In Chapter 1 of Animal Farm, what is Old Major's main idea? In what different ways does he repeat this idea?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Old Major's main idea is that animals must, and inevitably will, rebel against the tyranny of mankind and take control of their own destiny. That is the only way they will no longer be exploited and reduced to short, miserable lives. He says to the animals:

That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!

He also tells them that all animals must stick together and make common cause against their enemy, mankind. Humans, he says, only look after themselves and their own interests. The animals must take care of themselves by resolving never to adopt the vices of men and by treating each other as equals. 

Old Major repeats his idea of utopic future for the animals first through his speech and then through mentioning a dream he had "of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished." However, rather than recount the dream, he says that in it he remembered an old song he had been taught as a young child, called "Beasts of England." He sings it for them, clearly hoping it will inspire them with its images of an England in which the animals live free of their masters:

Riches more than mind can picture, Wheat and barley, oats and hay, Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels Shall be ours upon that day.

The song rouses the animals to "the wildest excitement," but not to rebellion. All the same, Old Major has planted seeds in the animals' minds, introducing to them the idea that their lives could be better if they refused to accept the status quo.  

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Major's main idea is that the animals will never really proper until humans are removed as their masters and they begin to treat each other equally. He first identifies humans as the enemy to animal prosperity because man is the only creature who consumes food with producing it. He promises that the animals will be free once they get rid of man.

Major then formulates his major points into what will become known as the principles of "Animalism". His first point reinforces his initial idea by saying, "“All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.” He then adds the obvious point that if all animals are comrades, the animals must treat each other equally. They should not imitate men by sleeping in a bed, wearing clothes, drinking, smoking or trading with their human neighbors. At the end, he reinforces his message that all animals are equal and one animal should take advantage of another animal. To reinforce this thought, he teaches the animals the song "Beasts of England" to help them remember his vision. Unfortunately, three days after giving the speech, Old Major dies in his sleep and his revolution is left in the hands of the pigs.