In Animal Farm, how does Old Major emphasize his idea of Animalism?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Old Major brings out his idea of Animalism in a couple of ways.  The first is to collect the animals in detailing his dream.  In presenting Animalism in a dream to the other animals, it brings to light how their world is in fundamental need of changing.  This leads into another way of how Old Major emphasize his ideas.  He stresses to the animals that the current system is one in which the Animals are being exploited at the hands of humans.  This world is one in which the Animals are constantly under siege from the humans, exploited and used in so far as their work capacity and production will continue.  For example, Old Major draws the direct comparison that Boxer will be used and respected by the humans until he is no longer able to work.  At this point, Old Major argues that he will be sent to the "Knacker's."  In contrasting his dream with how bad things are for the animals, Animalism is emphasized in another manner.  The singing of the song "Beasts of England" at the end of the chapter is yet another way in which Old Major emphasizes his idea of Animalism, in song, in a manner that enables the animals to fully embrace the idea of their own condition being seen as something secondary to what can be.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Because of his age and influence, Old Major's words command respect among the other animals. When he preaches his Utopian ideals, they listen and are convinced by his eloquence and the simplicity of his ideals.

"I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and before I die, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. I have had a long life, I have had much time for thought..."
(Orwell, Animal Farm, msxnet.org)

Old Major uses three appeals: an appeal to wisdom -- he is old, and therefore he is wise; an appeal to emotion -- he will die soon and so his words are valuable; an appeal to fear -- if the animals do not revolt, they will continue to live in slavery. By composing his thoughts in a way that places the animals as "good" versus the humans as "bad," he sets out his ideas in a way that can be simply understood -- "All animals are equal" -- and easily implemented -- "Everyone should work for the common good." Unfortunately, the other animals fail to see how the pigs use their intellect to avoid work, and so Old Major's ideals are lost.

 

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jasminatt | eNotes Newbie

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Orwell describes old major as a ‘majestic looking pig’ with a ‘benevolent appearance’, suggesting his status among the other animals as revered and respected. In his dream of rebellion, Old Major shows himself to be an ambitious character whose vehemence about the commitment necessary for the rebellion indicates his assertiveness.

Old Major represents Lenin and Marx, the ‘founders’ of communist Russia. Lenin was a communist revolutionary who led the Bolshevik revolution and became the first leader of the Soviet Union. Marx was a German philosopher who called the proletariat to unite against capitalism, which is exactly what Old Major does with his speech, saying ‘only get rid of man and the produce of our labour would be our own’ and when he tells the animals they have a duty of ‘enmity towards man and all his ways’.

In his speech, Old Major shows himself to be ambitious. He stresses the importance of being committed to animalism, saying ‘and remember comrades your resolution must never falter’; the speech brings the introduction of ‘comrades’ , the key ingredient of successful animalism (communism), but as the novel progresses and the nature of animalism is forgotten, Napoleon becomes ‘leader’. Old Major inspires the animals to believe in a ‘golden future time’ when all animals will be free. He further inspires the animals through a range of literary techniques. He uses persuasive devices, such as rhetorical questions, personal pronouns, contrast, exclamations, imperatives, emotive language and listing. Personal pronouns, ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘this life of ours’, shows the animals that they are victims united against man, with the emotive language, such as ‘miserable and ‘cruel’, backing this up; the contrast of ‘night and day; body and soul’ stresses the gravity of the situation and the need for dedication to rebellion; exclamations like ‘for the overthrow of the human race!’ keeps the message of his speech clear and imperatives, ‘we must’ and ‘pass on this message’ further highlights the necessity for change; the listing of all the animals enhances the idea that ‘no animal in England is free’.

It is hard to determine whether Old Major leaves behind a legacy on the farm. For a while he remains an almost god-like heroic figure head, symbolizing the success of the rebellion, and his memory inspires the animals to work diligently. But as Napoleon turns the democracy into a dictatorship, Old Major and his tenets are forgotten. Throughout the story, his skull is kept on display in honor of the initial revolutionary, but at the end of the novel it becomes just ‘a boar’s skull’ and we learn that ‘the skull had already been buried’.

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