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Arbeit: George Orwell was a quiet, decent Englishman who passionately hated two things: inequality and political lying. Out of his hatred of inequality came a desire for a society in which class privileges would not exist. This to him was "democratic socialism." His hatred of political lying and his support for socialism led him to denounce the political lie that what was going on in the Soviet Union had anything to do with socialism. As long as people equated the Soviet Union with socialism, he felt, no one could appreciate what democratic socialism might be like.
And so, he says, he "thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages." That story was Animal Farm, and it has been translated into many other languages. Understanding Orwell's political convictions--and how they developed--will greatly enrich your reading of Animal Farm.
He was born Eric Blair--he took the name George Orwell many years later--in 1903, in India. His father was an important British civil servant in that country, which was then part of the British Empire. He retired on a modest pension and moved back to England a few years after Eric was born. Thus the family was part of the "lower upper-middle-classes," as Orwell was to say: people in the English upper classes who weren't rich, but who felt they should live as the upper classes traditionally did. That's why, when Eric was eight, the Blairs sent him away to boarding school to prepare for Eton, an exclusive prep school. Eric had a scholarship, and yet his father still ended up spending almost a quarter of his pension to send his son to that boarding school! From his parents' point of view, the sacrifice paid off: Eric won a scholarship to Eton. From the boy's point of view, it meant that in a ferociously snobbish, class-conscious world, he twice had the humiliating experience of being the poorest boy in the school. "In a world where the prime necessities were money, titled relatives, athleticism, tailor-made clothes... I was no good," he wrote years later, in a powerful essay on his school experiences called "Such, Such Were the Joys." In his first school, he was repeatedly beaten with a cane for being "no good" in various ways. And he was made to feel ashamed for "living off the bounty" of the headmaster-owner, that is, for having a scholarship. From the age of eight to eighteen, the boy learned a lot about inequality and oppression in British schools.
He graduated from Eton at eighteen, near the bottom of his class. There was no chance of a scholarship to Oxford, so Eric followed in his father's footsteps and passed the Empire's Civil Service Examination. As a member of the Imperial Police in British-ruled Burma, he was to see inequality and oppression from another point of view--from the top. The fact that he was a part of that top intensified the feelings of distance and anger that he already had toward his own class. After five years in Burma he resigned.
When he came back to Europe in 1927, he lived for more than a year in Paris, writing novels and short stories that nobody published. When his money ran out, he had to find work as a teacher, a private tutor, and even as a dishwasher. He was poor--but of his own choice. His family could have sent him the money to get back to England and find a better job than dishwashing in a Paris hotel. Perhaps he was too proud to ask for help. But there was another, deeper reason: he felt guilty for the job he had done in Burma--for having been part of an oppressive government. He saw his years of poverty as punishment--and as a way to understand the problems of the oppressed and helpless by becoming one of them.
By 1933 he had come up from the bottom enough to write a book about it: Down and Out in Paris and London. Probably to save his family embarrassment, Eric asked that the book be published under a pen name. He suggested a few to his publisher. One of them was the name of a river he loved: Orwell. The next year, "George Orwell" published Burmese Days, a sad, angry novel about his experiences there. Two more novels followed.
In 1936 came another significant experience in Orwell's life. His publisher sent him to the English coal-mining country to write about it. Here he again saw poverty close up--not the "picturesque" poverty of Paris streets and English tramps, but the dreary poverty of tough men killing themselves in the dark mines day after day, or--worse still--hungry and out of work. He wrote a powerful piece of first-hand reporting about what he saw there: The Road to Wigan Pier.
Afterwards, Orwell described himself as "pro-Socialist," yet he was often bitterly critical of British socialists. To refuse to "join" his own side, to insist instead on telling the unpleasant truth as he saw it, was to become an Orwell trademark.
In 1937, however, Orwell did join a side he believed in, and it almost cost him his life: he volunteered to fight for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War.
Fascism was rising in Europe: Mussolini had taken power in Italy, Hitler in Germany. In Spain, where a shaky democratic Republic had recently been born, a socialist government was elected, promising land reform, voting reform, and separation of Church and State. A group of right-wing generals led by Francisco Franco revolted against the Republic with their armies. The government was forced to arm factory workers to defend itself against the armies--and a long, bloody civil war began.
Three experiences were crucial for Orwell in the Spanish Civil War. The first was what he saw when he got there. In Barcelona, Orwell found an exhilarating atmosphere of "comradeship and respect," everyone addressing each other as "comrade," treating each other as equals. The same thing was true, he said, of the militia group he joined. Orwell believed he was seeing the success of socialism in action.
The second thing that marked Orwell was what happened to his fellow fighters. They were jailed and shot--not by Franco, but by their own "comrades," Communist-dominated elements of the same Republican government they were fighting for! The Communists disagreed with some of the views of the militia group Orwell belonged to; they suspected the men of being disloyal to Communist ideas. Luckily for Orwell, he was not rounded up with his fellow soldiers. He had been shot through the throat on the front lines and was shipped back to England for treatment.
The third experience that would stay with Orwell for the rest of his life was what happened when he returned to England and reported what he had seen. None of the socialists wanted to hear it; nobody believed it. He was an eyewitness? No matter. It was not the right time to say something that might hurt the Republican side.
So Orwell had seen the socialist ideal in action, and he had seen it crushed--not by its natural enemies on the Right, but by Communists on the Left. And he had seen the infuriating incapacity of the Left, even the non-Communist Left, to accept that truth. All of this was very much on his mind when, in the middle of World War II, he resigned his job on the BBC (the Army wouldn't take him because of his bad lungs) and began writing Animal Farm, in November 1943.
Once again it looked like the wrong time for a story to "expose the Soviet myth." The Soviet Union was Britain's ally in the war against Nazi Germany. And in fact four publishers would turn down Animal Farm. But what was "the Soviet myth"? Why did enlightened, humane people not want to believe ill of the Soviet Union? To see what Animal Farm is about, we must look at what happened in Russia, and what it meant for people who were in many ways Orwell's political friends.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
Ideas play a part in any revolution, but the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917--the one that changed "Russia" into the "U.S.S.R."--was noteworthy for being principally inspired by one idea. It was a revolution consciously made in the name of one class (the working class, the "proletariat") and against another class (the owners, the "bourgeoisie"). The Revolution was made by men who believed with Karl Marx that the whole history of the world was the history of a struggle between classes--between oppressors and oppressed.
Marx, like other socialist thinkers of the 19th century, denounced the cruel injustices of industrial capitalist society as he saw it. He had a vision of ending "the exploitation of man by man" and establishing a classless society, in which all people would be equal. The only means to this end, he thought, was a revolution of the exploited (the proletariat) against the exploiters (the bourgeoisie), so that workers would own the means of production, such as the factories and machinery. This revolution would set up a "dictatorship of the proletariat" to do away with the old bourgeois order (the capitalist system) and eventually replace it with a classless society.
Lenin took this idea and further focused on the role of the Communist Party as the leader of the working class.
When Lenin reached Russia in 1917 a first revolution against the crumbling regime of the Czar had already taken place. The new government was democratic, but "bourgeois." Lenin victoriously headed the radical socialist (Bolshevik) revolution in October of that year. This was immediately followed by four years of bloody civil war: the Revolution's Red Army, organized and led by Leon Trotsky, had to defeat the "Whites" (Russians loyal to the Czar or just hostile to the Communists) and foreign troops, too.
At Lenin's death in 1924, there was a struggle between Joseph Stalin and Trotsky for leadership of the Communist Party and thus of the nation. In 1925, Stalin clearly gained the upper hand; in 1927, he was able to expel Trotsky from the Party. Later Trotsky was exiled, then deported, and finally assassinated in Mexico, probably by a Stalinist agent, in 1940. All this time, Stalin never stopped denouncing Trotsky as a traitor.
Power in the Soviet Union became increasingly concentrated in Stalin's hands. In the 1930s, massive arrests and a series of public trials not only eliminated all possible opposition, but loyal Bolsheviks and hundreds of thousands of other absolutely innocent Russians.
Still, people all over the world who felt the pull of Marx's ideal--an end to exploitation and oppression, as they saw it--thought of the Soviet Union as the country of the Revolution. It was hard for many people on the Left (who think of themselves as on the side of the exploited, and want major changes in society to attain social justice) to give up this loyalty. That's one reason why Orwell wrote Animal Farm.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE PLOT
One night when Farmer Jones has gone to bed drunk, all the animals of Manor Farm assemble in the barn for a meeting. Old Major, the prize pig, wants to tell them about a strange dream he had. First, he tells them in clear, powerful language "the nature of life" as he has come to understand it. Animals toil, suffer, get barely enough to eat; as soon as they are no longer useful, they are slaughtered. And why? Because animals are enslaved by Man, "the only creature that consumes without producing." There is only one solution: Man must be removed. And animals must be perfectly united for their common goal: Rebellion.
After a brief interruption caused by the dogs chasing after some rats and a vote proposed by Major to decide if rats are comrades (they are), Major sums up: All animals are friends, Man is the enemy. Animals must avoid Man's habits: no houses, beds, clothes, alcohol, money, trade. Above all, "we are brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal."
He cannot describe his dream to them, "a dream of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished." But he does teach them an old animal song, "Beasts of England," which came back to him in his dream. The repeated singing of this revolutionary song throws the animals into a frenzy.
Major dies soon after, but the animals feel they should prepare for the Rebellion he preached. The work of teaching and organizing the others falls on the pigs, thought to be the cleverest animals. Snowball and Napoleon are "pre-eminent among the pigs"; and then there is Squealer, "a brilliant talker."
Mr. Jones drinks and neglects his farm more and more. One evening, when he has forgotten to feed them for over a day, the animals break into the store-shed and begin helping themselves. Jones and his men charge in, lashing with their whips. This is more than the hungry animals can bear. They all fling themselves on their tormentors. The surprised and frightened men are driven from the farm. Unexpectedly, the Rebellion has been accomplished. Jones is expelled; Manor Farm belongs to the animals.
The joy of the animals knows no bounds when they realize that they're now the owners of the farm they've worked on all their lives. They're enthusiastic when the pigs, who have taught themselves to read and write, change the sign MANOR FARM to ANIMAL FARM, and paint the Seven Commandments of Animalism on the barn wall:
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 shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
Now the cows must be milked. The pigs manage to do this. "What is going to happen to all that milk?" says someone. "Never mind the milk, comrade," cries Napoleon. "The main thing is to get the harvest in." When they come back from the fields, the milk has disappeared.
Despite the newness of running the farm by themselves, the animals succeed in doing all tasks in record time. The pigs' cleverness, everyone's enthusiasm, and hard work--especially the work of Boxer, the huge cart-horse--pull them through.
On Sundays there are ceremonies to celebrate the Rebellion, and meetings to plan work. (Here, Snowball and Napoleon never seem to agree.) The animals are taught to read, but the dumber ones can't even learn the Seven Commandments, so Snowball reduces them all to one maxim: FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD. The sheep like to bleat it for hours on end. Snowball also organizes Committees, but Napoleon is not interested; he's concerned with the education of the young, and takes two litters of puppies away as soon as they're weaned, saying he'll educate them. As for the missing milk, it goes to the pigs, as do the new apples. Squealer explains that this is absolutely necessary for all the brainwork the pigs do; otherwise Jones might come back, and nobody wants that to happen.
Jones and his men do try to retake the farm. But Snowball has prepared the animals, and thanks to his cleverness and courage--and Boxer's great strength--they fight off the invaders.
There is growing conflict between Snowball and Napoleon. Snowball comes up with the idea of a grand project: building a windmill; Napoleon says it will come to nothing. Snowball says they should stir animals to rebel on other farms; Napoleon says they should get guns for their own. Finally, when Snowball concludes an eloquent speech about labor-saving electricity to be produced by the windmill, Napoleon gives a signal. Then nine huge dogs--the pups he had raised--bound in and charge at Snowball, who barely escapes from the farm with his life.
Napoleon, surrounded by his fierce dogs, announces that there will be no more time-wasting debates: a special Committee of pigs, chaired by himself, will simply give the animals their work orders each week. Four young pigs begin to protest, but growls from the dogs silence them, and the sheep bleat FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD over and over, preventing discussion.
Surprisingly, a few days later Napoleon announces that the windmill will be built after all. The animals slave and sacrifice for the project. Some of their food has to be sold to buy building materials. The pigs, however, have moved into the farmhouse, where they sleep in beds. This is absolutely necessary, says Squealer. But isn't it contrary to the Fourth Commandment? The animals check: "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets," it says. Meanwhile a storm topples the half-built windmill. Napoleon blames the destruction on Snowball.
In fact, although Boxer refuses to believe Snowball was a traitor from the start, there seem to be signs of Snowball's sabotage all over when things go wrong. One day, Napoleon orders all animals to assemble in the yard. The dogs rush forward and grab four young pigs by the ear and drag them before Napoleon. (They also rush at Boxer, but he simply pins one to the ground and lets him go.) The terrified pigs confess they were in league with Snowball to destroy the windmill and hand the Farm over to Man. After they confess, the dogs tear their throats out. The same thing happens to three hens, a goose, etc. The confessions pile up and so do the corpses. The depressed, frightened animals creep away when the executions are over.
Some of the animals think they remember that these killings violate the Sixth Commandment. But on the barn wall they read: "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause." Later, still more animals are executed for conspiring to kill Napoleon. He is now constantly surrounded by dogs, and showered with honors: for example, a poem to his glory is inscribed on the barn wall.
Animal Farm is attacked by its neighbor, Mr. Frederick, and his armed men; the men take possession of the whole pasture, and blow up the windmill. But after a bitter fight, the animals repel the invaders, though some animals are killed and almost all are wounded. The pigs celebrate with a drinking party.
Soon after, there's a mysterious crash one night. Squealer is found on the ground next to a ladder at the barn wall, with a pot of paint near him. A few days later, the animals notice there's another commandment they had remembered wrong: it reads "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess."
Times are hard, rations short for everyone (except for the pigs, who need their food), the windmill must be rebuilt, and a schoolhouse built for the young pigs. Boxer works tirelessly, although he is getting old. He wants to lay up a good store of building stone before he retires. One day as he's pulling a cartload, he collapses. Squealer announces that Comrade Napoleon is making special arrangements to have Boxer treated at a nearby hospital. When the van comes to take him away, however, his friend Benjamin the donkey reads the sign on its side: in fact, he discovers, they're taking Boxer to the horse slaughterer. But it's too late; the van drives away. Three days later, Squealer paints a moving picture of Boxer's death in the hospital. The pigs will hold a banquet in his honor, he says. There is raucous singing in the farmhouse that night; somewhere the pigs have acquired the money to buy another case of whiskey.
Years pass. The animals work hard and often go hungry. There are many new buildings and machines on the farm, and also many new dogs and pigs. Maybe this is why the animals have no more to eat than before. But at least it's their farm.
One day Squealer takes the sheep to a secluded spot for a whole week. When they return, the animals see something strange and frightening: a pig walking on its hind legs. Yes, first Squealer, then the other pigs, walk upright out of the farmhouse. Finally Napoleon himself appears. He is carrying a whip in his trotter (foot). The animals are perhaps about to protest--when all the sheep burst out into a bleating of FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BETTER!--and the pigs file back into the house. Clover the mare asks Benjamin to read the Commandments to her, and he does. All that's left on the wall is one slogan:
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
From then on, the pigs all carry whips; they buy a radio, dress in Jones' clothes. Soon they receive a visit from neighboring farmers. Loud voices and song are heard coming from the farmhouse that night. Despite their fear, the animals are curious; they creep up to the windows to watch. Men and pigs are sitting around the table, drinking and speech-making. When a farmer toasts the success of Animal Farm--its discipline and enforced work leave nothing to be desired by any standard--Napoleon replies that he will take some more measures to cement normal business relations with their neighbors: the custom of animals addressing one another as "comrade" will be abolished, for example (singing "Beasts of England" had been forbidden long ago) and the farm will go back to its original name: Manor Farm. But the party soon degenerates into a quarrel. When the animals peek in again, they find that as they look from pig to man, from man to pig, it is impossible to say which is which.
In Animal Farm Orwell is more concerned with political psychology than with individual characters. Remember, this is a fable, not a novel. The animals are meant to represent certain types of human beings, not complex individuals. Some of them are even group characters, without any individual name: "the sheep," "the hens." The "main character" of Animal Farm is actually all of the animals taken together as a group. It's what happens to the group as a whole--whether their Rebellion succeeds or fails, and why--that really matters. Still, it is important to notice the distinctions between certain types and individuals.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE PIGS
They lead the Rebellion from the start and progressively take on the same power and characteristics as the human masters they helped overthrow. They represent corrupted human leaders, in particular, the Bolsheviks, who led the overthrow of the capitalist Russian government, only to become new masters in their turn.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: OLD MAJOR
Old Major is the wise old pig whose stirring speech to the animals helps set the Rebellion in motion--though he dies before it actually begins. His role compares with that of Karl Marx, whose ideas set the Communist Revolution in motion.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: NAPOLEON AND SNOWBALL
Napoleon and Snowball struggle for leadership of the Farm after Major's death. Snowball is an energetic, brilliant leader. He's the one who successfully organizes the defense of the Farm (like Trotsky with the Red Army). He's an eloquent speaker with original--although not necessarily beneficial--ideas (the windmill). Napoleon is a "large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way." And so he does. Instead of debating with Snowball, he sets his dogs on him and continues to increase his personal power and privileges from that time on. What counts for him is power, not ideas. Note his name: think of the other Napoleon (Bonaparte) who took over the French Revolution and turned it into a personal Empire. Napoleon's character also suggests that of Stalin and other dictators as well.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: SQUEALER
Squealer is short, fat, twinkle-eyed and nimble, "a brilliant talker." He has a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail that is somehow very persuasive. They say he can turn black into white! That's just what he does, again and again: every time the pigs take more wealth and power, Squealer persuades the animals that this is absolutely necessary for the well-being of all. When things are scarce, he proves that production has increased--with figures. He is also the one who makes all the changes in the Seven Commandments. In human terms he is the propaganda apparatus that spreads the "big lie" and makes people believe in it.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: BOXER AND CLOVER
Boxer and Clover represent the long-suffering workers and peasants of the world. Orwell presents them as being big, strong, patient, and decent--but not too bright. Boxer believes in the Rebellion and in its Leader. His two favorite sayings are "Napoleon is always right" and "I will work harder." His huge size and strength and his untiring labor save the Farm again and again. He finally collapses from age and overwork, and is sold for glue. Clover the mare is a motherly, protective figure. She survives to experience, dimly and wordlessly, all the sadness of the failed Revolution.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: MOLLIE
Mollie, the frivolous, luxury-loving mare, contrasts with Clover. She deserts Animal Farm for sugar and ribbons at a human inn. Orwell may have been thinking of certain Russian nobles who left after the Revolution, or of a general human type.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE DOGS
The dogs represent the means used by a totalitarian state to terrorize its own people. Think of them as Napoleon's secret police.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE SHEEP
The stupid sheep keep bleating away any slogan the pigs teach them. You can guess who they are.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: MURIEL
Muriel the goat reads better than Clover and often reads things (such as Commandments) out loud to her.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: BENJAMIN
Gloomy Benjamin, the donkey, may remind you of Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh, except that unlike Eeyore he never complains about his own personal problems. He is a skeptic and a pessimist--we'd almost say a cynic, if it weren't for his loyal devotion to Boxer. Like his friend, he doesn't talk much and patiently does his work, although--unlike Boxer--no more than is required. He's also unlike Boxer in that he does not believe in the Revolution, nor in anything else, except that life is hard. Whatever political question he is asked, he replies only that "Donkeys live a long time" and "None of you has ever seen a dead donkey." He survives.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THE PIGEONS
The pigeons spread the word of Rebellion beyond the farm, as many Communists spread the doctrine of the revolution beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: MOSES
Moses the Raven, who does no work, but tells comforting tales of the wonderful Sugarcandy Mountain where you go when you die, is a satire of organized religion. (Marx called religion, in a famous phrase, "the opiate of the people.") In terms of Russia, Moses represents the Orthodox Church. Watch what happens to him in the story.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: FARMER JONES
In the narrowest sense the drunken, negligent Farmer Jones represents the Czar. He also stands for any government that declines through its own corruption and mismanagement.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: PILKINGTON
Pilkington, who likes hunting and fishing more than farming, represents Orwell's view of the decadent British gentleman in particular--and of the Allied nations in general, especially Britain and France.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: FREDERICK
The cruel Frederick represents Germany.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: WHYMPER
Whymper is a commercial go-between for animals and humans--just as certain capitalists have always transacted business with Communist nations.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: SETTING
As its title implies, Animal Farm is set on a farm. But Orwell uses the farm to represent a universe in miniature. It sometimes seems idyllic, peaceful, fresh, spring-like. Usually moments when it is perceived in this way contrast ironically with the real situation of the animals. The setting suggests an attitude: "this could be utopia, but..." It does not really interest Orwell in itself. Sometimes he sketches a wintry, bleak, cold decor, a perfect backdrop for hard times. Here you could think of the setting as a metaphor--a way of representing hard times.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: THEME
Animal Farm concerns one of the central political experiences of our time: revolution.
On those relatively rare occasions when men and women have decided to change radically the system of government they were born under, there has been revolution. It has been on the rise in the last three hundred years of human history. If we want to understand the world we live in, we must try to understand the phenomenon of revolution--the how, the why, the what-happens-then. One way of doing so is to see how an imaginative writer deals with it. You can think of this as an important benefit of reading Animal Farm.
Animal Farm is also about another crucial political phenomenon of our time, one which is perhaps unique to the 20th century: the rise of the totalitarian state. Even though he's less concerned with totalitarianism in Animal Farm than in his novel 1984, Orwell does give us an imaginative analysis of totalitarian dictatorship in Animal Farm. So another thing we can get from this book is a feel for how a modern dictatorship works.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: STYLE
The story of Animal Farm is told in a simple, straightforward style. The sentences are often short and spare, with a simple subject-verb-object structure: "Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing." "It was a bitter winter."
The story follows a single line of action, calmly told, with no digressions. Orwell's style, said one critic, has "relentless simplicity" and "pathetic doggedness" of the animals themselves. There is a kind of tension in Animal Farm between the sad story the author has to tell and the lucid, almost light way he tells it.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: POINT OF VIEW
Orwell uses point of view in Animal Farm to create irony. Irony is a contrast or contradiction, such as between what a statement seems to say and what it really means--or between what characters expect to happen and what really happens. The story is told from the naive point of view of the lower animals, not from that of the clever pigs or an all-seeing narrator. Thus, when there's a crash one night and Squealer is found in the barn sprawled on the ground beside a broken ladder, a brush, and a pot of paint, it is "a strange incident which hardly anyone was able to understand." A few days later the animals find that the Fifth Commandment painted on the barn wall is not exactly as they remembered it; in fact there are, they can now see, two words at the end that "they had forgotten." No comment from the narrator.
This simple irony is sometimes charged with great intensity in Animal Farm. For example, when Boxer, who has literally worked himself to death for the Farm, is carted off in a van to the "hospital," and Benjamin reads out "Horse Slaughterer" on the side of the van (too late), we know--and for once at least some of the animals know--what has really happened: the sick horse has been sold for glue. No irony. But when Squealer gives his fake explanation about the vet who didn't have time to paint over the slaughterer's old sign, we are gravely informed that "The animals were enormously relieved to hear this." And two paragraphs later, at the end of the chapter, when there is a banquet--for the pigs--in Boxer's honor, we hear the sound of singing coming from the farmhouse, and the last sentence tells us that the word went round that from somewhere or other the pigs had acquired the money to buy themselves another case of whisky." Most of the animals don't make the connection between Boxer's being taken away and the pigs suddenly having more money--and the narrator doesn't seem to make the connection either. But Orwell makes sure we, the readers, don't miss it. The irony--the contrast between what the animals believe, what the narrator actually tells us, and what we know to be the truth--fills us with more anger than an open denunciation could have done.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: FORM AND STRUCTURE
Animal Farm successfully combines the characteristics of three literary forms--the fable, the satire, and the allegory.
Animal Farm is a fable--a story usually having a moral, in which beasts talk and act like men and women. Orwell's animal characters are both animal and human. The pigs, for example, eat mash--real pig food--but with milk in it that they have grabbed and persuaded the other animals to let them keep (a human action). The dogs growl and bite the way real dogs do--but to support Napoleon's drive for political power. Orwell never forgets this delicate balance between how real animals actually behave and what human qualities his animals are supposed to represent.
Part of the fable's humorous charm lies in the simplicity with which the characters are drawn. Each animal character is a type, with one human trait, or two at most--traits usually associated with that particular kind of animal. Using animals as types is also Orwell's way of keeping his hatred and anger against exploiters under control. Instead of crying, "All political bosses are vicious pigs!" he keeps his sense of humor by reporting calmly: "In future, all questions relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of pigs." (No wonder that when a publisher who rejected the book, afraid to give offense, wanted to have some animal other than pigs representing these bosses, Orwell called it an "imbecile suggestion.")
The aspect of human life that most interested Orwell was not psychological; it was political: how people act as a group, how societies are formed and function. Clearly, Animal Farm is a story about a revolution for an ideal, and about how that ideal is increasingly betrayed until it disappears altogether from the new society after the revolution. Since Orwell attacks that new society, and since, despite the grim, bitter picture he paints of it, he attacks it with humor (the humor of the beast fable), we can also call Animal Farm a satire.
The immediate object of attack in Orwell's political satire is the society that was created in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The events narrated in Animal Farm obviously and continuously refer to events in another story, the history of the Russian Revolution. In other words, Animal Farm is not only a charming fable ("A Fairy Story," as Orwell playfully subtitles it) and a bitter political satire; it is also an allegory.
You can enjoy Animal Farm without knowing this, of course, just as you can enjoy Swift's Gulliver's Travels without realizing that it, too, is a bitter satire and in places a political allegory. But to understand the book as fully as possible, we'll want to pay attention to the historical allegory as we go along.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: CHAPTER I
Because Animal Farm is a story about a revolution betrayed, and Orwell wants us to feel how terrible this betrayal is, he knows it's important for us to begin by feeling the force of the hopes and ideals the Revolution started out with. This is what he tries to convey in the two opening chapters. He also suggests, subtly at first, and then more sharply, what kinds of things will lead to the betrayal of the revolutionary ideal. But the opening isn't too serious or heavy-handed; it is here above all that Orwell works with the conciseness, simplicity, and concrete detail that give his story humor and charm. He wants us to know it's the beginning of a fable: we can immediately be amused by watching characters who are both animals and people at the same time. It's also the beginning of the Revolution, so the atmosphere is mostly hopeful--although we can see dark shadows underneath if we look.
Chapter I describes a revolutionary meeting. This chapter 1. sets the scene: the drunken farmer and all the farm animals; 2. sets up the situation: the revolutionary vision, in Major's speech and song, sets the animals on fire; 3. suggests problems for the future.
It's easy to imagine an old joke, or cartoon, beginning just about the way Animal Farm does: When Farmer Jones comes home drunk one night... Then the snoring wife, the light out in the bedroom, AND THEN in the semidarkness, the animals gathering to hear a speech. The visual effects of the first paragraph are as clear as a cartoon: "With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard." The character of Farmer Jones himself is like a cartoon character. Soon we'll see that his drunkenness and irresponsibility ("too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes") will have serious consequences--and a deeper meaning. For now, note the name: "Farmer Jones" is not only a stock farmer's name in a joke. It is also a way of saying any farmer, the typical farmer.
As is fitting for the only chapter in the book entirely taking place on the farm when it is owned and run by Jones, the first and last paragraphs center on his actions. They provide a neat little frame for the chapter.
Now the focus turns to the animals. From the start Orwell presents them simultaneously as both animals--"there was a stirring and a fluttering all through the farm buildings"--and as characters who talk and react as human beings--"Word had gone round..." that Major "had a strange dream... and wished to communicate it to the other animals. It had been agreed..." Their human situation is already one of resistance to a dangerous master--"they should all meet in the big barn as soon as Mr. Jones was safely out of the way." But they have a "highly regarded" leader in Old Major. Since "everyone was quite ready to lose an hour's sleep to hear what he had to say," we realize that an important speech is about to be made.
First Orwell introduces us to the speaker and his audience. The leader is already comfortably in place "on his bed of straw" (animal again), "under a lantern which hung from a beam" (this convincing human detail is a cartoon touch if ever there was one). Then, one by one, as they come into the barn, we are introduced to all the main characters and the rest of the farm animals.
NOTE: Throughout this introduction, there is a pleasant humor in the way the combinations of human and animal traits are described. Even though they're about to listen to a speech and have clearly human traits (middle-aged Clover "had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal," Benjamin is known for his cynical remarks, "foolish pretty" Mollie hopes to draw attention to her ribbons), each is a different kind of animal, and Orwell never lets us forget it: "the hens perched themselves on the windowsills, the pigeons fluttered up to the rafters, the sheep and cows lay down... and began to chew the cud." And they are true to their nature: "Last of all came the cat, who looked round, as usual, for the warmest places, and finally squeezed herself in between Boxer and Clover; there she purred contentedly throughout Major's speech without listening to a word of what he was saying."
As we consider all these types and classes of "people," quick and slow, large and small, bright and dumb, we can't help thinking of them as a whole society, complete in itself. Before he begins to talk, Major, like any speaker with presence and authority, makes sure all the animals are "waiting attentively." So are we. When he clears his throat and begins, we know we're in for the main event.
"Comrades," he begins--and this is the first hint of political allegory in the tale: "Comrade" has been the term of address among socialist revolutionaries for almost a century. It still is common in the Soviet Union. So there is already a hint that this story about a farm is really about revolutionary politics. Not that Major is going to talk about politics in the usual American sense of the word. Before telling his dream, he's going to speak to them, with all the benefit of his age and experience, about "the nature of life."
Major paints a grim picture of the "natural" life of animals. He soon makes them realize, however, that what seems natural isn't: animals are miserable, hungry slaves because man enslaves them, profits from their labor, and gives them in return just barely enough to stay alive. In other words, what seems a philosophical question ("the nature of life") is really a political problem (who has power over whom? who profits from whom?). Since it's a political problem, it has a political solution: get rid of the enslaver, get rid of Man.
In the first paragraph, Major begins skillfully setting up this solution by at first using passive forms to show the misery of the animal condition without saying who is responsible: "we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies," "[we] are forced to work to the last atom of our strength." A born orator, he drives home his point with repetition and short, simple, generalizing phrases: "No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old. No animal in England is free. The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth."
NOTE: There is a little joke in Major's portrait of the animal condition. When he calls their lives "miserable, laborious and short," he echoes the 17th-century thinker Thomas Hobbes' famous description of Man's life in a state of nature: "nasty, brutish, and short." Since Major is talking of animal life in a given political situation--subjection to Man--the phrase comes out as comical parody. You'll see that there's much more parody in Major's speech.
In the next paragraph he shows that it doesn't have to be this way; it is not "part of the order of nature"; the land is more than rich enough to feed everybody plentifully. Then, and only then, does Major name the cause of the animals' misery: Man.
Man takes everything from the animals and gives them back next to nothing. Using a powerful oratorical trick, Major then addresses members of his audience directly:
"You cows that I see before me, how many thousands of gallons of milk have you given during this last year? And what has happened to that milk which should have been breeding up sturdy calves? Every drop of it has gone down the throats of our enemies. And you hens, how many eggs have you laid this last year, and how many of those eggs ever hatched into chickens?... And you, Clover, where are those four foals you bore, who should have been the support and pleasure of your old age? Each was sold at a year old..."
And as soon as Man can take nothing more from them, they are "slaughtered with hideous cruelty," as he said at the start of his speech. Now Major makes each of them feel it:
"You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within a year. To that horror we all must come--cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone... You, Boxer, the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds."
Major accuses Man of exploitation and cruelty. In his view there is only one way out: "get rid of Man"--and only one way to do it: "Rebellion!" Only when the Rebellion occurs--and it may not come for generations, he says--will the animals "become rich and free." As a matter of fact, the Rebellion will triumph in the very next chapter. We'll see what becomes of the two themes of exploitation and cruelty when Man is removed and the animals run the farm by themselves. Keep your eyes particularly on Major's last example: the fate of Boxer.
For now, Major tells them, they must unite against the common enemy: "All animals are comrades." Unfortunately, he is interrupted at this very moment by the uproar of the dogs chasing the rats, who barely escape with their lives. Major sees the problem:
"Comrades," he said, "here is a point that must be settled. The wild creatures, such as rats and rabbits--are they our friends or our enemies? Let us put it to the vote. I propose this question to the meeting: Are rats comrades?"
They vote rats as comrades, with only four dissenters: "the three dogs, and the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides."
Now at this point, most of us will be grinning from ear to ear, if we're not laughing out loud. What had seemed a moving speech has turned into comedy. The joke comes from the contradiction of Major's ideal pronouncement "All animals are comrades" with animal reality: dogs and cats kill rats. The animals' majority vote--the democratic ideal--is not about to change that. We'll come back to this question of ideal vision versus real nature later.
The other source of humor here is Major's utterly human political vocabulary ("put it to the vote," "propose this question to the meeting"). We realize, if we haven't done so earlier, that we can't quite listen to Major's speech as an animal's denunciation of human cruelty to animals. It is also a human speech about man's cruelty to man. The fable is also an allegory: it stands for another story, which deepens its meaning.
And this allegorical speech is also a parody, which amuses us once we realize what it refers to: just as Major is--humorously--both pig and human, his speech is--again, humorously--both his and that of a human revolutionary idealist: Karl Marx.
Major's speech is a summary, in animal terms, of the socialist view of the human condition, particularly as described by Marx. Workers and peasants (the proletariat) labor for the profit of the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie). From the work of the proletariat, the owners gain wealth and money for investment (capital); in return, Marx said, they give the workers back just enough money to stay alive, in the form of wages. (Remember, Marx was writing in the middle of the 19th century, when wages were very low and working hours very long. But Orwell, too, had seen terrible working-class conditions in the English mining country.)
The condition of the animals under Man, in Major's speech, is the condition of the proletariat under the bourgeoisie as the socialists traditionally saw it. And the solution is the same. As Marx and Engels wrote in the famous closing lines of the Communist Manifesto: "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE!"
NOTE: You can read Major's speech without thinking of Marx, just as you can read the rest of Animal Farm without thinking of the Soviet Union. But would it still be funny? Perhaps it would still have the humor of a fable--the very fact of a revolutionary speaker addressing members of the crowd as "You hens..." is enough to raise a smile. Knowing Marx--in other words, making the Animal Meeting an allegory and Major's speech a parody--makes the story both deeper and funnier. Deeper, because we may feel, as the socialist Orwell certainly did, the passion for justice that stirs the animals. Funnier, because it's amusing to discover Marx's ideas in the animal's complaints.
Major goes on to summarize the animals' "duty of enmity towards Man":
"Whatever goes upon two legs, is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him."
From this basic principle, Major draws his essential commandments:
"No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade."
"And, above all," he says, the doctrine of animal solidarity and equality should characterize the struggle and the new society after the Revolution:
"...no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal."
NOTE: You may take Major's whole speech as a mocking parody. Some readers feel that Orwell is laughing at inflammatory revolutionists and their gullible audience. But other readers are amused and moved by Major's speech. Parody, they feel, can be serious and funny at the same time. In the last analysis, how you react to Major's speech, and for that matter to the "revolution" that follows, may depend on your own political feelings. Or, perhaps, those feelings will be changed by this book.
When Major comes to his indescribable dream, "a dream of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished" (in human terms, the dream of a society in which social classes have disappeared), and the song that came back to him in that dream, Orwell again introduces unmistakably humorous elements. The song is "a stirring tune," the narrator says, and then adds, "something between 'Clementine' and 'La Cucaracha.'" (And in fact the song can be sung to either of these tunes.)
In the excitement it has for the animals, in its revolutionary function, "Beasts of England" resembles songs that have actually played a role in worker uprisings around the world. And its vision--an end to inequality, cruelty, and exploitation, a victorious struggle to bring forth "the golden future time"--was Orwell's own vision when he saw revolutionary Barcelona in 1937. The writer Arthur Koestler, who knew Orwell, thought the song--particularly the last stanza--expressed Orwell's own hopes and ideals. This is all true. But just try to sing those words to the tune of "Clementine" or "La Cucaracha" without laughing!
And just in case we've forgotten that it's an animal fable, Orwell reminds us when the animals sing the song: "The cows lowed it, the dogs whined it, the sheep bleated it, the horses whinnied it, the ducks quacked it."
Then Mr. Jones's drunken shot in the dark silences the animals, and Orwell ends the first chapter with the tone of a bedtime fable: "The birds jumped on to their perches, the animals settled down in the straw, and the whole farm was asleep in a moment."
NOTE: We've already seen that there may be some problems for the animal solidarity and equality of dogs and rats, even in "the golden future time." If we look back at Orwell's presentation of Major's audience--the characters in the book--we can see that they form a kind of society in miniature, with its own distinctions, and perhaps hierarchy. For example, we may wonder why the pigs settle down "immediately in front of the platform." Boxer is "not of first rate intelligence," and he seems to work harder than the others. Mollie and the cat are not interested in Major's speech at all, although for different reasons. Whatever Orwell's intentions, the very fact that this is a fable, with the animals' role and personality defined once and for all by their kind, suggests that there is a natural order, a natural hierarchy--and natural antagonisms, too. How can revolution change that?
We do see brotherly, protective behavior on the part of the animals, though. Boxer and Clover come in "together, walking very slowly and setting down their vast hairy hoofs with great care lest there should be some small animal concealed in the straw." Then, when the motherless ducklings wander around the barn to find a safe place, "Clover made a sort of wall round them with her great foreleg, and the ducklings nestled down inside it." They perform these comradely actions before Major's speech about hatred to Man and comradeship among animals. Orwell seems to be suggesting that there is some instinctive decency in the working class.
Major's idealistic vision may be doomed by certain realities of nature: hierarchy and antagonism. Or will the society created by the Rebellion encourage the natural decency of animals like Boxer and Clover? If we look carefully, we see that Orwell has hinted at problems for the Rebellion from the very start.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: CHAPTER II
The Rebellion happens. It is preceded by the animals' preparation for it and the human master's mismanagement and neglect; then there is a spontaneous revolt. Next we see the animals' joy in the victorious revolution--the farm is theirs!--and the first steps at making a new society based on animal solidarity and equality. This principle is subtly undermined throughout, however, by the increasingly dominant role played by the pigs, especially Napoleon and Snowball. Finally an incident at the very end of the chapter reveals the first clear betrayal of the revolutionary ideal.
Like many teachers and prophets, Major dies before he can see his dream realized. But it immediately has a profound effect on the way the animals see their world:
Major's speech had given to the more intelligent animals on the farm a completely new outlook on life. They did not know when the Rebellion predicted by Major would take place, they had no reason for thinking that it would be within their own lifetime, but they saw clearly that it was their duty to prepare for it.
But our careful reading of Chapter I leads us to be alert to what follows:
The work of teaching and organizing the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognized as being the cleverest of the animals.
These words suggest a disturbing contradiction once again: preparation for an egalitarian revolution is being led by those who seem to be on the top of a natural hierarchy.
We are then introduced to the pigs--Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer. Part of their work has been to elaborate old Major's "teachings" into a "complete system of thought" they call Animalism. Major's vision has been transformed into a doctrine. But this is only the first transformation his ideas will undergo.
NOTE: Not all of the animals immediately accept the doctrine of Animalism. Some of them question the need for revolution--and are dismissed as being stupid and apathetic. Look at some of the questions the animals raise. Do you think all of their objections are stupid? Do you think Orwell thought they were?
We would expect Boxer and Clover, hardworking and simple, to be the "most faithful disciples" of the new vision. And they are: "...having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments." This quotation highlights that unsettling contradiction once again: Boxer and Clover are working for the Rebellion in the name of equality, yet their position seems subordinate--worse still, naturally subordinate--to the pigs.
As for Moses, the tame raven, we recall that he was the only animal who didn't even come to the meeting in the barn. He represents religion in the fable--he encourages the animals to comfort themselves for the troubles of this life by thinking of the happiness to come in the afterlife, Sugarcandy Mountain: "...some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place." The new faith replaces the old with difficulty.
Next Orwell swiftly sketches Farmer Jones' increasing mismanagement and neglect. Finally, one day in June, Jones goes on a binge and forgets to feed the animals all day. Out of sheer hunger, they break into the storeroom and begin to help themselves. When Jones and his men charge in and start whipping them, the "Rebellion" occurs:
With one accord, though nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their tormentors. Jones and his men suddenly found themselves being butted and kicked from all sides.... They had never seen animals behave like this before, and this sudden uprising of creatures whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, frightened them almost out of their wits.... they gave up trying to defend themselves and took to their heels.
The Rebellion is spontaneous ("nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand"), but would it have happened without Major and without the animals' preparation for it? At any rate, there is no leader; Orwell does not give the name of one single animal. For him, revolution is the affair of the people as a whole. And clearly, his sympathy is on the side of the Revolution, "this sudden uprising of creatures whom [the masters] were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose."
Orwell's sympathy for the rebels' joy in the victorious revolution is still more evident in the passages that follow. The animals gallop all around the farm "as though to make sure that no human being was hiding anywhere upon it"; then they race back to the farm buildings to destroy all the cruel traces of human oppression: bits, nose-rings, castrating knives, etc. "All the animals capered with joy when they saw the whips going up in flames." (Keep this detail in mind. We'll see it again later.)
Perhaps Boxer goes too far when, after hearing Snowball declare that animals should shun any form of clothes as "the mark of a human being," he burns a small hat he wore in summer to keep the flies out of his ears. And again, what may seem natural when we first read it (and what seems natural to the animals) is slightly sinister if we take a closer look: "Napoleon led them back to the store-shed and served out a double ration of corn to everybody..." Why does he have to lead and serve things out to them?
Still, the main intent of these passages is to make us feel the joy of those who have never owned anything when they suddenly realize they own the place they have worked in all their lives. There are scenes of joy in pure, utopian nature in a number of Orwell's other novels (particularly in Coming Up for Air and 1984), but they are usually dreams or memories that contrast ironically with a soiled and dismal present. In Animal Farm, this passage of revolutionary joy will contrast ironically with a harsh and dismal future.
The farmhouse, symbolizing the repressive past, is turned into a museum. After burying some hams (delightful detail--why do you think they do that?), they leave the house untouched, and agree unanimously that "no animal must ever live there." And we'll see what happens to that resolution.
The pigs have taught themselves to read and write. Again a detail makes it come alive: "from an old spelling book which had belonged to Mr. Jones's children and which had been thrown on the rubbish heap." Snowball succeeds in painting out MANOR FARM from the gate and painting in ANIMAL FARM. The pigs have also "succeeded in reducing the principles of Animalism to Seven Commandments" to be inscribed on the wall: "they would form an unalterable law by which all the animals on Animal Farm must live for ever after." So Major's dream has gone from vision to doctrine to "unalterable law," painted on the wall, thus:
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 shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
The rest of Animal Farm is about the progressive alteration of those written laws, until nothing is left of them except the--famous--corruption of the last one. Orwell is not only concerned with the corruption of an ideal--a corruption brought about by power (as we shall see); he is also concerned with the corruption of language that goes along with it.
At this point Orwell gives us an incident that reveals this corruption of language. The cows start lowing, and the animals realize that they have to be milked immediately. "After a little thought," the pigs manage to do this, "their trotters being well adapted to this task." (Once more, some animals just seem naturally superior!) "Soon there were five buckets of frothing creamy milk at which many of the animals looked with considerable interest."
"What is going to happen to all that milk?" said someone.
"Jones used sometimes to mix some of it in our mash," said one of the hens.
"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."
This parody of the discourse of a dishonest revolutionary leader marks the first time in Animal Farm that language has been used to hide something. (It is also Napoleon's first speech in the novel.) What it's hiding is personal privilege and greed:
So the animals trooped down to the hayfield to begin the harvest, and when they came back in the evening it was noticed that the milk had disappeared.
We see the leader exercising control through language--in such a way that it almost seems natural and inevitable.
For the first time, too, Orwell uses a kind of irony that he will come back to again and again--an irony inherent in the fable's point of view. The narrator tells the story from the naive viewpoint of the mass of animals and often in the passive voice ("it was noticed that the milk had disappeared") without giving any explanation for the event. Since the reader sees the explanation clearly enough, we can say that Orwell is using the oldest ironic trick there is: feigned ignorance. The effect on most readers is somewhere between a smile and a wince.
NOTE: You have probably begun to suspect that Animal Farm is a story that raises a variety of questions, a story that has meaning on many levels. The incident of the milk raises a series of interrelated problems. Let's separate them for convenience:
1. LANGUAGE: Napoleon's speech and its effect; Orwell's way of narrating the incident
2. POWER: How do the pigs get the milk? (See Chapter III for the rest of the story.)
3. THE IDEAL (generous solidarity) VERSUS THE REAL (the weaknesses of "human nature," which the animals represent): Why did the pigs get the milk?
4. THE ELITE AND THE MASS
All these problems will come up again and again.
^^^^^^^^^^ANIMAL FARM: CHAPTER III
The first paragraph sets the tone and suggests the topic of this chapter:
How they toiled and sweated to get the hay in! But their efforts were rewarded, for the harvest was an even bigger success than they had hoped.
In the early days of the Revolution, there is hard going for everyone, but the system actually works better than before, because of the animal's feelings of pride and solidarity. The result of this hard work--now that the animals own the farm--is happiness, both physical and spiritual.
However, this pleasure in the first accomplishments of the Revolution is undercut--for the reader if not for the animals--by the growing political power of the pigs. The conditions of their life are different from those of the other animals. Fittingly, the chapter ends with a full-length explanation of the "mystery of the milk"--and with apples thrown in for good measure.
We'll want to pay careful attention to Orwell's irony as he undercuts his triumphant revolutionary tale by simultaneously narrating the rise of the pigs.
Animal Farm has sometimes been read as a fable against socialism. Yet here Orwell seems to be suggesting that socialism--true socialism, in which the means of production really are owned by those who work them--is efficient and leads to happiness.
Early in the chapter, we come upon these revealing sentences, numbered here for convenience with key words capitalized:
1. the pigs were so CLEVER that they could think of a way round every difficulty. 2. As for the horses, they KNEW EVERY INCH OF THE FIELD, and in fact UNDERSTOOD THE BUSINESS of mowing and raking BETTER than Jones and his men ever had done. 3. The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. 4. With THEIR SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE it was NATURAL that they should assume the leadership.
We have seen that the question of what is "natural" (equality or hierarchy) is constantly implied in Animal Farm. Here the pigs assume a superior, nonworking, managerial position because of their "natural" cleverness and knowledge. This is stated in sentences 1, 3, and 4. But where is the evidence of their knowledge? The only place we see real knowledge shown is in sentence 2, which shows the skill and knowledge of the supposedly stupid horses. It is, perhaps, "natural" to the other animals that the pigs just give orders--and it certainly seems natural to the pigs. Orwell makes no comment on this, but gives us evidence to see differently. This is typical of the irony that derives from the fable's point of view.
Where the pigs are really outstandingly clever is in political life. For example, they know how to use symbols: Snowball