George Orwell's Animal Farm is a classic piece of literature. The novella can be read at face value and also symbolically as a critique of an important part of history. Learn the facts about Animal Farm and use your knowledge to interpret this allegorical novella.
What is the major theme of Animal Farm?
The fundamental theme of Animal Farm is that power can corrupt even those individuals and ideas that begin with the best intentions. In the beginning, there is nothing wrong with the ideas of Animalism-a philosophy adopted by the characters stating all animals are equal. However, as certain characters being to desire power, they skew and remove Animalism from its original purpose. What starts as "all animals are equal," ends up being "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others", and then "four legs good, two legs better" as the animals begin to become what they hate-humans.
What does Animal Farm symbolize?
Animal Farm is an allegorical criticism of the Russian Revolution and Stalinism. Joseph Stalin is represented by the pig Napoleon, a malicious, violent, and power-hungry figure. Leon Trotsky, on the other hand, is represented by Snowball, an idealistic but less politically powerful figure, who is eventually booted from the revolution by Napoleon. The novella demonstrates the tyranny of Stalin and the eventual abandonment of the founding principles of the Russian Revolution, symbolically viewed through the actions of Napoleon as leader of the Animalist movement.
How does Animal Farm showcase George Orwell's political beliefs?
George Orwell was a democratic socialist, who believed strongly in many socialist ideas. For example, he upheld that trying to create a balance of wealth between the rich and the poor would be a positive change, though he knew things would still be far from perfect. These fundamental socialist ideas are represented by the beliefs put forward by Old Major in the beginning of the book, shortly before his death. The reader can see how distorted they become by the end of the story by the pigs who adopted his ideas.
Orwell was disgusted with how socialism was carried out by Stalin's regime, and how the Russian Revolution eventually lost touch with its major ideals in favor of becoming a tyrannic state. This is showcased in the book with the greedy and violent actions of the pig Napoleon.
What are the commandments of Animalism?
When Old Major's ideas are adopted into the Animalist philosophy by Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer, a set of commandments are drawn up. The original commandments are:
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
Later in the story, Napoleon and his pigs revise some of the commandments to cover themselves from accusations of law-breaking. Rule four changes to "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets", five changes to "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess", and six changes to "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.' This demonstrates the hypocrisy of Napoleon and other tyrannic rulers known for showing disregard to rules that they enforced strictly on others (such as Stalin).
The allegorical story of Animal Farm is enjoyable both as a story, and as a way of explaining what Orwell believed went wrong with the Russian Revolution. Read the story for yourself and see if you can recognize the lessons taught within the pages, and what the events symbolize in real life.