A satire is a work which uses humour, irony or wit to highlight the vices, follies and pretensions of individuals, institutions, communities or ideas. Animal Farm satirises the breakdown of political ideology and the misuse of power, and does so in the ingenious form of a beast fable. The major players are animals but their failings are all too recognisably human. They begin with an idealistic attempt to form a new society, liberated from the tyranny of humans and founded on the principle of equality and freedom for everyone, but it all goes wrong as the pigs take over. Backed up by the brute power of the dogs, they appropriate all manner of comforts and even luxuries for themselves, while reducing the the other animals to the same condition of slavery that they suffered under humans.
Orwell's point that the pigs are really just the same as the human tyrants they replaced is underlined in the famous ending to the novel, as the pigs mingle with humans to the extent that it becomes impossible to distinguish between them:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.(chapter 10)
The novel, then, exposes the perversion of political ideals and the corruption of power which occur all too regularly in human societies. Most obviously perhaps, it functions as an attack on Stalinist Russia, where the original Communist Revolution degenerated into war, interior power struggles and the emergence of a grim totalitarian regime under Josef Stalin. However, the satire of Animal Farm is not tied to any one time or place. Its lessons are universal, and conveyed in memorable fashion, and as such it endures as a powerful and relevant literary work.