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George Orwell called Animal Farm a "fairy story," though it is also an historical allegory. Virtually all of the characters in the novella are animals, and all of the characters and their actions represent real characters and actions centered in Russia before and during World War II.
Old Major is a prize boar who is older enough to have seen many things. Near the end of his life he has a vision (a dream) which he wants to share with the other animals on Manor Farm. Old Major enumerates all of the ills and injustices which have been done to the animals on this farm (in this country), and he talks about a time when the animals will unite together in a great rebellion to take over the farm. Old Major represents Karl Marx, a German philosopher who advocated workers uniting against the tyranny of the ruling class.
The animals have all gathered to hear his speech. Old Major does not know when the rebellion will happen but he warns the animals about some things they must never forget once it does. He gives this advice in speech form:
"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."
"Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 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. All the habits of Man are evil. 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."
Once Old Major dies (unexpectedly, soon after this speech) and the rebellion takes place (also unexpectedly, with little violence or bloodshed), the animals (in truth, just the pigs) codify these principles into seven specific commandments which they must all obey:
THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equal.
As the story progresses, of course, these commandments are ignored and broken, causing a new--and arguably worse--form of tyranny. The ideals Old Major outlined in his speech were astute and far-sighted, despite the fact that they were virtually ignored by those who craved power at any cost.
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