While Animal Farm contains broad themes about leadership, power and corruption that can be applied to many political circumstances and historical events, there are direct parallels to the Russian Revolution. To better understand the links between Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution, we have included a brief description of the historical figure or concept each major character represents, along with a general description of the characters.
A wise, well-respected old pig who inspires the animals to rebel against the farmer and other humans. He passes away before the animal’s revolt against Mr Jones.
Old Major represents Karl Marx, who inspired a communist uprising against the ruling class in 1848 through his book The Communist Manifesto. He also represents Vladimir Lenin, a key leader in the Russian Revolution in October 1917 who followed Marxist principles.
Snowball is one of the leaders of the revolt and is popular among the animals. He is idealistic, intelligent, and likes strategy and organisation. Snowball is later driven off the farm by Napoleon and nasty rumours are spread about him.
Snowball seeks to carry on the dream and ideal of Old Major and to continue making improvements to Animal Farm. He is eventually driven off the farm by Napoleon and the dogs. This is similar to the role of Leon Trotsky, an associate of Lenin’s who was driven out of the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin.
A large boar who leads the revolt along with Snowball. Napoleon and Snowball are enemies who think very differently about how things should run after the revolution. Napoleon eventually grabs power for himself.
Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin who came to power through force after the revolt. He used his power to improve conditions for his supporters. His policies led to the deaths of millions, many as a result of famine or public executions.
A very persuasive pig, Squealer communicates new developments on the farm to the other animals. He frequently lies, twists the truth and deflects questions in order to win the support of the other animals for Napoleon and his message.
Rather than representing a specific historical figure, Squealer represents government tactics, particularly propaganda. Propaganda is information or media used to promote a particular political message or point of view, often in misleading or biased ways. Propaganda was used by Stalin during the Russian Revolution to keep control of the masses. Squealer is sometimes viewed as a stand-in for Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, a loyal follower of Joseph Stalin.
The Other Pigs
The narrator of Animal Farm refers to other pigs throughout the book and the play. While they are not given names or specific characteristics, the reader/audience hears about how they begin to take privileges over the other animals.
The pigs on the whole represent members of the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union, particularly followers of Joseph Stalin.
The Other Animals
A loyal, hard-working cart-horse, Boxer is the strongest of the farm animals. He is easily convinced by Squealer’s lies and wishes to believe that Napoleon is always right. He is eventually betrayed by Napoleon.
A cart-horse and good friend of Boxer’s. Clover sometimes doubts what the pigs are saying, but assumes she is not correctly remembering things and so dismisses her doubts.
Boxer and Clover represent the working class during the Russian Revolution – their belief in the cause, their susceptibility to propaganda, their hard work, the struggles they face with getting enough to eat under Stalin’s rule, etc.
A bad-tempered old donkey, Benjamin is doubtful of the other animals’ idealism. Although he is intelligent and often notices when the pigs are misleading the other animals, he avoids taking action to stop them or make change.
Benjamin is thought to represent the older generation, who recognise when Stalin and his supporters begin manipulating others but do not take any action against them.
Napoleon raises a group of puppies in isolation from the other animals. These dogs become his own personal guard. They threaten and even kill those who are perceived to be working against Napoleon.
The dogs represent Stalin’s secret police and bodyguards.
The sheep are thought to be the stupidest of the animals, unable to comprehend more than basic ideas and instructions. They are blindly loyal to Napoleon and chant slogans to serve his cause.
The hens are some of the first animals to openly rebel against Napoleon when he demands they give up all of their eggs.
The sheep and the hens also represent aspects of the working class – those who rebelled against Stalin’s rule and those who blindly followed it.
Mr Jones is the farmer of Manor Farm (later renamed Animal Farm). The animals revolt against him because he whips them and doesn’t feed them enough food. Mr Jones is known to have a drinking problem.
Mr Jones represents Tsar Nicholas II who was driven from power in Russia during the February 1917 Revolution.
The farmer of Pinchfield, a smaller neighbouring farm. Mr Frederick briefly enters into an alliance with Napoleon and the animals, but cheats them and attempts to invade the farm.
Mr Frederick represents Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The relationship between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was strong for a number of years, but their agreements were abruptly terminated when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
The farmer of Foxwood, a large neighbouring farm. He is shown to be arguing with Napoleon at the end of the story.
Mr Pilkington and his farm represent the United States of America.
The Seven Commandments – In accordance with the ideal of Animalism, the pigs create seven commandments that all animals on the farm are called to follow. They are:
- Whatever goes on two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes on four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animals shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equals
These commandments are simplified for the less intelligent animals, like the sheep, to say: “Four legs good, two legs bad”. The commandments are later altered according to the changing agenda of the pigs. By the end of the story, all of the seven commandments have been erased except for the last, which has been changed to “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.
ANIMAL FARM – CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Old Major calls a meeting of all the animals. We meet all the main characters as they enter the barn. The pigs rush to the front. Clover and Boxer are careful not to tread on smaller animals. Benjamin doesn’t believe anything he hears but says little. Mollie is vain. So some of the personalities are established immediately.
Old Major, in his speech, points out that no animal knows the meaning of happiness and that all their hard work and produce goes to benefit man. If man was removed the animals would not have to work so hard and would have more to eat. He ends the meeting by assuring them that the revolution to remove man would come eventually and teaches them the song ‘Beasts of England’ which becomes their ‘national anthem’.
Old Major dies in his sleep in early March. The pigs are recognised as being the cleverest animals – particularly Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer. Snowball is a lively, appealing pig, Napoleon is quieter and thought to be more of a thinker and Squealer is a brilliant talker.
We also meet Moses, the tame raven, who says he knows the existence of a place called Sugarcandy Mountain (heaven).
The revolution happened more quickly than expected. One night Jones the farmer got drunk in the Red Lion and forgot to feed the animals. One cow broke into the store shed and all the animals started to help themselves. When Jones and 4 of his farmhands started whipping the animals to get them under control, they turned and butted and kicked, driving Jones off his farm. His wife packed her bags quickly and followed.
The animals destroy everything that reminds them of human domination. They celebrate and the pigs, who have learned to read and write, paint the 7 commandments on the wall of the barn. The pigs manage to milk the cows, who are rather uncomfortable by this time, and Napoleon guards it while they all go off to survey their farm. When they return the milk has disappeared.
The pigs have taken charge of the farm which is now called Animal Farm rather than Manor Farm. The harvest is good and everyone works hard knowing that the produce is theirs. Boxer works harder than anyone. They fly a flag over the farm – green with a hoof and a horn to symbolise their ownership.
Meetings are held every week where the pigs outline their ideas and hold debates. Snowball and Napoleon never agree on what should be done.
Snowball organises lots of committees to make everyone feel involved in the running of the farm but really the pigs are in control.9 puppies are born and Napoleon takes them aside to rear them himself. It is
announced that the milk and apples are to be reserved for the pigs alone. Squealer is sent to explain that the reason for this is because the pigs do all the brain work, without which Jones would probably return.
This terrifies the animals and is used frequently to keep them from complaining about the preferential treatment for the pigs.
Pigeons start to spread the word about the rebellion to other farms. We meet the owners of the two neighbouring farms – Foxwood owned by Mr. Pilkington and Pinchfield owned by Mr. Frederick. They fear that rebellion will spread to their farms so join with Jones to mount an attack on Animal Farm to regain control.
The animals unite to defeat them in the Battle of the Cowshed. All the animals fight except for Mollie who hides.
They later make medals to be presented for bravery. Snowball and Boxer receive Animal Hero 1st Class medals and a sheep who was killed is posthumously awarded an Animal Hero 2nd Class medal. Nobody seems to notice the irony of dividing animals into classes when they are all supposed to be equal.
Mollie disappears. She cannot bear to live without her ribbons and sugar which the other animals regard as being the sweeteners used by man to control them.
The winter is a hard one. Snowball puts forward the idea of a windmill to provide electricity to heat their stalls and ease their workload. Napoleon disagrees and trains the sheep to bleat ‘4 legs good, 2 legs bad.’ every time Snowball tries to speak. These two pigs are obviously competing for leadership of the farm and Snowball is certainly the more popular.
When he appears to be losing the argument, Napoleon calls up the 9 puppies he had taken away some months earlier. They chase Snowball off the farm and Napoleon assumes complete control.
Squealer convinces the animals that Snowball has always been a traitor, that he was not brave in the Battle of the Cowshed and that he stole the idea of the windmill from Napoleon himself.
The animals work hard to build the windmill, Boxer being the one who did most of the heavy work. His 2 slogans are introduced – ‘I will work harder’ and ‘Napoleon is always right.’
Napoleon decides to start trading with the neighbouring farms, Foxwood and Pinchfield. He uses a middleman Whymper to conduct business with them. When the animals see Napoleon ordering Whymper around, it makes them forget that they are not supposed to deal with humans.
The pigs move into the farmhouse and start to sleep in beds. Commandment 4 has ‘with sheets’
added to it and Squealer convinces the animals that they must have forgotten that bit. Because the other animals never learned to read properly, they believe Squealer and agree that the pigs must have more comforts than they do if they are to prevent Jones coming back.
A violent storm destroys the windmill. Napoleon blames Snowball and tells the animals to rebuild it with stronger walls.
There is a severe food shortage but to convince the outside world that all is well, the food bins are filled with sand and merely topped up with grain. The hens are ordered to give up their eggs for the pigs to sell. When they stage a small protest by dropping their eggs from the rafters, Napoleon starves them until they give in.
Napoleon is rarely seen in public any more and announcements are always made by Squealer. The animals are told that Snowball was always in league with Jones and that even now Snowball is plotting with Jones to overthrow the farm. To prove his point, he makes 4 pigs confess to having secret meetings with Snowball. They are immediately slaughtered. Then 3 hens, a goose and 3 sheep also confess to similar crimes and receive a similar fate.
‘Beasts of England’ is banned and Minimus composes another song in praise of Napoleon to replace it. Napoleon awards himself medals.
The 6th commandment is changed to ‘No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.’ The animals work harder than ever for less food though the pigs and dogs always have plenty.
Napoleon decides to sell timber to Pilkington. The windmill is finished and called Napoleon Mill. When Napoleon discovers that Pilkington has paid for the timber with forged notes, he becomes friendly with Frederick instead. Pilkington then attacks the farm one night and blows up the windmill with dynamite.
When Napoleon is seen in public, he always has a black cockerel walking in front of him like a trumpeter. A gun is fired on his birthday and he eats from the best china dinner service with a food taster to try his food to make sure it is not poisoned. He no behaves like a king or emperor.
Rations are reduced once again and work on the windmill starts for a third time. Boxer’s ambition is to finish it before he retires so he works even harder than usual.
A school is built for the piglets and they are encouraged to avoid the other animals who now have to step aside to let them pass.
Despite the food shortage, produce is sold to provide machinery for the windmill and whisky for Napoleon’s table. The barley is reserved to brew beer for the pigs.
Moses returns to the farm with tales of Sugarcandy Mountain. The animals, now starving and desperate, are more inclined to listen – there may be a better world after death. The pigs view him as dangerous..
Boxer collapses through overwork. Napoleon assures the other animals that he is being taken to a hospital to be cared for but he sells him to a glue manufacturer in return for whisky. When Benjamin points out that the van in which he was taken away said ’Horse Slaughterer’ on the side, Squealer replies that it used to belong to the horse slaughterer but now belongs to the vet.
Years later few of the animals are alive who remember the days before the rebellion. The windmill is finished but is used for milling corn to be sold at a profit rather than for electricity to make the animals’ lives easier.
Squealer takes away the sheep for a week. On their return, they bleat ‘4 legs good, 2 legs better’ as the pigs appear walking on their back legs and carrying whips. The commandments are scrubbed off the barn wall and replaced with just one – ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.’ The pigs start to wear clothes and the farm is called Manor Farm once again. One evening the animals look in the farmhouse window where the pigs and local farmers are drinking and playing cards. As they look from pig to man and back, it becomes hard to tell which is which.