Animal Farm is a novel by George Orwell. Published in England on 17 August 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democratic socialist, and a member of the Independent Labour Party for many years, was a critic of Joseph Stalin, and was suspicious of Moscow-directed Stalinism after his experiences with the Russian Communist Party during the Spanish Civil War.
The short novel is an allegory in which animals play the roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow and oust the human owners of the farm, setting it up as a collective farm in which, at first, all animals are equal, which is directed through seven commandments they create to govern themselves by; however, class and status differences soon emerge between the different animal species.
The novel describes how a society’s ideologies can be manipulated and twisted by those in positions of social and political power, including how a utopian society is made impossible by the nature of corruption and the power of words to create it.
There are a wide variety of animals on the farm all of which parallel a particular human personality. They can all communicate with one another however speak a different language than that of their human owners until they take over the farm and learn English from the books they find inside Mr. Jones’ house.
Their intelligence varies depending on which human emotion they portray, for example, Boxer, who plays the gentle yet naive brute’s intelligence is minuscule in companion to the intelligence of Squealer, a pig with expertise in public speaking and persuading. One night the animals gather together in the barn to hear one of the oldest members of the farm speak of his dream.
Old Major, a prize Middle White boar, is the inspiration that fuels the Rebellion in the book. According to one interpretation, he could be based upon both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. He introduces the animals to the song “Beasts of England”, which becomes their anthem and the ideology of “Animalism”.
Napoleon, a Berkshire boar is the main tyrant and villain of Animal Farm and is based upon Joseph Stalin.
Snowball is Napoleon’s rival. He is an allusion to Leon Trotsky. He wins over most animals but is driven out of the farm in the end by Napoleon.
Snowball genuinely works for the good of the farm and devises plans to help the animals achieve their vision of an utopia, but Napoleon and his dogs chase him from the farm, and Napoleon spreads rumors to make him seem evil and corrupt and that he had secretly sabotaged the animals’ efforts to improve the farm.
Squealer, a small fat porker, serves as Napoleon’s right-hand pig and master of propaganda. Inspired by Vyacheslav Molotov and the “Soviet paper”, Squealer manipulates the language to excuse, justify, and extol all of Napoleon’s actions. He represents all the propaganda Stalin used to justify his own heinous acts. In all of his work, George Orwell made it a point to show how politicians used language.
Squealer limits debate by complicating it and he confuses and disorients, However, when questions persist he usually uses the threat of the return of Mr. Jones, the former owner of the farm, to justify the pigs’ behavior. He represents the primary themes of the deception created through the powers of words and their ability to be the most effective weapon in controlling those around you. As for the human characters in the book,
Mr. Jones represents Nicholas II, inspired by the deposed 15th Tsar of Russia, who had been facing severe financial difficulties in the days leading up to the 1917 Revolution. There are several implications that he represents an autocratic but ineffective capitalist, incapable of running the farm and looking after the animals properly.
Jones is an alcoholic and the animals revolt against him after he drinks so much that he forgets to feed or take care of them, and his attempt to recapture the farm is foiled in the Battle of the Cowshed, alluding to the Russian Civil War. Ironically, Napoleon the pig becomes almost obsessed with drinking and eventually changes the commandments to suit his needs. Toward the end of the book, the pigs become the mirror image of Jones, though they thirst for more power than ever before.
Mr. Frederick is the neighbouring farmer to the right, alluding to fascism on the political spectrum, is the tough owner of Pinchfield. He represents Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in general. He tricks the animals into selling wood to him for forged money and later attacks them, destroying the windmill but being finally beaten in the resulting Battle of the Windmill (World War II), which could be interpreted as The Battle of Stalingrad.
Mr. Pikington, the neighbouring farm to the left, representing democracy, is the easy-going but crafty owner of Foxwood, a neighbouring farm overgrown with weeds, as described in the book. He represents the western powers, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
There are several main animal characters: Clover, Boxer, Benjamin, and Mollie.
Boxer is one of the main characters. He is the tragic symbol of the working class, or proletariat: loyal, kind, dedicated, and physically the strongest animal on the farm, but naïve and slow. His ignorance and blind trust toward his leaders leads to his death and their profit. His maxim, “Napoleon is always right” is an example of the propaganda used by Squealer to control the animals.
Boxer’s work ethic is often praised by the pigs, and he is set as a prime example to the other animals. When Boxer is injured, and can no longer work, Napoleon sends him off to the butcher and deceives the other animals, saying that Boxer died peacefully in the hospital.
Next, Mollie is a self-centered and vain white mare who likes wearing ribbons in her mane, eating sugar cubes (which represent luxury) and being pampered and groomed by humans. She represents upper-class people, the bourgeoisie, and nobility who fled to the West after the Russian Empire collapsed. Accordingly, she quickly leaves for another farm after the animals take over and is only once mentioned again.
Benjamin is a wise old donkey that shows slight emotion and is one of the longest surviving of the Manor Farm animals; he is alive to the very last scene of the book and probably lives even longer than the imagined end of Napoleon’s rule. The animals often ask him about his lack of expression but he always answers with: ‘Donkeys live a long time. None of you have ever seen a dead donkey.’
Benjamin can also read as well as any pig but rarely displays his ability. He is a dedicated friend to Boxer and is sorely upset when Boxer is murdered by the pigs. Benjamin has known about the pigs’ wrongdoing the entire time, though he says nothing to the other animals. He represents the cynics in society and possibility an allegory to intellectuals who have the wisdom to stay clear of the purges. Yet another possibility is that Benjamin is an allegory of George Orwell himself.
Moses the Raven is an old bird that occasionally visits the farm with tales of Sugar Candy Mountain, where he says animals go when they die, but only if they work hard. He spends time turning the animals’ minds to a place in the sky called Sugar Candy Mountain and he does no work. He represents religious leaders, specifically the Russian Orthodox Church, which is banned when the pigs came to power.
His religious persona is exacerbated by the fact that he is named after a biblical character, Moses. The other animals are confused by the pigs’ attitude towards Moses; they denounce his claims as nonsense but allow him to remain on the farm. This is an analogy to Stalin’s pact with the Russian Orthodox Church. In the end, he is one of few animals to remember the rebellion, along with Clover, Benjamin, and the pigs.
Finally, The Sheep represented the masses, manipulated to support Stalin in spite of his treachery. They show limited intelligence and understanding of the situations but support Napoleon.