Author: George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, an English novelist of the early 20th century.
A brilliant allegory of Russian socialism under Stalin, this novel written in mid-twentieth century England, portrays animal protagonists of Jones’s Manor Farm. Old Major, the Middle White boar, calls a meeting. He believes animal life is miserable since their human masters exploit their labors, but whip them and slaughter them when no longer useful. He dreamt last night of earth free of humans, and sings Beasts of England, rousing them to Rebellion.
Major soon dies, his principles collected as ‘Animalism’ by the pigs. A sharp boar – Snowball, and the large fierce Berkshire boar – Napoleon, teach and organize, assisted by a small persuasive porker – Squealer. Jones is careless and his men idle and dishonest. Spontaneously on Midsummer Day, when the animals are unfed for two days, they break into the store-sheds and drive Jones and his men, who attempt to whip them, away from the farm. They throw knives, and whips down the well, and all other marks of their slavery in the rubbish-fire burning in the yard.
Manor Farm is renamed Animal Farm, and Animalism summarized in Seven Commandments painted in the end-wall of the big barn: two legs enemies, four legs friends, no clothes, no beds, no alcohol, no killing, and all animals are equal. The pigs study old books from Manor House. The donkey Benjamin, the oldest and wisest animal, and the goat Muriel, can read well; but not others. The sheep are taught to bleat a single maxim for the benefit of all: ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’.
All animals work hard since they are working for themselves and not humans. Boxer, the enormous powerful cart-horse, is the most loyal; followed by Clover, the matronly middle-aged mare. Milk and apples are reserved only for pigs, Squealer justifying that the pigs work hardest doing brain-work. All misgivings are quashed by observing that Jones would be back if the pigs fail, and surely they do not want Jones back.
Jones and others from neighboring farms attack Animal Farm. Anticipated and strategized by Snowball, the animals fight and win the ‘Battle of the Cowshed’. Snowball and Boxer are decorated. The Flagstaff flies the green banner of Animal Farm with a hoof and horn painted in white, Major’s skull set up at its foot.
Molly, the frivolous young mare, deserts the farm. Moses, the tame raven, who speaks of Sugarcandy Mountain in the sky beyond the clouds, where all animals go on dying, disappears as usual. Many animals believe Moses though the pigs discredit him. Snowball and Napoleon disagree over everything, especially Snowball’s plans for a windmill to generate electricity and operate labor-saving machines. Snowball suggests innovations and improvements, which Napoleon opposes without suggesting any himself. When the windmill is put to vote in Sunday meeting, nine puppies secretly raised by Napoleon to bloodthirsty dogs, chase Snowball out.
Dedicated Boxer adopted the motto ‘I will work harder’ at first, now adding ‘Napoleon is always right’. Sunday meetings and all debate are discontinued. They merely assemble to salute the flag and sing Beasts of England. Squealer insinuates Snowball’s role in the Battle is much exaggerated. Over time, Squealer establishes Snowball is in league with Jones, working to defeat and destroy the animals. Every misfortune falling on the farm is attributed to Snowball’s treachery. Though Napoleon had opposed the windmill, he now orders it built. Squealer clarifies that Comrade Napoleon merely pretended to oppose, to get rid of Snowball.
The animals, especially Boxer, exert themselves, since they are now beneficiaries. Work on Sunday is voluntary, but absentees get half ration. Harvests are less successful due to flawed planning. Napoleon decides to trade through solicitor Whymper, though initially dealing with humans was forbidden. The pigs move into the farmhouse, sleeping in beds. Fourth Commandment becomes no beds with sheets. On a stormy November night, the windmill collapses, Napoleon blaming Snowball for the disaster.
Whymper is shown bins brim-full with sand and top layers covered with grains, to counter rumors of shortage. The hens rebel when instructed to surrender their eggs, as Whymper brings a contract for four hundred eggs a week, capitulating when rations are stopped. Snowball is said to be in alliance with either of two immediate neighbors. In one meeting, ringleaders of hen-rebellion confess being incited by Snowball in a dream, executed immediately by the dogs. Many confessions follow with the same ending. The Sixth Commandment becomes no killing without cause.
Work multiplies, rations reduce, but Squealer proves with statistics that production has increased manifold under ‘our Leader, Comrade Napoleon’. The porker Minimus composes a flattering poem inscribed opposite the Commandments with Napoleon’s portrait. A sale of timber is arranged alternately with neighbors Pilkington and Frederick, and alternately each is condemned as the enemy harboring Snowball. Ultimately, Frederick buys with forged money, and blows up the windmill. Both sides are wounded in the savage ‘Battle of the Windmill’. The victory is hollow with the windmill in smithereens, but Napoleon confers a new decoration on himself.
With Rebellion over, Beasts of England is banned. Whiskey is discovered in the farmhouse cellars, and the Fifth Commandment becomes no drinking alcohol to excess. Barley for making alcohol is sown in the field reserved for superannuated animals. Boxer falls one day overstraining himself, and Benjamin reads ‘Horse Slaughterer’ written on the van taking him away, though Squealer explains the veterinarian recently bought the cart without changing the lettering.
Time passes; few remember the conditions before the Rebellion. The windmill is used for milling corn by overworked animals. The pigs and dogs prosper and proliferate. Yet, the tired animals are proud of belonging to the only farm owned and operated by animals. Then, the pigs walk on two legs wearing clothes carrying whips; the sheep bleating: ‘Four legs good, two legs better’. A single Commandment remains: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. The pigs socialize with humans, Napoleon announcing reverting to the original name, – Manor Farm. The peeking animals fail to distinguish pigs from humans.