Book Summaries Literature

Animal Farm Summary (7/10)

Animal Farm Summary (7/10) 1Animal Farm Summary (7/10) 2

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”

Animal farm by George Orwell is a story about communism. The animals represented the workers who toiled all day, with the humans their capitalistic overlords, living from the fruits of the animals’ labor without giving them fair compensation. To make things worse, Mr. Jones was a neglectful farmer who made life miserable for his animals. His recklessness prompted Old Major, a boar, to make a speech. In the speech, he pointed out how humans got them to do all the hard labor and get none of the rewards. He encouraged the animals to rebel against their masters, and so they did.

The animals were now autonomous, free to govern themselves as they pleased. But the idealistic vision didn’t take very long to collapse. Animals differed in their natural abilities. Some animals were work horses, some were unintelligent, others were wily and deceptive, while some were inspirational. Each animal had its own peculiarities, but what emerged on top of this hierarchy were the pigs. The pigs were the cleverest and most corrupt animals, they naturally emerged as the politicians of the farm.

Three of them (Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer) took control over the organization of animal society. Each had their own unique style, strategy, and strengths. But they argued about everything. They mostly spent their time indoctrinating the rest of the animals, bickering over policies, and enjoying the privileges of human pleasures, such as a warm bed and alcohol. And seven commandments were constructed for the animals to obey.

  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.

The pigs regularly violated these commandments, but with some verbal acrobatics, were easily able to evade the scrutiny of the other animals. They justified their hypocrisy by reminding everyone how critical they were to the well-being of the farm. Without them, animal farm would erupt into to total chaos. This kept the animals in line.

Snowball simplified the commandments of animism which were summarized as “Four legs good, two legs bad”. This eventually became a meaningless propagandist phrase that the sheep recited to curb dissent.

Snowball and Napoleon argued about whether they should fix the windmill. Snowball’s point was that the electricity generated form the windmill would make the lives of the animals easier, and would reduce their workload, but Napoleon thought that getting them to work on the windmill instead of the farm would result in starvation. The conflict between the two pigs never ended. Snowball finally succeeded in chasing Napoleon off the farm and rules the farm autonomously.

Snowball took control of the farm.

After many years passed, some animals got old while others died. Most of them don’t remember the days before the revolution. Despite their difficult lives, the animals took pride in their labor. But they were surprised to see that the pigs had learned how to walk on two feet.

The rules were erased, forgotten and rewritten. The only commandment that was visible was “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

One day, humans were invited to the farm by Napoleon, including Mr.Pilkington, who was impressed at how Napoleon managed to exploit the animals for such little pay.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The underlying insinuation of this story is that political systems, even if they are aimed at reducing equality, will have in unequal outcomes in the realm of power. Those who thirst for power are a universal breed, they transcend all socially constructed systems. Orwell’s use of animals suggests that there is an unchanging biological nature that cannot be subverted. It is not that a pig wants to manipulate, or that sheep unthinkingly recite propaganda, they are built to do so.

The message of Animal Farm is pessimistic, but true. There will always be people who are manipulative and clever, and these will climb any political hierarchy that exists. They will change the rules to suit their purposes, or they will ignore the rules altogether. It is human nature, after-all, to deceive  – the attempt to construct a utopian society where those at the top of the hierarchy do not exploit and where everyone is equal will always be futile.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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