In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, how does Major describe the equality of animals?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, Old Major, the boar who symbolizes the German philosopher Karl Marx, emphasizes the equality of the animals in a number of ways, including the following:

  • He assumes that all the animals are equally entitled to benefit from his wisdom.
  • He assumes that all the animals are equally abused by humans. Thus, early in his speech he proclaims that

No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old. No animal in England is free.

  • He assumes that all animals are equally entitled to a life of “comfort and . . . dignity.”
  • He assumes that all animals will ultimately be killed by humans (“no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end”), although he himself lives a long life, dies naturally, and is given a decent burial after his death. Nevertheless, he proclaims that

You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within a year. To that horror we all must come | cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone.

  • He assumes that no animal has any friend or possible ally among the humans, as when he declares that

No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.

  • He thus assumes that all animals, unlike humans, are equal in their ability to behave virtuously.
  • He assumes that all animals, unlike humans, are equal in their desire for, and commitment to, equality.
  • He assumes – as when he asks for a vote about the status of rats – that all the farm animals have an equal right to express and vote about their opinions. (Later, after Old Major dies, this emphasis on political equality quickly evaporates under the regime established by Napoleon.)
  • He assumes that all animals should be viewed, equally, as allies, as when he proclaims, “Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” As he puts it near the end of his speech,

Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.

Of course, most of the rest of the book will endeavor to show how naïve and simple-minded these assumptions are. By assuming that all animals are alike, Old Major neglects the possibility that some animals may be more cunning and evil and selfish than others.