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Animal Farm

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Animal Farm
First edition cover
AuthorGeorge Orwell
Original titleAnimal Farm: A Fairy Story
GenrePolitical satire
Published17 August 1945 (Secker and Warburg, London, England)
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint (hard & paperback)
AwardsModern Library's 100 Best Novels

NPR: 100 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Hugo Award for Best Short Novel (1946)

Prometheus Award – Hall of Fame (2011)
823/.912 20
LC ClassPZ3.O793 An
Preceded byInside the Whale and Other Essays 
Followed byNineteen Eighty-Four 

Animal Farm is a satirical allegorical novella, in the form of a beast fable,[1] by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945.[2][3] It tells the story of a group of anthropomorphic farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free, and happy. Ultimately, the rebellion is betrayed, and under the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon, the farm ends up in a state as bad as it was before.

According to Orwell, Animal Farm reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, a period of time when Russia lived under the communist ideology of Joseph Stalin.[1][4] Orwell, a democratic socialist,[5] was a critic of Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, an attitude that was critically shaped by his experiences during the Barcelona May Days conflicts between the POUM and Stalinist forces, during the Spanish Civil War.[6][a] In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as a satirical tale against Stalin ("un conte satirique contre Staline"),[7] and in his essay, “Why I Write" (1946), wrote: "Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole".[8]

The original title of the novel was Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, but US publishers dropped the subtitle, when it was published in 1946, and only one of the translations, during Orwell's lifetime, the Telugu version, kept it. Other title variations include subtitles like "A Satire" and "A Contemporary Satire".[7] Orwell suggested the title Union des républiques socialistes animales for the French translation, which abbreviates to URSA, the Latin word for "bear,” a symbol of Russia. It also played on the French name of the Soviet Union, Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques.[7]

Orwell wrote the book between November 1943 and February 1944, when the United Kingdom was in its wartime alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, and the British intelligentsia held Stalin in high esteem, a phenomenon Orwell hated.[b] The manuscript was initially rejected by several British and American publishers,[9] including one of Orwell's own, Victor Gollancz, which delayed its publication. It became a great commercial success when it did appear, as international relations and public opinion were transformed as the wartime alliance gave way to the Cold War.[10]

Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005);[11] it also featured at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels,[12] and number 46 on the BBC's The Big Read poll.[13] It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996[14] and is included in the Great Books of the Western World selection.[15]

Plot summary[edit]

The animal populace of the poorly run Manor Farm near Willingdon, England, is ripened for rebellion by neglect at the hands of the irresponsible and alcoholic farmer, Mr. Jones. One night, the exalted boar, Old Major, holds a conference, at which he calls for the overthrow of humans and teaches the animals a revolutionary song called "Beasts of England". When Old Major dies, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, assume command and stage a revolt, driving Mr. Jones off the farm and renaming the property "Animal Farm". They adopt the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, "All animals are equal". The decree is painted in large letters on one side of the barn. Snowball teaches the animals to read and write, while Napoleon educates young puppies on the principles of Animalism. To commemorate the start of Animal Farm, Snowball raises a green flag with a white hoof and horn. Food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and set aside special food items, ostensibly for their health. Following an unsuccessful attempt by Mr. Jones and his associates to retake the farm (later dubbed the "Battle of the Cowshed"), Snowball announces his plans to modernise the farm by building a windmill. Napoleon disputes this idea, and matters come to a head, which culminates in Napoleon's dogs chasing Snowball away and Napoleon effectively declaring himself supreme commander.

Napoleon enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs who will run the farm. Through a young porker named Squealer, Napoleon claims credit for the idea of building the windmill, claiming that Snowball was only trying to win animals to his side. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. When the animals find the windmill collapsed after a violent storm, Napoleon and Squealer persuade the animals that Snowball is trying to sabotage their project, and begin to purge the farm of animals accused by Napoleon of consorting with his old rival. When some animals recall the Battle of the Cowshed, Napoleon (who was nowhere to be found during the battle) gradually smears Snowball to the point of saying he is a collaborator of Mr. Jones, even dismissing the fact that Snowball was given an award of courage, while falsely representing himself as the main hero of the battle. "Beasts of England" is replaced with "Animal Farm", while an anthem glorifying Napoleon, who is presumably adopting the lifestyle of a man ("Comrade Napoleon"), is composed and sung. Napoleon then conducts a second purge, during which many animals who are alleged to be helping Snowball in plots are executed by Napoleon's dogs, which troubles the rest of the animals. Despite their hardships, the animals are easily placated by Napoleon's retort that they are better off than they were under Mr. Jones, as well as by the sheep's continual bleating of "four legs good, two legs bad".

Mr. Frederick, a neighbouring farmer, attacks the farm, using blasting powder to blow up the restored windmill. Although the animals win the battle, they do so at great cost, as many, including Boxer the workhorse, are wounded. Although he recovers from this, Boxer eventually collapses while working on the windmill (being almost 12 years old at that point). He is taken away in a knacker's van and a donkey called Benjamin alerts the animals of this, but Squealer quickly waves off their alarm by persuading the animals that the van had been purchased from the knacker by an animal hospital and that the previous owner's signboard had not been repainted. Squealer subsequently reports Boxer's death and honours him with a festival the following day. In truth, Napoleon had engineered the sale of Boxer to the knacker, allowing him and his inner circle to acquire money to buy whisky for themselves.

Years pass, the windmill is rebuilt and another windmill is constructed, which makes the farm a good amount of income. However, the ideals that Snowball discussed, including stalls with electric lighting, heating, and running water, are forgotten, with Napoleon advocating that the happiest animals live simple lives. Snowball has been forgotten, alongside Boxer, with "the exception of the few who knew him". Many of the animals who participated in the rebellion are dead or old. Mr. Jones is also now known to be dead, having "died in an inebriates' home in another part of the country". The pigs start to resemble humans, as they walk upright, carry whips, drink alcohol, and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are abridged to just one phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". The maxim "Four legs good, two legs bad" is similarly changed to "Four legs good, two legs better". Other changes include the Hoof and Horn flag being replaced with a plain green banner and Old Major's skull, which was previously put on display, being reburied.

Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He abolishes the practice of the revolutionary traditions and restores the name "The Manor Farm". The men and pigs start playing cards, flattering and praising each other while cheating at the game. Both Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington, one of the farmers, play the ace of spades at the same time and both sides begin fighting loudly over who cheated first. When the animals outside look at the pigs and men, they can no longer distinguish between the two.



  • Old Major – An aged prize Middle White boar provides the inspiration that fuels the rebellion. He is also called Willingdon Beauty when showing. He is an allegorical combination of Karl Marx, one of the creators of communism, and Vladimir Lenin, the communist leader of the Russian Revolution and the early Soviet nation, in that he draws up the principles of the revolution. His skull being put on revered public display recalls Lenin, whose embalmed body was left in indefinite repose.[16] By the end of the book, the skull is reburied.
  • Napoleon – "A large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way".[17] An allegory of Joseph Stalin,[16] Napoleon is the leader of Animal Farm.
  • Snowball – Napoleon's rival and original head of the farm after Jones's overthrow. His life parallels that of Leon Trotsky,[16] although there is no reference to Snowball having been murdered (as Trotsky was); he may also combine some elements from Lenin.[18][c]
  • Squealer – A small, white, fat large white who serves as Napoleon's second-in-command and minister of propaganda, is a collective portrait of the Soviet nomenklatura and journalists, such as of the national daily Pravda (The Truth), able to justify every twist and turn in Stalin's policy.[16]
  • Minimus – A poetic pig who writes the second national anthem of Animal Farm after the singing of "Beasts of England" is banned; later he composes a poem "Comrade Napoleon". Literary theorist John Rodden compares him to the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky,[19] who eulogized Lenin and the Soviet Union, although Mayakovsky neither wrote anthems nor praised Stalin in his poems.
  • The piglets – Hinted to be the children of Napoleon and are the first generation of animals subjugated to his idea of animal inequality.
  • The young pigs – Four pigs who complain about Napoleon's takeover of the farm but are quickly silenced and later executed, the first animals killed in Napoleon's farm purge. Probably based on the Great Purge of Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin, and Alexei Rykov.
  • Pinkeye – A minor pig who is mentioned only once; he is the taste-tester that samples Napoleon's food to make sure it is not poisoned, in response to rumours about an assassination attempt on Napoleon.


  • Mr. Jones – A heavy drinker who is the original owner of Manor Farm, a farm in disrepair with farmhands who often loaf on the job. He is an allegory of Russian Tsar Nicholas II,[20] who was forced to abdicate following the February Revolution of 1917 and was murdered, along with the rest of his family, by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918. The animals revolt after Jones goes on a drinking binge, returns hungover the following day and neglects them completely. Jones is married, but his wife plays no active role in the book. She seems to live with her husband's drunkenness, going to bed while he stays up drinking until late into the night. In her only other appearance, she hastily throws a few things into a travel bag and flees when she sees that the animals are revolting. Towards the end of the book, Napoleon's "favourite sow" wears her old Sunday dress.
  • Mr. Frederick – The tough owner of Pinchfield Farm, a small but well-kept neighbouring farm, who briefly allies with Napoleon.[21][22][23][24] Animal Farm shares land boundaries with Pinchfield on one side and Foxwood on another, making Animal Farm a "buffer zone" between the two bickering farmers. The animals of Animal Farm are terrified of Frederick, as rumours abound of him abusing his animals and entertaining himself with cockfighting. Napoleon allies with Frederick to sell surplus timber that Pilkington also sought, but is enraged to learn Frederick paid him in counterfeit money. Shortly after the swindling, Frederick and his men invade Animal Farm, killing many animals and destroying the windmill. The brief alliance and subsequent invasion may allude to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and Operation Barbarossa.[23][25][26]
  • Mr. Pilkington – The easy-going but crafty and well-to-do owner of Foxwood Farm, a large neighbouring farm overgrown with weeds. Pilkington is wealthier than Frederick and owns more land, but his farm needs care as opposed to Frederick's smaller but more efficiently run farm. Although on bad terms with Frederick, Pilkington is also concerned about the animal revolution that deposed Jones and is worried that this could also happen to him.
  • Mr. Whymper – A man hired by Napoleon to act as the liaison between Animal Farm and human society. At first, he acquires necessities that cannot be produced on the farm, such as dog biscuits and paraffin wax, but later he procures luxuries like alcohol for the pigs.


  • Boxer – A loyal, kind, dedicated, extremely strong, hard-working, and respectable cart-shire horse, although quite naive and gullible.[27] Boxer does a large share of the physical labour on the farm. He is shown to hold the belief that "Napoleon is always right." At one point, he questions Squealer's statement that Snowball was always against the welfare of the farm, causing him to be attacked by Napoleon's dogs, however Boxer's immense strength repels the attack, worrying the pigs that their authority can be challenged. Boxer has been compared to Alexey Stakhanov, a diligent and enthusiastic role model of the Stakhanovite movement.[28] He has been described as "faithful and strong";[29] he believes any problem can be solved if he works harder.[30] When Boxer is injured, Napoleon sells him to a local knacker to buy himself whisky, and Squealer gives a moving account, falsifying the circumstances of Boxer's death.
  • Mollie – A self-centred, self-indulgent, and vain young white mare who quickly leaves for another farm after the revolution, like those who left Russia after the fall of the Tsar.[31] She is only once mentioned again.
  • Clover – A gentle, caring mare, who shows concern, especially for Boxer, who often pushes himself too hard. Clover can read all the letters of the alphabet, but cannot "put words together".
  • Benjamin – A donkey, one of the oldest, wisest animals on the farm, and one of the few who can read properly. He is sceptical, temperamental and cynical: his most frequent remark is, "Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is, badly". Academic Morris Dickstein has suggested there is "a touch of Orwell himself in this creature's timeless scepticism"[32] and indeed, friends called Orwell "Donkey George", "after his grumbling donkey Benjamin, in Animal Farm".[33] Benjamin manages to evade the purges and survive despite the threat he potentially poses given his knowledge, his age, and his equivocal, albeit apolitical, positions.

Other animals[edit]

  • Muriel – A goat who is another of the oldest, wisest animals on the farm and friends with all of the animals on the farm. Similar to Benjamin, Muriel is one of the few animals on the farm who is not a pig but can read. She survives, as does Benjamin, by eschewing politics.
  • The puppies – Offspring of Jessie and Bluebell, the puppies were taken away at birth by Napoleon and raised by him to serve as his powerful security force.
  • Moses – The Raven, "Mr. Jones's especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker".[34] Initially following Mrs. Jones into exile, he reappears several years later and resumes his role of talking but not working. He regales Animal Farm's denizens with tales of a wondrous place beyond the clouds called "Sugarcandy Mountain, that happy country where we poor animals shall rest forever from our labours!" Orwell portrays established religion as "the black raven of priestcraft – promising pie in the sky when you die, and faithfully serving whoever happens to be in power". His preaching to the animals heartens them, and Napoleon allows Moses to reside at the farm "with an allowance of a gill of beer daily", akin to how Stalin brought back the Russian Orthodox Church during the Second World War.[32]
  • The sheep – They are not given individual names or personalities. They show limited understanding of Animalism and the political atmosphere of the farm, yet nonetheless, they are the voice of blind conformity[32] as they bleat their support of Napoleon's ideals with jingles during his speeches and meetings with Snowball. Their constant bleating of "four legs good, two legs bad" was used as a device to drown out any opposition or alternative views from Snowball, much as Stalin used hysterical crowds to drown out Trotsky.[35] Towards the end of the book, Squealer (the propagandist) trains the sheep to alter their slogan to "four legs good, two legs better", which they dutifully do.
  • The hens –The hens are promised following the rebellion that they will get to keep their eggs, which are stolen from them under Mr. Jones, however, their eggs are soon taken from them under the premise of buying goods from outside the farm. The hens are among the first to rebel, albeit unsuccessfully, against Napoleon, being brutally suppressed through starvation. They represent the Ukrainian victims of the Holodomor.[36][37]
  • The cows – Unnamed. The cows are enticed into the revolution by promises that their milk will not be stolen but can be used to raise their calves. Their milk is then stolen by the pigs, who learn to milk them. The milk is stirred into the pigs' mash every day, while the other animals are denied such luxuries.
  • The cat – Unnamed and never seen to carry out any work. The cat is absent for long periods and is forgiven because her excuses are so convincing and she "purred so affectionately that it was impossible not to believe in her good intentions".[38] She has no interest in the politics of the farm, and the only time she is recorded as having participated in an election, she is found to have actually "voted on both sides". [39]
  • The ducks – Unnamed.
  • The roosters – One arranges to wake Boxer early, and a black one acts as a trumpeter for Napoleon.
  • The geese – Unnamed. One gander commits suicide by eating nightshade berries.
  • The rats — Unnamed. Classed among the wild animals, unsuccessful attempts were made to civilise them and teach them the principles of Animalism.

Genre and style[edit]

George Orwell's Animal Farm is an example of a political satire and an allegory that was intended to have a "wider application", according to Orwell himself, in terms of its relevance.[40] Stylistically, the work shares many similarities with some of Orwell's other works, most notably Nineteen Eighty-Four, as both have been considered works of Swiftian satire.[41] Furthermore, these two prominent works seem to suggest Orwell's bleak view of the future for humanity; he seems to stress the potential/current threat of dystopias similar to those in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.[42] In these kinds of works, Orwell distinctly references the disarray and traumatic conditions of Europe following the Second World War.[43] Orwell's style and writing philosophy as a whole were very concerned with the pursuit of truth in writing.[44]

Orwell was committed to communicating straightforwardly, given the way that he felt words were commonly used in politics to deceive and confuse. For this reason, he is careful, in Animal Farm, to make sure the narrator speaks in an unbiased and uncomplicated fashion.[44] The difference is seen in the way that the animals speak and interact, as the general moral animals seem to speak their minds clearly, while the wicked animals on the farm, such as Napoleon, twist language in such a way that it meets their insidious desires. This style reflects Orwell's proximity to the issues facing Europe at the time and his determination to comment critically on Stalin's Soviet Russia.[44]


Origin and writing[edit]

Just as Nineteen Eighty-Four would be inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, Animal Farm also had its influences: "In 1937, the year in which Orwell said he first thought of Animal Farm, Gollancz's Left Book Club published both The Road to Wigan Pier and a left-wing children's book, The Adventures of the Little Pig and Other Stories by F. Le Gros and Ida Clark."[45]

George Orwell wrote the manuscript between November 1943 and February 1944[46] after his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, which he described in Homage to Catalonia (1938). In the preface of a 1947 Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, he explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him "how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries".[47] This motivated Orwell to expose and strongly condemn what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals.[48] Homage to Catalonia sold poorly; after seeing Arthur Koestler's best-selling, Darkness at Noon, about the Moscow Trials, Orwell decided that fiction would be the best way to describe totalitarianism.[49]

Immediately before writing the book, Orwell quit the BBC. He was also upset about a booklet for propagandists the Ministry of Information had put out. The booklet included instructions on how to quell ideological fears of the Soviet Union, such as directions to claim that the Red Terror was a figment of Nazi imagination.[50]

In the preface, Orwell described the source of the idea of setting the book on a farm:[48]

I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.

In 1944, the manuscript was almost lost when a German V-1 flying bomb destroyed his London home. Orwell spent hours sifting through the rubble to find the pages intact.[51]



Orwell initially encountered difficulty getting the manuscript published, largely due to fears that the book might upset the alliance between Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Four publishers refused to publish Animal Farm, yet one had initially accepted the work but declined it after consulting the Ministry of Information.[52][d] Eventually, Secker and Warburg published the first edition in 1945.

During the Second World War, it became clear to Orwell that anti-Soviet literature was not something which most major publishing houses would touch – including his regular publisher Gollancz. He also submitted the manuscript to Faber and Faber, where the poet T. S. Eliot (who was a director of the firm) rejected it; Eliot wrote back to Orwell praising the book's "good writing" and "fundamental integrity", but declared that they would only accept it for publication if they had some sympathy for the viewpoint "which I take to be generally Trotskyite". Eliot said he found the view "not convincing", and contended that the pigs were made out to be the best to run the farm; he posited that someone might argue "what was needed ... was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs".[53] Orwell let André Deutsch, who was working for Nicholson & Watson in 1944, read the typescript, and Deutsch was convinced that Nicholson & Watson would want to publish it; however, they did not, and "lectured Orwell on what they perceived to be errors in Animal Farm".[54] In his London Letter on 17 April 1944 for Partisan Review, Orwell wrote that it was "now next door to impossible to get anything overtly anti-Russian printed. Anti-Russian books do appear, but mostly from Catholic publishing firms and always from a religious or frankly reactionary angle".

The publisher Jonathan Cape, who had initially accepted Animal Farm, subsequently rejected the book after an official at the British Ministry of Information warned him off[55] – although the civil servant who it is assumed gave the order was later found to be a Soviet spy.[56] Writing to Leonard Moore, a partner in the literary agency of Christy & Moore, publisher Jonathan Cape explained that the decision had been taken on the advice of a senior official in the Ministry of Information. Such flagrant anti-Soviet bias was unacceptable, and the choice of pigs as the dominant class was thought to be especially offensive. It may reasonably be assumed that the "important official" was a man named Peter Smollett, who was later unmasked as a Soviet agent.[57] Orwell was suspicious of Smollett/Smolka, and he would be one of the names Orwell included in his list of Crypto-Communists and Fellow-Travellers sent to the Information Research Department in 1949. The publisher wrote to Orwell, saying:[55]

If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators [Lenin and Stalin], that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships.

Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.

Frederic Warburg also faced pressures against publication, even from people in his own office and from his wife Pamela, who felt that it was not the moment for ingratitude towards Stalin and the Red Army,[58] which had played a major part in defeating Adolf Hitler. A Russian translation was printed in the paper Posev, and in permitting a Russian translation of Animal Farm, Orwell refused in advance all royalties. A translation in Ukrainian, which was produced in Germany, was confiscated in large part by the American wartime authorities and handed over to the Soviet repatriation commission.[e]

In October 1945, Orwell wrote to Frederic Warburg expressing interest in pursuing the possibility that the political cartoonist David Low might illustrate Animal Farm. Low had written a letter saying that he had had "a good time with Animal Farm – an excellent bit of satire – it would illustrate perfectly". Nothing came of this, and a trial issue produced by Secker & Warburg in 1956 illustrated by John Driver was abandoned. The Folio Society published an edition in 1984 illustrated by Quentin Blake and an edition illustrated by the cartoonist Ralph Steadman was published by Secker & Warburg in 1995 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first edition of Animal Farm.[59][60]


Orwell originally wrote a preface complaining about British self-censorship and how the British people were suppressing criticism of the USSR, their World War II ally:

The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary ... Things are kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervenes but because of a general tacit agreement that "it wouldn't do" to mention that particular fact.

Although the first edition allowed space for the preface in the author's proof, it was not included, and the page numbers had to be renumbered at the last minute.[52] As of June 2009, most editions of the book have not included it.[61]

In 1972, Ian Angus found the original typescript titled "The Freedom of the Press", and Bernard Crick published it, together with his introduction, in The Times Literary Supplement on 15 September 1972 as "How the essay came to be written".[52] Orwell's essay criticised British self-censorship by the press, specifically the suppression of unflattering descriptions of Stalin and the Soviet government.[52] The same essay also appeared in the Italian 1976 edition of Animal Farm with another introduction by Crick, claiming to be the first edition with the preface. Other publishers were still declining to publish it.[clarification needed]


Contemporary reviews of the work were not universally positive. Writing in the American The New Republic magazine, George Soule expressed his disappointment in the book, writing that it "puzzled and saddened me. It seemed on the whole dull. The allegory turned out to be a creaking machine for saying in a clumsy way things that have been said better directly". Soule believed that the animals were not consistent enough with their real-world inspirations, and said, "It seems to me that the failure of this book (commercially it is already assured of tremendous success) arises from the fact that the satire deals not with something the author has experienced, but rather with stereotyped ideas about a country which he probably does not know very well".[62]

The Guardian on 24 August 1945 called Animal Farm "a delightfully humorous and caustic satire on the rule of the many by the few".[63] Tosco Fyvel, writing in Tribune on the same day, called the book "a gentle satire on a certain State and on the illusions of an age which may already be behind us". Julian Symons responded, on 7 September, "Should we not expect, in Tribune at least, acknowledgement of the fact that it is a satire not at all gentle upon a particular State – Soviet Russia? It seems to me that a reviewer should have the courage to identify Napoleon with Stalin, and Snowball with Trotsky, and express an opinion favourable or unfavourable to the author, upon a political ground. In a hundred years perhaps, Animal Farm may be simply a fairy story; today it is a political satire with a good deal of point". Animal Farm has been subject to much comment in the decades since these early remarks.[64]

Between 1952 and 1957, the CIA, in an operation codenamed Aedinosaur, sent millions of balloons carrying copies of the novel into Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, whose air forces tried to shoot the balloons down.[49]

Time magazine chose Animal Farm as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005);[11] it also featured at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels.[12] It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 and is included in the Great Books of the Western World selection.[15]

Popular reading in schools, Animal Farm was ranked the UK's favourite book from school in a 2016 poll.[65]

Animal Farm has also faced an array of challenges in school settings around the US.[66] The following are examples of this controversy that has existed around Orwell's work:

  • The John Birch Society in Wisconsin challenged the reading of Animal Farm in 1965 because of its reference to the masses revolting.[66][67]
  • New York State English Council's Committee on Defense Against Censorship found that in 1968, Animal Farm had been widely deemed a "problem book".[66]
  • A censorship survey conducted in DeKalb County, Georgia, relating to the years 1979–1982, revealed that many schools had attempted to limit access to Animal Farm due to its "political theories".[66]
  • A superintendent in Bay County, Florida, banned Animal Farm at the middle school and high school levels in 1987.[66]
    • The Board quickly brought back the book, however, after receiving complaints of the ban as "unconstitutional".[66]
  • Animal Farm was removed from the Stonington, Connecticut school district curriculum in 2017.[68]

Animal Farm has also faced similar forms of resistance in other countries.[66] The ALA also mentions the way that the book was prevented from being featured at the International Book Fair in Moscow, Russia, in 1977 and banned from schools in the United Arab Emirates for references to practices or actions that defy Arab or Islamic beliefs, such as pigs or alcohol.[66]

In the same manner, Animal Farm has also faced relatively recent issues in China. In 2018, the government decided to censor all online posts about or referring to Animal Farm.[69] However, the book itself, as of 2019, remains sold in stores. Amy Hawkins and Jeffrey Wasserstrom of The Atlantic stated in 2019 that the book is widely available in mainland China for several reasons: censors believe the general public is unlikely to read a highbrow book, because the elites who do read books feel connected to the ruling party anyway, and because the Communist Party sees being too aggressive in blocking cultural products as a liability. The authors stated: "It was – and remains – as easy to buy 1984 and Animal Farm in Shenzhen or Shanghai as it is in London or Los Angeles".[70] An enhanced version of the book, launched in India in 2017, was widely praised for capturing the author's intent, by republishing the proposed preface of the First Edition and the preface he wrote for the Ukrainian edition.[71]



Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer adapt Old Major's ideas into "a complete system of thought", which they formally name Animalism, an allegoric reference to Communism, not to be confused with the philosophy of Animalism. Soon after, Napoleon and Squealer partake in activities associated with the humans (drinking alcohol, sleeping in beds, trading), which were explicitly prohibited by the Seven Commandments. Squealer is employed to alter the Seven Commandments to account for this humanisation, an allusion to the Soviet government's revising of history to exercise control of the people's beliefs about themselves and their society.[72]

Squealer sprawls at the foot of the end wall of the big barn where the Seven Commandments were written (ch. viii) – preliminary artwork for a 1950 strip cartoon by Norman Pett and Donald Freeman

The original commandments are:

  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.

These commandments are also distilled into the maxim "Four legs good, two legs bad!" which is primarily used by the sheep on the farm, often to disrupt discussions and disagreements between animals on the nature of Animalism.

Later, Napoleon and his pigs secretly revise some commandments to clear themselves of accusations of law-breaking. The changed commandments are as follows, with the changes bolded:

  1. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
  2. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
  3. No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
  4. All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Eventually, these are replaced with the maxims, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", and "Four legs good, two legs better" as the pigs become more anthropomorphic. This is an ironic twist to the original purpose of the Seven Commandments, which was supposed to keep order within Animal Farm by uniting the animals together against the humans and preventing animals from following the humans' evil habits. Through the revision of the commandments, Orwell demonstrates how simply political dogma can be turned into malleable propaganda.[73]

Significance and allegory[edit]

The Hoof and Horn flag described in the book appears to be based on the hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol. By the end of the book when Napoleon takes full control, the Hoof and Horn is removed from the flag.

Orwell biographer Jeffrey Meyers has written, "virtually every detail has political significance in this allegory".[74] Orwell himself wrote in 1946, "Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution ... [and] that kind of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters [–] revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert".[75] In a preface for a 1947 Ukrainian edition, he stated, "for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement. On my return from Spain [in 1937] I 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".[76]

The revolt of the animals against Farmer Jones is Orwell's analogy with the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The Battle of the Cowshed has been said to represent the allied invasion of Soviet Russia in 1918,[26] and the defeat of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War.[25] The pigs' rise to preeminence mirrors the rise of a Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR, just as Napoleon's emergence as the farm's sole leader reflects Stalin's emergence.[27] The pigs' appropriation of milk and apples for their own use, "the turning point of the story" as Orwell termed it in a letter to Dwight Macdonald,[75] stands as an analogy for the crushing of the left-wing 1921 Kronstadt revolt against the Bolsheviks, [75] and the difficult efforts of the animals to build the windmill suggest the various five-year plans. The puppies controlled by Napoleon parallel the nurture of the secret police in the Stalinist structure, and the pigs' treatment of the other animals on the farm recalls the internal terror faced by the populace in the 1930s.[77] In chapter seven, when the animals confess their non-existent crimes and are killed, Orwell directly alludes to the purges, confessions and show trials of the late 1930s. These contributed to Orwell's conviction that the Bolshevik revolution had been corrupted and the Soviet system become rotten.[78]

Peter Edgerly Firchow and Peter Davison contend that the Battle of the Windmill, specifically referencing the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Moscow, represents World War II.[25][26] During the battle, Orwell first wrote, "All the animals, including Napoleon" took cover. Orwell had the publisher alter this to "All the animals except Napoleon" in recognition of Stalin's decision to remain in Moscow during the German advance.[79] Orwell requested the change after he met Józef Czapski in Paris in March 1945. Czapski, a survivor of the Katyn Massacre and an opponent of the Soviet regime, told Orwell, as Orwell wrote to Arthur Koestler, that it had been "the character [and] greatness of Stalin" that saved Russia from the German invasion.[f]

Front row (left to right): Rykov, Skrypnyk, and Stalin – 'When Snowball comes to the crucial points in his speeches he is drowned out by the sheep (Ch. V), just as in the party Congress in 1927 [above], at Stalin's instigation 'pleas for the opposition were drowned in the continual, hysterically intolerant uproar from the floor'. (Isaac Deutscher[80])

Other connections that writers have suggested illustrate Orwell's telescoping of Russian history from 1917 to 1943,[81][g] including the wave of rebelliousness that ran through the countryside after the Rebellion, which stands for the abortive revolutions in Hungary and Germany (Ch. IV); the conflict between Napoleon and Snowball (Ch. V), parallelling "the two rival and quasi-Messianic beliefs that seemed pitted against one another: Trotskyism, with its faith in the revolutionary vocation of the proletariat of the West; and Stalinism with its glorification of Russia's socialist destiny";[82] Napoleon's dealings with Whymper and the Willingdon markets (Ch. VI), paralleling the Treaty of Rapallo; and Frederick's forged bank notes, parallelling the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, after which Frederick attacks Animal Farm without warning and destroys the windmill.[23]

The book's close, with the pigs and men in a kind of rapprochement, reflected Orwell's view of the 1943 Tehran Conference[h] that seemed to display the establishment of "the best possible relations between the USSR and the West" – but in reality were destined, as Orwell presciently predicted, to continue to unravel.[83] The disagreement between the allies and the start of the Cold War is suggested when Napoleon and Pilkington, both suspicious, each "played an ace of spades simultaneously".[79]

Similarly, the music in the novel, starting with "Beasts of England" and the later anthems, parallels "The Internationale" and its adoption and repudiation by the Soviet authorities as the anthem of the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s.[84]

According to Masha Gessen, the metamorphosis of the eighth commandment ("some animals are more equal") was likely inspired by similar change of a party line which declared all Soviet people equal: the Russian nation and language suddenly became "first among equals" in official CPSU publications in 1936–1937.[85]


Stage productions[edit]

A National Youth Theatre performance of Animal Farm at Soulton Hall

A theatrical version, with music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell, was staged at the National Theatre London on 25 April 1984, directed by Peter Hall. It toured nine cities in 1985.[86]

A solo version, adapted and performed by Guy Masterson, premiered at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh in January 1995 and has toured worldwide since.[87][88]

In 2021, during pandemic restrictions, the National Youth Theatre toured a stage version of Animal Farm; this run included outdoor performances on a farm at Soulton Hall.[89]

A new adaptation written and directed by Robert Icke, designed by Bunny Christie with puppetry designed and directed by Toby Olié opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January 2022 before touring the UK.[90]

The Russian composer Alexander Raskatov has written an opera based on the book. Its premiere took place on 4 March 2023 in Amsterdam as part of Dutch National Opera's 2022/2023 season.[91]


Animal Farm has been adapted to film twice. Both differ from the novel and have been accused of taking significant liberties, including sanitising some aspects.[citation needed]

  • Animal Farm (1954) is an animated film, in which Napoleon is eventually overthrown in a second revolution. In 1974, E. Howard Hunt revealed that he had been sent by the CIA's Psychological Warfare department to obtain the film rights from Orwell's widow, and the resulting 1954 animation was funded by the agency.[92][93]
  • Animal Farm (1999) is a live-action TV version that shows Napoleon's regime collapsing in on itself, with the farm having new human owners, reflecting the collapse of Soviet communism.[citation needed]

Andy Serkis is directing an upcoming animated film adaptation.[94]

Radio dramatisations[edit]

A BBC radio version, produced by Rayner Heppenstall, was broadcast in January 1947. Orwell listened to the production at his home in Canonbury Square, London, with Hugh Gordon Porteous, amongst others. Orwell later wrote to Heppenstall that Porteous, "who had not read the book, grasped what was happening after a few minutes".[95]

A further radio production, again using Orwell's dramatisation of the book, was broadcast in January 2013 on BBC Radio 4. Tamsin Greig narrated, and the cast included Nicky Henson as Napoleon, Toby Jones as the propagandist Squealer, and Ralph Ineson as Boxer.[96]

Comic strip[edit]

A Foreign Office copy of the first instalment of Pett and Freeman's Animal Farm comic strip

In 1950, Norman Pett and his writing partner Don Freeman were secretly hired by the Information Research Department, a secret department of the Foreign Office, to adapt Animal Farm into a comic strip. This comic was not published in the United Kingdom but ran in Brazilian and Burmese newspapers.[97]

Video game[edit]

Developer Nerial released a game based on the book in December 2020, entitled Orwell's Animal Farm, for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.

See also[edit]



Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Orwell, writing in his review of Franz Borkenau's The Spanish Cockpit in Time and Tide, 31 July 1937, and "Spilling the Spanish Beans", New English Weekly, 29 July 1937
  2. ^ Bradbury, Malcolm, Introduction
  3. ^ According to Christopher Hitchens, "the persons of Lenin and Trotsky are combined into one [i.e., Snowball], or, it might even be ... to say, there is no Lenin at all."[18]
  4. ^ Orwell 1976 p. 25 La libertà di stampa
  5. ^ Struve, Gleb. Telling the Russians, written for the Russian journal New Russian Wind, reprinted in Remembering Orwell
  6. ^ A Note on the Text, Peter Davison, Animal Farm, Penguin edition 1989
  7. ^ In the Preface to Animal Farm Orwell noted, however, "although various episodes are taken from the actual history of the Russian Revolution, they are dealt with schematically and their chronological order is changed."
  8. ^ Preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, reprinted in Orwell:Collected Works, It Is What I Think


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  2. ^ Bynum 2012.
  3. ^ 12 Things You 2015.
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  6. ^ Bowker 2013, p. 235.
  7. ^ a b c Davison 2000.
  8. ^ Orwell 2014, p. 10.
  9. ^ Animal Farm: Sixty.
  10. ^ Dickstein 2007, p. 134.
  11. ^ a b Grossman & Lacayo 2005.
  12. ^ a b Modern Library 1998.
  13. ^ "The Big Read". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
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  16. ^ a b c d Rodden 1999, pp. 5ff.
  17. ^ Orwell 1979, p. 15, chapter II.
  18. ^ a b Hitchens 2008, pp. 186ff.
  19. ^ Rodden 1999, p. 11.
  20. ^ Fall of Mister.
  21. ^ Sparknotes " Literature.
  22. ^ Scheming Frederick how.
  23. ^ a b c Meyers 1975, p. 141.
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  25. ^ a b c Firchow 2008, p. 102.
  26. ^ a b c Davison 1996, p. 161.
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  52. ^ a b c d Freedom of the Press.
  53. ^ Eliot 1969.
  54. ^ Orwell 2013, p. 231.
  55. ^ a b Whitewashing of Stalin 2008.
  56. ^ Taylor 2003, p. 337.
  57. ^ Leab 2007, p. 3.
  58. ^ Fyvel 1982, p. 139.
  59. ^ Orwell 2001, p. 123.
  60. ^ Orwell 2015, pp. 313–14.
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  63. ^ Books of day 1945.
  64. ^ Orwell 2015, p. 253.
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  69. ^ Oppenheim, Maya (1 March 2018). "China bans George Orwell's Animal Farm and letter 'N' from online posts as censors bolster Xi Jinping's plan to keep power". The Independent. ProQuest 2055087191.
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  72. ^ Rodden 1999, pp. 48–49.
  73. ^ Carr 2010, pp. 78–79.
  74. ^ Meyers 1975, p. 249.
  75. ^ a b c Orwell 2013, p. 334.
  76. ^ Crick 2019, p. 450.
  77. ^ Leab 2007, pp. 6–7.
  78. ^ a b Dickstein 2007, p. 135.
  79. ^ a b Meyers 1975, p. 142.
  80. ^ Meyers 1975, pp. 138, 311.
  81. ^ Meyers 1975, p. 135.
  82. ^ Meyers 1975, p. 138.
  83. ^ Leab 2007, p. 7.
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  88. ^ Animal Farm.
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  94. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (19 April 2022). "Andy Serkis Teams With Cinesite on 'Animal Farm' Adaptation". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  95. ^ Orwell 2013, p. 112.
  96. ^ Real George Orwell.
  97. ^ Norman Pett.
  98. ^ "Burwell's White Acre vs. Black Acre". Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture. Retrieved 18 October 2020.

General sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]