Plot Summary

Mr Jones is the proprietor of Manor Farm, located in a country which is geographically similar to England (and indeed called England), whilst supposedly representing Russia. Orwell actually kept the location fairly neutral to indicate that the novel was meant as a fable rather than absolutely as an allegory, therefore indicating a universal significance. Indeed, the name Mr Jones itself suggests an archetypal farmer - Mr Jones is the clichéd name for farmers in jokes and shaggy dog tales. Mr Jones has taken to drink and as his dipsomania increases, so to does his neglect of his animals. Old Major, an ancient and wise boar, calls the animals together one evening when he feels that things have got too bad to bear. His focus upon the wickedness of man as the only problem with the farm (a microcosm which represents the world) leads to the downfall of the model society. In his speech to the animals he asserts:

"Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."

When Major describes the animals’ lives as "miserable, laborious and short," he recalls Thomas Hobbes' depiction of Man's life in a state of nature: "nasty, brutish, and short." It is ironic that Major is describing the animals’ (nature’s) state of servitude to man – a parody which Orwell makes much of during the novel.

Old Major’s view of the world is expressed through the song ‘Beasts of England’. Whilst expressing a need for a new order, it also harks back to a better time and trades in clichéd nostalgia. After giving his speech, and telling the animals about their destiny – either consumed by or eternally enslaved by man – Old Major keels over and dies. Therefore we can see that the instigators of the codes by which a society is ruled rarely live to see the implementation of these codes. However, Orwell wants us to taste the bitterness of a revolution betrayed. He shows us the hope and idealism of the animals, made all the more powerful by the impartial voice with which narrates the events apparently divorced from the actions and their implications. We are not presented the ‘action’ from one particular viewpoint. Instead our removed stance as reader allows us paradoxically to connect more with the animals’ enthusiasm and eventual despair than if we were limited by viewing the events from one particular standpoint. The regret and disillusionment of the revolution’s betrayal are made more profound by the optimism during this opening section.

The animals take their first opportunity to overthrow Mr Jones, driving him from the farm. They rename the farm ‘Animal Farm’. During this section we can detect some of Orwell’s sympathy for the animals. He says that they rush madly about the farm, "as though to make sure that no human being was hiding anywhere upon it". Here we are introduced more fully to the different characteristics of the individual animals, their interrelationships, and their various ways of casting off the pall of their erstwhile enslavement to man. They turn the farmhouse into a museum and bury hams and symbols of the end to the shadow of death which hung over their former lives. Finally they paint the Seven Commandments on the wall of the barn. If the novel were to be reduced to its essence, it is about the gradual betrayal of the Commandments down to the final, most important betrayal. All animals are equal, it transpires, but some are more equal than others. The animals work together going about the tasks associated with the everyday running of the farm: the pigs milk the cows, the animals go together to gather in the harvest. Already we can see the pigs beginning to take control of the society: "‘Never mind the milk, comrades!’ cried Napoleon, placing himself in front of the buckets. ‘That will be attended to. The harvest is more important. Comrade Snowball will lead the way. I shall follow in a few minutes. Forward, comrades! The hay is waiting.’" When the animals get back from the harvest, the milk has disappeared – gone to enrich the pigs’ mash. Already we see those in power growing fat through the toil of those who work underneath them.

Mr Jones returns with support from other men. However, Snowball has been studying Caesar’s war plans and tutors the animals in how to resist the men. The battle is fought, and the animals win, although a sheep is killed and Snowball is injured attacking Mr Jones. All the animals work together once again, fighting side-by-side to repel the intruders. Boxer believes (erroneously) that he has killed a stable boy and is filled with guilt. However: "‘No sentimentality, comrade!’ cried Snowball, from whose wounds the

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.