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Discuss the significance of Old Major's dream to the development of the plot.

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zeonyuway | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2009 at 7:11 PM via web

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Discuss the significance of Old Major's dream to the development of the plot.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:12 PM (Answer #1)

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In Ch.1 the pig Old Major, uses all his oratorical skill in winning over all the animals and brainwashing them into accepting his revolutionary ideas. He first captures their attention by saying that he had a dream the previous night but delays revealing to them what he had dreamt about and thus arouses their interest and curiosity:

"Comrades, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last night. But I will come to the dream later."

Only at the end of a fairly long speech in which he indoctrinates them with the ideas of a socialist society and only after he had stirred them up into rebelling against their human masters, he reveals the details of his dream:

"And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished."

He tells the animals that he cannot describe the dream to them and becomes nostalgic and reveals to them the words of the song that he used to sing when he was a small child:

"Many years ago, when I was a little pig, my mother and the other sows used to sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and the first three words. I had known that tune in my infancy, but it had long since passed out of my mind. Last night, however, it came back to me in my dream."

The song describes a utopia where all the animals will enjoy complete freedom and a prosperous life, but this utopia can be achieved only after a struggle:

For that day we all must labour, 
Though we die before it break; 
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, 
All must toil for freedom's sake.

The significance of the dream which contains this revolutionary song about the struggle which the animals have to undergo to attain their utopia is that it provides the vision and the mission for the animals to revolt against Mr.Jones and to establish their supposedly free society. However, towards the end of the novel we realize how foolish Old Major's ideas were in actual reality.

In "Animal Farm" George Orwell uses the pig Old Major to represent Karl Marx. George Orwell uses Old Major and the other animals in "Animal Farm" to represent the ideas of Karl Marx and the Bolshevik Party. The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx are the same as the opinions that Old Major has about a revolution in "Animal Farm."  The speech that Old Major gives in the barn to the other animals parallels Marx’s philosophy on a perfect communist and socialistic society. As Old Major says, the animals have been living all their lives just to help Mr. Jones:

"Why then do we continue in this miserable 
condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings."

This belief is similar to the beliefs of Karl Marx, who believed that a minority of people holding the power was a main flaw of capitalism. Old Major told the animals he envisioned a time when all of the animals could reap the rewards of their labor:

"but I know, as surely as I see this straw beneath my feet, that sooner or later justice will be done. Fix your eyes on that, comrades, throughout the short remainder of your lives! And above all, pass on this message of mine to those who come after you, so that future generations shall carry on the struggle until it is victorious."

Marx also believed that a socialist society, where everyone received  equal amounts of goods, was the best economical philosophy. Also in "Animal Farm" the animals revolted after Old Major’s death just as the Bolsheviks revolted after Marx’s death. Old Major’s speech influenced the pigs, especially Napoleon, to begin to prepare for a revolution. Marx’s philosophy influenced Lenin and Stalin to begin the Bolshevik Party. The ways which Napoleon uses Old Major’s ideas are similar to the ways Stalin uses Marx’s ideas. Both Napoleon and Stalin distort the philosophies for their own  use. The final results of Old Major’s and Marx’s ideas are very extreme instances of what they envisioned to be a perfect society.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:19 PM (Answer #2)

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In Chapter 1, Old Major dreams of an old song from his childhood that he had forgotten.  This song was "The Beasts of England."

The words to the song that Old Major remembered formed the basis of the rebellion that he raised against Farmer Jones.

The words of the song tell of a utopia where animals are no longer abused.  Of course, the rest of the story depicts what happens when the animals try to put this utopia into practice.

So, the significance of the dream is that it provides the vision that drives the revolution.  This vision, of course, will not be realized and the animals will still have all the problems they have before Old Major dreams.

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