly. Boxer is one of two cart horses among the “most devoted disciples” of the pigs. Once they accepted the pigs as their teachers, the horses assimilated what they were taught and taught it to the other animals. Boxer works harder than any other animal, whether picking hay or collecting stones from the quarry, and embraces the slogan “I will work harder.” He is so unselfish in his duty that he works himself nearly to death. While pretending to transport him to the hospital, Napoleon instead sells him to a butcher and uses the proceeds to purchase whisky for the pigs.
The work follows a predictable dramatic structure that emphasises the sorrow of what it means never to lose faith in a betrayed revolution. For instance, when the animals engage in the so-called Combat of the Cowshed, they observe Snowball being awarded the title “Animal Hero, First Class” for his performance in battle against Jones. Later, Napoleon revises the tale with contradicting facts, saying that Snowball battled alongside Jones against the animals. When the animals oppose the new tale, the master deceiver pig Squealer convinces them that their memories are flawed. In Orwell’s view, this pattern of direct experience being supplanted by revisionist propaganda highlights the tragedy of ordinary people who disregard their better judgment by allowing a totalitarian state to dictate a false reality. Orwell picked a challenging literary form — the fable, which is frequently associated with children’s literature — to provide a nuanced critique of one of the most troubled regimes of the twentieth century. He achieves success by accurately and humorously portraying the qualities of many of the animals and by convincing the reader that these attributes lend themselves, at least figuratively, to comprehending human existence in a totalitarian framework. Rather than simply mocking his subjects, Orwell suggests that there is something beastly about them: that there is something sheep-like about those who learn dogma by rote, something dog-like about secret police trained to attack on command, and something horse-like about those who unthinkingly give their body and soul to a bankrupt cause.