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Background information for George Orwell\'s Animal Farm

Penguin 1989 edition of George Orwell\'s Animal FarmAnimal Farm is a satirical novella (which can also be understood as a modern fable or allegory) by George Orwell, ostensibly about a group of animals who oust the humans from the farm on which they live. They run the farm themselves, only to have it degenerate into a brutal tyranny of its own. The book was written during World War II and published in 1945, although it was not widely successful until the late 1950s.

Animal Farm is a satirical allegory of Soviet totalitarianism. Orwell based major events in the book on ones from the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. Orwell, a democratic socialist, and a member of the Independent Labour Party for many years, was a critic of Stalin, and was suspicious of Moscow-directed Stalinism after his experiences in the Spanish Civil War.


When the farm\'s prize-winning pig, Old Major, calls a meeting of all the animals of Manor Farm, he tells them that he has had a dream in which mankind is gone and animals are free to live in peace and harmony; his ideals can be compared to Anarchist Communism or even some aspects of Leninism. He compares the humans to parasites, and then proceeds to teach the animals a revolutionary song, "Beasts of England."

When Old Major dies a mere three days later, two pigs - Snowball and Napoleon - assume command, and turn his dream into a full-fledged philosophy. The starved animals suddenly revolt one night and drive the farmer, Mr. Jones, his wife, and his pet raven, Moses, from the farm. The farm is then renamed "Animal Farm."

The Seven Commandments of the new philosophy of Animalism are written on the wall of a barn for all to read. The seventh and most important is "all animals are equal." All animals work, but the workhorse, Boxer, does more than his fair share and adopts a maxim of his own ? "I will work harder."

Animal Farm begins well: Snowball teaches the other animals to read and write (though few animals besides the pigs learn to read well), food is plentiful due to a good harvest, and the entire farm is organized and running smoothly. Meanwhile, Napoleon secretively takes the pups from the farm dogs and trains them privately. When Mr. Jones tries to re-take control of the farm, the animals defeat him at what they later call the "Battle of the Cowshed." However, Napoleon and Snowball begin a power struggle for leadership of the farm. When Snowball announces his idea for a windmill, Napoleon quickly opposes it. A meeting is held, and when Snowball makes his passionate and articulate speech in favour of the windmill, Napoleon retorts only briefly and then makes a strange noise to call in nine attack dogs, which burst in and chase Snowball off the farm. In Snowball\'s absence, Napoleon declares himself the leader of the farm and makes instant changes. He announces that meetings will no longer be held as before and a committee of pigs alone will decide what happens with the farm.

Napoleon changes his mind about the windmill, claiming (through Squealer, Napoleon\'s mouthpiece) that Snowball stole the idea from him and the animals begin to work. After a violent storm, the animals wake to find the fruit of their months of labour utterly annihilated. Though neighbouring farmers scoff at the thin walls, Napoleon and Squealer convince everyone that Snowball destroyed it. Napoleon begins to purge the farm, killing many animals he accuses of consorting with Snowball. In the meantime, Boxer takes a second mantra, "Napoleon is always right."

Napoleon begins to abuse his powers even more, and life on the farm becomes harder and harder for the rest of the animals; the pigs impose more and more controls on them while reserving privileges for themselves. The pigs rewrite history in a way that villainizes Snowball and glorifies Napoleon even further. Each step of this development is justified by the pig Squealer, who on several occasions alters the Seven Commandments on the barn in the dead of night ? for example, "No animal shall drink alcohol" becomes "No animal shall drink alcohol to