In George Orwell’s allegorical tale of revolution among the animals on a farm, Animal Farm, sleeping in a bed with a mattress is considered a symbol of higher status at odds with the egalitarian ideals that inspired the revolt.
Early in Orwell’s novel, Major, the reigning farmer’s prized boar, has the other animals assemble so that he can address them. Once gathered before him, Major sets forth the foundation upon which a revolutionary movement intended to remove Mr. Jones, the farmer who owns the assembled animals, will be launched. Major’s comments are intended to ensure the other animals of the justification for the revolt and of the system that will replace the farmer’s rule, a system that will eliminate any semblance of hierarchy. Once Mr. Jones is gone, the animals will all be equal, with none entitled to live better than the others. Old Major declares,
And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade .... And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannise over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.
Note in the above passage the mention of sleeping in a bed. Mr. Jones has enjoyed the privilege of sleeping inside a house in a bed with a mattress (and sheets, a point that will come into play later in the story). Also note that under the new political regime that “all animals are equal.”
Animal Farm was Orwell’s depiction of the political machinations that accompanied the overthrow of the Russian czar and the imposition of a new, in many ways worse, dictatorship. As with the Bolshevik movement that triumphed in Russia, the pigs in Animal Farm emerge atop a hierarchy that was never supposed to exist, and that hierarchy will involve the use of beds inside a farmhouse. In the following passage, Orwell’s narrator describes the pigs’ ascent and the role of beds in symbolizing the perversion of the ideological principles that were supposed to guide the revolutionary movement:
It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and took up their residence there. Again the animals seemed to remember that a resolution against this had been passed in the early days, and again Squealer was able to convince them that this was not the case. It was absolutely necessary, he said, that the pigs, who were the brains of the farm, should have a quiet place to work in .... Nevertheless, some of the animals were disturbed when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing−room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds.
While the pigs attempt to rationalize their use of the farmhouse and the beds as consistent with the requirements of leadership, the use of the beds leads to increasing animosity among the animals. The amendments (or guiding principles) that underlay the revolutionary movement are now being reinterpreted to suit the pigs’ self-imposed positions of importance, with the aforementioned sheets representing the new point of contention.
While the rest of the animals on the farm are eventually convinced that the pigs’ justification for the use of the beds sounds legitimate, the increasing imposition of a hierarchical governing structure continues to rankle some of them, a development that meets its apotheosis with the appearance of a new set of revolutionary principles.
The Seven Commandments intended to guarantee equity—the fourth of which read, “No animal shall sleep in a bed”—have been replaced with one: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.” With this, Orwell’s point about the subversion of legitimate revolution by determined and ruthless personalities such as were personified by the Bolsheviks in real life and the pigs in Animal Farm has come to fruition.