Animal Farm: Plot

The plot structure of George Orwell’s Animal Farm is fairly simple and straightforward. The first few chapters are concerned with the rising action: the animals’ rebel and seizure of the farm, Snowball and Napoleon’s quarrel for leadership, expulsion of Snowball, and Napoleon becoming the dictatorial leader. The climax is reached when he declares Animal Farm a republic and elects himself as the President. The true reign of terror then begins, and he degenerates in the falling action into a duplication of a human being.

Manor Farm is a small farm in England run by the harsh and often drunk Mr. Jones. One night, a boar named Old Major gathers all the animals of Manor Farm together and gives a speech in which he reveals that men cause all the misery that animals endure. Old Major says that all animals are equal and urges them to join together to rebel. He teaches them a revolutionary song called "Beasts of England." Old Major dies soon after, but two pigs named Snowball and Napoleon adapt his ideas into the philosophy of Animalism. Three months later, the animals defeat Jones in an unplanned uprising. The farm is renamed "Animal Farm."

The ingenuity of the pigs, the immense strength of a horse named Boxer, and the absence of parasitical humans makes Animal Farm prosperous. The animals post the Seven Commandments of Animalism on the side of the barn. The commandments state that all animals are equal and no animal may act like a human by sleeping in a bed, walking on two legs, killing other animals, drinking alcohol, and so on.

A fight for power soon develops between the two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon. The rivalry comes to a head over Snowball's idea to build a windmill. Finally, Napoleon summons dogs he has secretly reared and has them chase Snowball from Animal Farm. Napoleon tells the other animals that Snowball was a "bad influence"; eliminates the animals' right to vote, and takes "the burden" of leadership on himself. He sends around a pig named Squealer to do his propaganda.

Three weeks later Napoleon decides they should build the windmill after all. The animals set to work, with Boxer leading. This reduces the productivity of the farm, and all the animals but the pigs get less to eat. The pigs begin to trade with other farms, move into Mr. Jones's farmhouse, and start to sleep in beds. This forbidden behaviour confuses the animals, but when they check the Commandment about beds, it reads: "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets."

Over the next few years, the situation deteriorates furthur. The windmill gets destroyed by storm and human attack. Napoleon blames all catastrophes on the "traitor" Snowball, and uses fear tactics, information control, and deadly purges of anyone he considers an enemy to strengthen his power over the farm. Meanwhile, the pigs secretly continue to rewrite the Commandments and all of Animal Farm's history to support their lies. They give the animals less food and demand more work. When Boxer, the most devoted worker on the farm, becomes old and feeble, the pigs sell him and use the proceeds to buy whiskey.

Years pass. The pigs teach themselves to walk on two legs and begin carrying whips. When the animals look at the Seven Commandments, they have been replaced by the statement: "All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others." The pigs make peace with their human neighbors and have a feast. Looking in at the party of elites through the farmhouse window, the common animals can no longer distinguish between pigs and human beings.

Orwell relates the story as though he were writing history. His presentation appears factual without moralizing. The irony of the book, which is a dystopian allegory, is that at the end, with the pigs in control, things are exactly the same as at the beginning when the humans are in control.

 

 

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 May 2018, 1:29 PM