Overview: Animal Farm

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Editors: Diane Telgen and Kevin Hile
Date: 1998
From: Novels for Students(Vol. 3. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Work overview
Length: 3,138 words

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Introduction

When Animal Farm was published in 1945, its British author George Orwell (a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair) had already waited a year and a half to see his manuscript in print. Because the book criticized the Soviet Union, one of England's allies in World War II, publication was delayed until the war ended. It was an immediate success as the first edition sold out in a month, nine foreign editions had appeared by the next year, and the American Book-of-the-Month Club edition sold more than a half-million copies. Although Orwell was an experienced columnist and essayist as well as the author of nine published books, nothing could have prepared him for the success of this short novel, so brief he had considered self-publishing it as a pamphlet. The novel brought together important themes—politics, truth, and class conflict—that had concerned Orwell for much of his life. Using allegory—the weapon used by political satirists of the past, including Voltaire and Swift—Orwell made his political statement in a twentieth-century fable that could be read as an entertaining story about animals or, on a deeper level, a savage attack on the misuse of political power. While Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a pointed criticism of Stalinist Russia, reviews of the book on the fiftieth-anniversary of its publication declared its message to be still relevant. In a play on the famous line from the book, “Some animals are more equal than others,” an Economist reviewer wrote, “Some classics are more equal than others,” and as proof he noted that Animal Farm has never been out of print since it was first published and continues to sell well year after year.

Plot

Chapter I

As Animal Farm opens, the farm's owner, Mr. Jones, is drunkenly heading to bed. The animals gather in the barn as old Major, the prize boar, tells them that he has thought about the brutal lives that the farm animals lead under human bondage and is convinced that a rebellion must come soon, in which the animals throw off the tyranny of their human oppressors and come to live in perfect freedom and equality. Major teaches the animals Beasts of England, a song which will become their revolutionary anthem.

Chapter II

A few days later, Major dies. The animals, under the leadership of the pigs, begin to prepare for the Rebellion. Two of the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, elaborate Major's ideas into a complete system of thought known as Animalism. The Rebellion comes much sooner than anyone thought, and the animals break free of Jones's tyranny and drive the humans from the farm. Snowball and Napoleon paint over the name “Manor Farm” on the gate, replacing it with “Animal Farm.” They also paint the basic principles of Animalism on the wall of the barn:

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.

2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.

3. No animal shall wear clothes.

4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.

5. No animal...

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1430000081