Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm. After getting drunk on Midsummer’s Eve, Mr. Jones fails to return in time to feed his animals. They have been thinking about rebellion anyway, and they take this opportunity to chase away Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, and the human farmworkers. In his ineptness, Mr. Jones is analogous to the czar of Russia, who was unable to hold Russia together during the stress of World War I.
Old Major, a boar previously exhibited as Willingdon Beauty. He is the prize boar whose dream inspires the Animalist Revolution on Manor Farm. Modeled on Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Old Major is highly respected in the barnyard, a capable orator, and an uncompromising ideologue for the Animalist cause. He dies in his sleep before the rebellion can take place.
Snowball, a young boar whose chief rival is Napoleon. Snowball is modeled on Leon Trotsky and so represents intelligence and organizational ability rather than brute force. It is Snowball, for example, who writes the Seven Commandments on the barnyard wall, who has the idea of building the windmill, and who studies the books left behind by Mr. Jones to see what practical benefit he can extract from them. Like Trotsky, Snowball is exiled after the revolution and is falsely made out to be the chief villain of Animal Farm.
Napoleon, a young boar who ousts Snowball and...
(The entire section is 618 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
By necessity, in allegory characters are two-dimensional figures who are created to serve the purposes of the underlying conceptual framework. Because they must have a one-to-one relationship with the thematic targets of the satiric thrust of the work, they cannot possess the complexity of real people in the real world. Some of the minor figures in Animal Farm are clearly representative of simple human qualities. For example, the sheep suggest mindless followers who are content to bleat the simplistic slogan, “Four legs good, two legs bad,” which the pigs teach them. Mollie, the young mare, represents foolish vanity, content to remain in harness as long as she is pampered and petted. Benjamin, the donkey, is the cynicism of one who has seen everything and hopes for nothing. Boxer and Clover are well-meaning but stupid brute workers, sensitive and caring but not intelligent enough to challenge authority.
In terms of the specific allegory Orwell seems to have in mind, however, it is the pigs who are most specifically drawn and who bear the most pointed one-to-one relationship with real figures. Most critics agree that Major is the chief theoretician of socialism, Karl Marx, whereas Snowball is Communism’s first great leader and thinker, Leon Trotsky, and Napoleon is its first dictator, Joseph Stalin. The story thus mirrors in satiric form the history of the Soviet Union from the Russian Revolution to World War II, when Stalin entered into...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Themes and Characters
Modeled on a relatively simple premise, the novel begins as the animals of Manor Farm unite against farmer Jones to overthrow his tyrannical rule. Understandably ecstatic over their sudden and rather unexpected good fortune, the animals create a new order for the future based on equality and equity. The paint is hardly dry on their barnyard manifesto, however, when the hated forces and attitudes that triggered their revolt begin to reemerge, eventually to destroy their dream of emancipation. Orwell undoubtedly passes judgement on the fate of revolution by comparing ideological promises with their practical application.
All animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others.
In essence, Orwell does not condemn revolution but agonizes over the betrayal of its ideals. Possessing superior knowledge, the pigs assume leadership of the farm, taking a first step to replace the tyranny of the past with a new and more terrifying threat for the future. The pigs learn to control the means of communication and literally create their own truth to dispense to the inhabitants of the farm; this is perhaps the most pessimistic aspect of the novel. In the end, pigs are indistinguishable from farmers and the ideals of the revolution seem distant in the face of terror, manipulation, and despair.
Appearing in a dream, the birth of revolution was the inspiration of old Major, a pig renowned for his wisdom and benevolence. But as the dream...
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Appearing in a dream, the birth of revolution was the inspiration of old Major, a pig renowned for wisdom and benevolence. However, as the dream becomes reality, the responsibility of the revolution falls on the two most "pre-eminent" pigs, Snowball and Napoleon. Thinly disguised as the historical principals in the emergence of Soviet Russia, Major and Snowball are Lenin and Trotsky, and Napoleon is Stalin. Consequently, although a clear distinction is made at the beginning of the novel between Jones as the representation of the human element and the community of animals inhabiting the farm, the focus quickly shifts to the animals once Jones is overthrown and specifically to the rivalry that develops between Snowball and Napoleon.
Simultaneously attempting to expose Soviet myth as well as the dangers of totalitarianism, the novel follows the demonic and ruthless Napoleon in his quest for individual power. Driving Snowball into exile, Napoleon imposes his oppressive authority on the animals through his manipulation of language, as demonstrated by Squealer, the voice of the revolution capable of turning
"black into white," and the menacing presence of a private army of watchdogs capable of administering brutal adherence to his regime.
The failure of the revolution is largely the result of self-defeatism, cynicism, and the inability of the animals to either recognize or resist the oppression imposed on them by Napoleon. Even the basic...
(The entire section is 256 words.)
A "large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar," Napoleon becomes the leader of the animals after Snowball is chased off the farm. He, Snowball, and Squealer are the ones who organize the thoughts proclaimed by Old Major into the principles of Animalism. Soon after the revolt of the animals, Napoleon takes nine puppies from their mothers to "educate" them. The puppies end up being his personal bodyguards and secret police force. He grows increasingly removed from the other animals, dining alone and being addressed as "our Leader, Comrade Napoleon." Like Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader who had negotiated with England while making a secret deal with Hitler, Napoleon negotiates with one of Jones's neighbors, Mr. Pilkington, while making a secret agreement with Mr. Frederick, another one of Jones's neighbors. Stalin had a reputation for arranging the death of anyone who stood in his way. After Napoleon chases his former friend Snowball off the farm, he has countless animals killed who confess to being Snowball's allies. Near the end of the novel, he stands on two legs, just like the men he had previously denounced, and announces that Animal Farm's name will revert back to Manor Farm. His name is reminiscent of the historical Napoleon, who became the all-powerful, autocratic Emperor of the French. Like his French counterpart, Napoleon seems to embody the idea that with power comes corruption.
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A "young boar" who, with Napoleon and Squealer, helps to codify Old Major's ideas into the commandments of Animalism. Orwell describes him as "quicker in speech and more inventive" than Napoleon. He is the one who organizes the animals into various committees: "the Egg Production Committee for the hens, the Clean Tails League for the cows, ... the Whiter Wool Movement for the sheep", and various others. He also plans the defense of the farm against the humans which proves useful when Jones and his friends try to retake the farm. Snowball shows his expert use of military strategy during the attack—which becomes known as the Battle of the Cowshed—and is later awarded a medal. Snowball also comes up with the idea of building a windmill to produce electricity. He represents the historical figure of Leon Trotsky. Like Trotsky, who was exiled from Russia by his former partner Stalin, Snowball is eventually run off the farm by Napoleon. After he is gone, Napoleon uses him as a scapegoat, blaming him for everything that goes wrong on the farm. In an allegory of the bloody purge trials that took place in the Soviet Union during the 1930s, the animals confess to scheming in various ways with Snowball for the downfall of the other pigs. Whoever confesses is slaughtered.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
"A small, fat pig" known for being a smooth talker, Squealer reportedly "could turn black into white." He is the propaganda chief for the pigs, the equivalent of the Soviet party newspaper Pravda (which means "Truth" in Russian) in Orwell's allegory. Squealer has an explanation for everything, including why the pigs need to drink the milk the cows produce, why the commandments of Animalism seem different, and why the "ambulance" called to take Boxer to the hospital has a sign for a horse slaughterer on its side. By the story's end, he is so fat that his eyes are mere slits. Always on the lookout for a new slogan, he teaches the sheep a new song to explain why the pigs are suddenly walking on their hind legs. Like any good propaganda boss, he is able to not only explain the present, he is also an expert at rewriting the past. He makes the animals believe, for example, that Snowball never had received the order of "Animal Hero, First Class." But, of course, he had.
(The entire section is 175 words.)
Benjamin, a donkey, is "the oldest animal on the farm, and the worst tempered." He is a sad cynic who believes that whatever the animals do, conditions on the farm will remain equally as bad. Although he usually refuses to read, he is the one who reads the side of the truck that comes to take Boxer away and realizes it belongs to the horse slaughterer. Benjamin is moved to action, but he is too late to save his friend. Benjamin represents the cynical intellectual who refuses to get involved in politics and so fails to affect meaningful change. His cymcism is much like Orwell's own attitude toward life.
One of the two cart-horses on the farm, Boxer's biggest triumph is his work on the windmill. Despite his strength, he is sensitive to the feelings of others. During the Battle of the Cowshed, when he accidentally stuns a stable-boy with blows from his hoofs, he is remorseful: "I have no wish to take life, not even human life." Boxer has such blind faith in Napoleon that he refuses to question anything the pig says, reasoning, "If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right." He constantly repeats the slogans: "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right." In the end, once Boxer's health fails and he is no longer able to work, Napoleon sends him to the horse slaughterer. In Orwell's tale, he represents the common working class who unwittingly accept their base existence, because they believe by hard work they...
(The entire section is 969 words.)