Animal Farm Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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Describe Old Major's speech in Animal Farm. What significance does it have?

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Old Major makes his speech to the other animals in Chapter One of Animal Farm. To begin, his speech is inspired by two facts: firstly, Old Major thinks that he does not have long left to live and, therefore, wishes to pass on his knowledge and wisdom. Secondly, he has had a strange dream which he would like to share with the animals.

Old Major goes on to explain to the animals that their life is "miserable" and "short" because Man, the only animal who "consumes without producing," has made it that way. Man is tyrannical, cruel and self-interested: he does not care about the animals on his farm, only about taking the fruits of their labor. As such, Old Major believes that the only possible solution is for the animals to overthrow Man. This idea is linked to his dream, in which Man had vanished and the world was very different. It also reminds him of a song that his mother used to sing to him called "Beasts of England," which Old Major teaches to the others.

Old Major's speech is significant because it plants the idea of rebellion in the minds of the other animals. For the first time, they start to see Man as the true enemy and themselves as the victims of real oppression. As such, the speech is both educational and inspiring. 

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sboeman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Old Major was a well-respected boar on Animal Farm. He recently had a dream and felt the need to share this "vision" with the other animals on the farm, a vision of the animals overthrowing their human oppressors and running the farm themselves.

He began to describe to the animal assembly that man is their enemy and no animal is free until they rid themselves of him: "Man is the only enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever" (29).

He continue his disapproval of man and rallies the animals to begin planning for a rebellion-maybe not anytime soon, but he stressed the need for it sometime in the future. He teaches them the rally song "Beasts of England" during the meeting, which gets the animals all excited, awakening Mr. Jones, the farmer.

It can be argued that Old Major represents Karl Marx, and that his speech motivated the animals to take action and rebel against their oppressors.