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The genre of Animal Farm is defined as a long work of prose fiction. The first component of the genre is that it is written in prose, as opposed to verse or poetry. The term "fiction" means that it is concerned with imaginary people or events. Unlike such nonfiction genres as history or autobiography, fictional works are not primarily focused on the lives or actions of real people. Short works of prose fiction are called "short stories," medium length works are called novellas, and long works (usually over 40,000 words) are called novels.

Another major generic distinction is between novels and plays or dramas. A play consists primarily of dialogue and is meant to be performed by actors pretending to be the characters the author has imagined. A novel is designed to be read rather than performed and usually contains a mixture of dialogue and narration.

There are many different types or "subgenres" of novels. Animal Farm can be described as an "animal story" because its main characters are animals, and as an "allegory" because the animal characters represent certain human character types. The use of animals to represent moral types of humans is characteristic of the "fable," although traditional fables tend to be very short and simple. Finally, Orwell himself referred to the work as a fairytale.

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Animal Farm is a political satire written in the form of an animal fable. Orwell's aim in writing the story is to satirize the political system of the USSR under Stalin. He does this by using the same kind of characters and simple, almost childlike language one would expect to find in an animal fable, such as the fables of Aesop.

On the surface, Animal Farm reads like a fairy tale—in fact, it's subtitled as such—but in substance it's a completely different kind of story, one that relates to the abuse of power and how even the best of intentions, even the most enlightened of political ideologies, can so easily lead to hell. This is where the allegorical nature of Animal Farm comes into play. The hidden meaning of the allegory here is not too hard to find: Orwell holds up a mirror to the history of the Soviet Union and allows us to spot which historical personage he's referring to (Old Major is Lenin, Snowball is Trotsky, Napoleon is Stalin, and so on).

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George Orwell himself called Animal Farm a fairytale. A fairytale is a story about magical and imaginary happenings, creatures, and places. Animal Farm does fit that definition, as in real life animals don't talk, plan, or involve themselves in revolutions, and pigs don't turn into people. A fairytale is also a story that is fantastic and could never happen, so Orwell is being ironic as well as factual, or saying the opposite of what he means, in calling the book a fairytale.

This leads to the second genre the book falls under, which is allegory: an allegory is a story that mirrors reality but in a disguised way to deliver a lesson. In Animal Farm, using animals to depict real people like Trotsky (Snowball) and Stalin (Napoleon), Orwell is depicting what he believes has already happened (what is the reality, not a fairytale) in the Soviet Union: what started out as a "people's revolution" has turned into a brutal tyranny in which people are worse off than they were before.

This leads to a third genre Animal Farm fits: the fable. A fable is a story, usually using animals, that has a moral lesson for humans. Animal Farm is a cautionary tale with the moral that if people aren't careful about guarding the true meaning of their language and their freedoms, they will be oppressed.

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Animal Farm could be described as satire, allegory, fantasy, or an animal tale.

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