The novel begins as Mr. Jones, the farmer who has of late been drinking more
heavily than ever before, has just fallen asleep without taking care of his
chores. His animals who feel neglected, decide to call a meeting to discuss
their problem and listen to a speech by Old Major, the prize boar. The only
animal who does not attend is Moses, Mr. Jones's tame raven. Saying that he
does not have long to live, the old pig tells the farm animals that their
lives are appalling: they are horribly enslaved to the humans, who work them
incessantly, feed them only enough to keep breath in their bodies, and then
slaughter them mercilessly when they are no longer useful. Old Major has had
a dream, he says, of a world in which animals live free, without being ruled
by men. In his dream, all the animals are happy, have plenty of food, and
are treated with respect.
His speech is eloquent and intended to arouse the animals to revolt. His
main point is that, "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 plow, he cannot run
fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals." He
warns them that if they successfully overthrow man's power over them, they
must never adopt the ways of man of their habits. The animals learn the lyrics
to a song called "Beasts of England," which paints a dramatic picture
of the utopian animal community of Old Major's dream.
The noise from the barn awakens the farmer and thinking that there is wild
fox outside, fires a shot. This ends the animal's meeting and they all go
Shortly thereafter, eve though Old Major dies, the other animals decide to
forge on with his dream and they plan to revolt. Two young boars, Napoleon
and Snowball are selected to design the philosophy of Animalism and with the
help of another boar, Squealer, teach it to the others.
The animals call one another "Comrade," and take their quandaries
to the pigs, who answer their questions about the impending Rebellion. For
instance: Mollie, the vain carriage horse, wonders whether she will be allowed
to wear ribbons in her tail after the Rebellion. Snowball sternly reminds
her that ribbons are symbols of slavery, and that they will be strictly forbidden.
Mollie halfheartedly agrees. Moses, the raven, flies about spreading tales
of a place called Sugarcandy Mountain, where animals go when they die--a place
of great pleasure and plenty, where sugar grows from the hedges. The pigs
dismiss his teachings as outright lies, and eventually have all the support
that they need.
The Rebellion occurs much earlier, and is won much more easily, than anyone
expected. It is prompted by Mr. Jones again getting drunk and forgetting to
feed the animals or milk the cows. Out of sheer desperation, the cows break
into the food stores, where the animals begin to feed. Mr. Jones and his men
discover them, and begin to whip them. The animals do not submit and fight
back. The men are forced to leave and the animals gain complete control of
the farm. Full of joy, the animals survey their new farm, sing "Beasts
of England" seven times from end to end, burn every unwanted human implement,
and explore the farmhouse, where Mollie, until she is reprimanded, tries to
stay. They decide to turn the farmhouse into a museum as a reminder of previous
The pigs decide to rename the farm and call it "Animal Farm." They
also decide to print the commandments of Animalism in full vies of the whole
community even though not every animal knows how to read. The chores are then
attended to and the cows are milked. Instead of distributing the milk, Napoleon
tells the animals that it will be stored. When the animals return that evening,
the milk is no longer in sight and not available.
Orwell presents an allegorical farm where there is a great deal of unrest
and discontentment. The animals on Manor Farm are cruelly exploited and beaten
by their oppressive owner Jones and everyone is ready to accept a change.
With little to lose, the animals join together in a barnyard rebellion,
they overthrow their master and take control of the farm. Orwell has set the
stage and proceeds to establish the communist system on the farm. The newly
liberated livestock establishes rules to ensure equality among themselves
and an even distribution of wealth. Each character who assumes a leadership
role, represents a different figure within history.