George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair, was born in India in 1903, because his father was a minor colonial official. In his life Eric Blair lived in Eton, worked in Asia and served the Indian Imperial Police, but he hated it and came back to England with a sick leave, where he started writing. He had a very indipendent minded personality, he reputed himself against dogmas and institutions, he was atheist ad socialist. When he came back to England he changed his name into George Orwell, George because he liked the name and Orwell because of a place he liked. In 1936 he married Eileen O' Sgaughnessy, they were both politically committed and they went to Catalonia in December 1936 to report the Spanish civil war. Orwell was against who hurt others, he fought for the poor and commons against fascism, indeed he was marxist. While he was fighting he got stabbed and wounded, therefore he came back to England, where he adopted a child, joined the BBC and became an editor. He then died in 1950.
He wrote books of different kinds: Down and out in Paris and London, which is a non fiction narrative, a sort of journal in which he puts himself in homeless's shoes and lived with them; Animal Farm, a fairy story and 1984 Nineteeneightyfour. George Orwell rejected his English background, he had a conflict between his upper class education and his emotional identification with the working class. As to him, the role of the artist was to inform, to expose facts and draw conclusions from them.
Animal Farm is Orwell's reaction to Stalin's Purge Trials in the 1930s and his signature of the non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939; he could not believe that socialism became comunism, and therefore a tyranny, although he never openly criticizes these dictatorships. This book is about a group of animals, led by a boar, Napoleon, which overcome their cruel master and set up a revolutionary governement. Each animal symbolises a precise figure or representative type, indeed this book is a satire on dictatorship in general, not only on USSR. What happens on the book is parallel to the history of the Soviet Union between '17 and '43
Boxer is a horse, the strongest animal on the farm, he's loyal and hard working, but he is very naive, he has no intelligence and doesn't understand what is going on. He symbolises Igor Stakanov
Old Major represents Marx and Lenin
Napoleon represents Stalin
Snowball symbolises Leo Trotzsky, he's the good tyrant, he cared about the animal's wellfare
Mr Jones is Tsar Nicolas II
the dogs are the terror state, the KGB and the police
The theoretical basis of the revolution are given by Old Major, a boar, the oldest animal in the farm of Mr Jones, who exploits the animals and barely feeds them. Old major gathers all the animals in the big barn to do his speech. He's like Lenin and Marx, who died before the revolution, but after giving its basis. He says men are the only creatures who consume without producing. This sentence was said by Marx, replacing men with capitalists. Old Major makes a prophecy, he says that when Boxer will die, Jones will sell him to the knacker. Boxer works very hard, but he understands hardly anything, and indeed, his mottos are I will work harder and Napoleon is always right. The first chapter finishes with the anthem Beasts of England, which creates a sense of belonging.
In the second chapter we get to know every animal:
Napoleon, who is a strong character and doesn't care about the animal's wellfare
snowball, who in history is Trotzsky, he was exiled and then Stalin got him killes while he was in Mexico
squealer, he's a brilliant speaker, has a fundamental role, he was said he was able to turn black into white: he manipulates history and memory, he manipulates the truth. He's the propaganda leader. In the second and third chapter he convinces others that pigs need milk and apples because they are brain workers, but they don't even like them, and then he blackmails the animals “do you want Jones back?” they are greedy, not by chance they are porkers. He also uses strange words in order to make nobody understand.
moses, he represents a preacher, an orthodox priest; he's despised by the pigs, like communists despise the church. He disappears but in the last chapter he's called back by the pigs to convince the animals to bear this to get into paradise and therefore he's useful. In history, orthodox church was abolished at first in comunism, but then the cult was reestablished.
Mollie is a mare, young female horse. She's stupid, selfish, vane, foolish, lazy and superficial. She doesn't care about the revolution at all, she just cares about eating sugar and wearing ribbons, indeed she accepts them from the neighbouring farmer and will start to live there.
Snowball had studied from military strategy books and led all of the battles from the first line, risking his life. Napoleon, on the other hand, always hides. Animals think they won't ever live under a dictatorship again, because they have already chased Mr Jones, but then when we read about the episode of the milk and the apples we know it's not true.
In the third chapter Snowball proposes to educate the animals, but Napoleon wants to educate only young pigs in order to create a sort of intellectual elite. Boxer tries to learn the alphabet but he doesn't manage to. Benjamin, his best friend, learns how to, but he doesn't care about anything, he's clinical and careless, because he thinks nothing will change. Then it is created a flag and the motto “4 legs good, 2 legs bad”, usually bleated by the sheep.
In the fourth chapter we are presented the other farmers. Mr Pilkington is the owner of Foxwood, which is large and old fashioned, and represents Great Britain; Mr Frederick is the owner of Pinchfield, which is smaller and better kept, therefore it represents Germany. Snowball wants to send pigeons in order to spread the values of the revolution everywhere, while Napoleon doesn't care at all. The humans start to tell lies about what is happening on Animal Farm, they say animals are cannibal, that they have females in common, that there are fights and they're starving to death. They tell these lies because they are scared in the first place, and they want to scare their animals too. Jones wants to reconquer his farm and he organises a battle, which will be named “Battle of the Cowshed” because the ambush has hidden in the cowshed and tricked the humand into it to attack them. This battle took place in 12th of October, but in history in the 12th of october 1919 there was an attempt to reconquer Moscow by the Tsar, who failed.
Napoleon and Snowball always argue, for example Snowball wants to have a windmill built, but Napoleon doesn't. The windmill will exploite the wind's energy and produce electricity, and the animals would work less. Napoleon doesn't really care about their labour, so when Snowball presents his project, Napoleon urinates on it, showing his contempt and expells him. Although the windmill is built and the animals are puzzled, therefore Squealer tells them that Snowball had stolen the project from Napoleon, so he had faked to be against it. Squealer calls it tactics, which is another word, like brain workers, which the animals don't understand. After Snowball is expelled he won't be seen anymore, although he will be quoted many times to be used as a scapegoat everytime something goes wrong. The dogs were brought up and trained as puppies to become very aggressive, they represent the secret army, KGB, who repressed rebellions with violence. Any regime establish the terror state: the police and the secret army are used to spread terror. After Snowball's expulsion Sunday meetings are abolished and this indicates a strong dictatorship. Boxer represents the ignorant mass, working and believing without being able to understand. Also the sheep are its representation: their role is bleating their motto everytime animals start to be doubtful and request for explanation. Old Major's skull is displayed, just like Lenin's mummy: Lenin died in 1924 and his body was mummified and displayed.
In the sixth chapter a new character is presented: Mr Whymper, who is an intermediary between humans and animals to do business: the hens are asked to produce more eggs in order to sell them, so that they could buy materials for the windmill, but, actually, the pigs will buy beer and whiskey. In this chapter a commandment is changed for the first time. The 4th commandment told “no animal shall sleep in a bed”, but after the pigs did, they changed it into “no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets”. Then it is announced that the pigs would get up an hour later in the morning. In this chapter the windmill is destroyed by a strong gale, and Snowball is blamed and the smear campaign against him goes on. The animals decide to rebuild it and Snowball is sentenced to death, exactly like Stalin had Trotzsky killed.
In the 7th chapter the animals immediately start to rebuild the windmill. Napoleon wanted to sell more and more eggs and the hens rebelled, therefore the other animals have the order to keep them unfed, nine hens died. This resembles the peasants' rebellion, in which farmers burned their farms and killed their animals rather than giving their crop to the regime, just like this hens smashed their eggs in order not to give them to Napoleon. Another key event is the public trials established: animals confess their crimes and they are publicly executed. All the dictators are paranoid and afraid of being killed. Stalin took some members of the army and not only, who he didn't trust and organised these Show Trials, in which people were tortured with drugs and electroshock and they ended up confessing crimes they never committed. This was needed to make people afraid. After these public trials another commandment is changed: the sixth became “no animal shall kill any other animal without cause. Finally Beasts of England is abolished, because since the rebellion has come to an end, that song has no purpose anymore.
In the 8th chapter it takes place the Battle of the Windmill: Napoleon sold a pile of timber to Mr Frederick, who paid with forgeries and therefore is sentenced to death. When Frederick got to know it he attacked the farm, the windmill is blown up and many animals and men die. After that the animals are imposed to celebrate this victory, but they are doubtful, especially Boxer, who represents Orwell's belief in the futility of any war and bloodshed. Frederick entered Animal Farm, just like Germany invaded Russia in 1941 to conquer Moscow, despite of the Molotov Pact signed in 1939. After that Napoleon becomes paranoid: his foos has to be tasted because he's afraid of being poisoned and he sleeps with his bodyguards, moreover he has a poet to be exalted. In this chapter a commandment is changed again, the 5th one becomes “no animal shall drink to excess”
In the 9th chapter Boxer is in pain but the always wants to work. One day he falls to the ground and Napoleon says he would be sent to the hospital to be taken care of, but when the van arrives, Benjamin, who is the only one who can read, finds out that he's going to the knacker's. It's the only scene in which Benjamin reacts to what's happening, because he deeply loves Boxer. Squealer says that, before, the van was the knacker's one, but now it's the vet's, who hasn't painted out the old name yet. After three days Squealer says Boxer has died with him on his side, and his last words have been “Long live Comrade Napoleon”. In this chapter Moses is asked to come back to give strength to the animals and a Republic is established in order to make people think they are evolving. Lastly animals find out that all the money have been spent on alcohol.
In the final chapter, the tenth, we are told that many years later the situation has not changed, pigs are still ruling, and moreover they started walking on their hind legs with a whip in their trotter. The motto has therefore changed into 4 legs good, 2 legs better. Pigs and humans resemble more and more, in the final scene they look the same: while they are playing cards, someone is cheating and they start to argue; animals can't tell the pigs from the humans.