Animal Farm Book summary

George Orwell



Animal Farm was originally published under the title Animal Farm: A Fairy Tale, however, the subtitle was removed when the book was published in the United States of America. Animal Farm is inspired by the personal experience of Geroge Orwell as he was involved in the Spanish Civil war and the dispute between the Trotskyist and Stalinist factions. He was displeased with the British Socialists that chose to defend Stalin's actions, who at the time had received significant support due to the Soviet Union's aid in defeating Hitler. Animal Farm is a stinging criticism of Stalinism, but rather than focussing on that one ideology, George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a criticism of all totalitarian regimes. It is believed that he was inspired to write Animal Farm after he had watched a man mercilessly whip a horse.


Plot Summary

The animals of Manor farm gather at the request of Old Major, an old prize boar, after Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm, has gone to bed. The old boar begins by lecturing the gathered animals about the evil rule of man, who he claims is the source of all misery. He tells them that man overworks them, starves them, and in the end slaughters them all. He promises them that one day the animals would rise up in revolt to overthrow man, and that the day of rebellion may not come soon but that it would certainly arrive. He cautions them against adopting any of man's hated vices when that day comes, and then gives them a song called the "Beasts of England" that had come to him in the form of a dream. All of the animals are deeply moved by the future that the song promises and they all sing it together until Mr. Jones wakes from the noise. The old Major dies soon afterward, but his words inspire the rest of the animals on the farm who begin to prepare for the day of rebellion.

The pigs are the most devout, and they spend several hours coming up with the ideology of Animalism. Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer are the most prominent pigs responsible for the propagation of the ideology. An opportunity for rebellion presents itself quite naturally as the animals collectively break into the foodshed when the farmer and his workers forget to feed the animals. The starved animals are then attacked by whips, and they lose all control of themselves and chase away Mr. Jones and all his workers. They are stunned by the quick reversal of fate and immediately begin to remove all the hateful tools of their old master.

The pigs found the basic tenets of Animalism and write them down on the walls after they reveal their literacy and lead the animals in renaming Manor Farm to Animal Farm. The horses, Clover, Boxer, and Mollie are just as intelligent as the Pigs but not quite as skilled at reading. Other animals like the sheep are unable to learn more than a few phrases, and so a smaller maxim is devised for them. The simpler maxim is taken up with vigor and the sheep often break into long chants of "Four legs good, two legs bad." Snowball creates a flag for the farm and all the animals gather every Sunday to propose motions and vote on them. The pigs are the only animals on the farm who are intelligent enough to draft resolutions and so naturally take up the role of supervisors.

The pigs soon begin to abuse their position of power as they take the milk of the cows and the apples from the orchard for their exclusive use claiming that their role as brain workers required superior nutrition. The Sunday assemblies soon become the battleground for Snowball and Napoleon who seem to be eternally opposed to one another. Snowball founds several committees but fails at most of them, while Napoleon concerns himself with the education of the young. He takes nine young puppies into his custody and raises them alone without the intervention of any of the other animals. Snowball leads the animals in defense of the farm when Mr. Jones attempts to retake the farm at the head of a rabble. He distinguishes himself at the battle and is awarded a medal for his contributions.

Snowball and Napoleon's enmity grows to new heights as Snowball proposes the building of a windmill, whose electricity would create a life of luxury for the animals on the farm. Snowball creates the plans all by himself through the study of various textbooks, while Napoleon claims that the building would be far too complicated and instead encourages the animals to increase food production. On the day of the vote, it becomes evident that Snowball's skilled oratorship would allow him to win the vote, but Napoleon summons a group of ferocious dogs that chase away Snowball. The hostile takeover is completed when the Sheep burst into chants of the slogan. Squealer goes around the farm explaining to the animals that Napoleon had chosen to take charge of farm policy to prevent them all from voting on decisions that would be mistakes. Squealer also begins to claim that Snowball had been a war criminal and an agent working for the humans from the very beginning. He further defends Napoleon's reversal on his stance against the windmill as he orders the animals to begin working on the windmill. No other animal works as hard as Boxer, the strong horse, whose personal mottos become "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right". The animals fail to notice that the pigs have begun to change the commandments of Animalism to suit their purposes as they move into the farmhouse, begin to sleep in beds and trade with the humans.

The half-constructed windmill is destroyed by a storm, however, Napoleon begins to claim that it had been sabotaged by Snowball who was being sheltered in one of the neighboring farms. Napoleon then uses the dogs to conduct executions as animals begin to make false confessions about their involvement with Snowball. The animals are forced to bear a harsh winter as their rations are adjusted to secure funds for the building of the windmill and other necessities. However, this second windmill is destroyed by farmers as they attack Animal Farm a second time. The humans are rebuffed once again but several animals are killed in the battle, however, the pigs remain undaunted and begin the construction of a windmill for the third time. Boxer is worked to exhaustion and collapses in the field, however, instead of allowing him to retire, Napoleon sells Boxer to the horse slaughterer.

Napoleon and the other pigs begin to walk upright on their hind legs and wear clothes. The work for the mill is completed, and it is used as a corn mill rather than to produce electricity. The farm grows prosperous but the animals of the farm are treated even worse, while the pigs live a life of luxury and excess. The pigs invite the neighboring farmers for an inspection and have a feast in the farmhouse which is observed in secret by the animals. They hear the farmers commend the pigs on their control over the other animals, and suddenly the other animals are unable to distinguish between the pigs and the humans.

  • Author(s)

    George Orwell
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Simon & Schuster