About the Author
George Orwell was born in Motihari, India, but grew up in England where he went to school at Eton College. Orwell wouldn’t support any organized political party, but considered himself a libertarian socialist, concerned with humanitarian issues and committed to speaking out against all forms of intolerance and injustice. This he clarifies out in his works, thou they seem to be slightly ironic.
George Orwell has (amongst others) written:
Homage to Catalonia
Coming Up for Air
Old Major is an old, well-respected pig. He is regarded as the leader of the farm animals. He speaks of rebelling against the farmer, and teaches the other animals the song "Beasts of England", a song later spread as propaganda for the revolution later in the book. Thus, he indirectly sparks the revolution at Manor Farm. Just before he breathes his last early in the book, he gathers all the other animals inside the barn to tell them about his great vision.
Parallels can be drawn between Old Major and Karl Marx, regarded by many as the founder of modern communism and socialism. He also has elements of Lenin in him, since his death sets the stage for rivalry between Snowball and Napoleon, effectively Trotsky and Stalin.
Snowball is one of early revolutionary leaders, a brilliant tactician and idealistic thinker with far broader and grand ideas than the other animals. He is a strong leader, but some of his ideas are simply too grand in scope for mere animals. His constant rivalling with Napoleon also leads to his being ostracized from the farm, chased away by Napoleons guard dogs.
This is an obvious parallel to the political and personal struggle between Stalin and Trotsky, which ended with Trotsky having to flee to Argentina where he ended his days wit an ice-pick in his head, from the hand of a man pretending to be a journalist.
Alongside Snowball, Napoleon is an early revolutionary leader. What Napoleon lacks as an orator, he more than makes up for with his scheming and cunning. He is a direct contrast to Snowball, but his lack of populistic appeal and his far more realistic approach to running the farm gains him followers. Eventually, he raises a pack of guard dogs (a parallel to the Cheka, the Russian military police, which Stalin often used to great effect), and manages to chase Snowball off the farm.
Napoleon is not named by coincidence: Napoleon Bonaparte turned a revolution into a tightly knit regime, with himself as head of state, which is exactly what his piggish counterpart is doing.
Napoleon can also be likened to Stalin, the silent and scheming politician, running a show of smoke and mirrors rather than a grand speech.
Boxer is one of the truly sympathetic characters of Animal Farm. He's the hardest worker and the most astute believer in the principles of Animalism, seeking to repay the good fortunes that the great leadership of Animal Farm brings. He trusts and obeys Napoleon in all things, up to his retirement. Upon retirement, however, Napoleon sells him to a glue factory to afford more whisky ...
There’s likely to be drawn lines between Boxer and the Soviet people.
The book starts off when an old, well respected pig, named Old Major holds the speech of his life-wisdom. He teaches the animals on the farm the song “Beasts of England”, and thus he gives birth to Animalism, and sparks the Revolution at Manor Farm.
The Revolution happened when farmer Jones walked home from the pub one night, drunk, and forgot to feed the animals. The animals, starved desperate, broke through the cage walls, and freed themselves to eat. Farmer Jones and his crew woke up from the fuss and went to punish the animals, but were thrown off the farm by the enraged animals, and the Revolution was born.
The leader-figures Napoleon and Snowball immediately stood out from the rest of the animals. They took control, and started making their, and the other pigs’, rights higher. E.g.: The pigs have the milk and apples to eat and drink in addition to the other rations, because they are “brain-workers” that needs extra food.
At first, the animals were ecstatic over what they could do without the humans, which “are the only animal that consumes, but does not produce”.
The harvests were going great, they had a high surplus of food, and Snowball started planning an expansion of the farm; a windmill. Napoleon opposed, and after a while, he had Snowball thrown out of the farm, discarded as a traitor.
After this, Napoleon started killing those who opposed him with the guard dogs he used previously in throwing out Snowball. He gains fear and respect, making the other animals too frightened to say a word against him and the other pigs.
The book is very good at creating distinct characters. And the way you can read it in two or more different ways is also a very good thing about the book. Orwell has written a successful description of his impression of dictatorship. His viewpoints are easy to see if you try. But they are not so easy to see that they become obvious. Only if you think about what lines you can draw to real people and events they become visible. This is one of the best books I can remember reading. And I have read quite a few, even thou I cannot remember any of the titles. The only book I will rate higher that Animal Farm right now is Nineteen Eighty-Four.