In Animal Farm, who does Old Major represent in the real life revolution?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Animal Farm by George Orwell is better understood with some knowledge of the history of Communism and the Russian Revolution (1917) although, it can be enjoyed without any such awareness of its historical significance. Although the animals do represent recognizable characters from the Revolution, such as Joseph Stalin (Napoleon) and Leon Trotsky (Snowball), Orwell felt disillusioned about how socialist ideals are so easily corrupted and about how, as he expresses in Animal Farm, "some (animals) are more equal than others."

Old Major, the pig who actually starts the rebellion with his proud speech, his belief that humans are "the only real enemy we have" and the song Beasts of England, is seen as a combination of Karl Marx, the founder of Communism and Vladimir Lenin, the first president of the USSR. It is Old Major who introduces the theories and ideals on which the rebellion is based and it is his intention to simplify it suitably so that the animals can understand much as Lenin was the main facilitator or catalyst in the start of the Russian Revolution. 

As Karl Marx stood for the rights of the people, so Old Major intended to institute a philosophy that would free the animals from human tyranny, creating an equal and fair system with no class structure. Old Major dies before he can see his dreams become reality much as Karl Marx died before his theories could change the face of history. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Old Major represents Vladimir Lenin.  Old Major is the source of the new world order of Animalism.  He is the individual who gives voice to the philosophy that will guide the animals on the farm.  His first word to the animals is "Comrade," representing a direct link to Lenin's ideas of Communism that guided Russia for so long.  Like Lenin, Old Major is seen as the source of all change.  He is received with a wealth of support from the animals.  Similar to Lenin, he articulates a vision of unity in which the majority has power.  Like Lenin, Old Major is able to point to a specific enemy against which all should confront:

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not  give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he  cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that  will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung fertilises it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin.

Old Major represents the Communism that Lenin articulated.  It was a vision that predicated equality and a disenfranchisement of those in the position of power.  Old Major's Animalism is the allegorical representation of Lenin's Communism.  

Orwell shows Old Major's vision was something he was able to articulate towards the end of his life but lose control of it once he died.  Old Major dies after the singing of "Beasts of England," a moment when there is a shared consciousness amongst all of the animals.  He is not around to see how Napoleon and Snowball vie for power, only to have the former eliminate the presence of the latter.  Like Lenin who was entombed for all to see, Old Major's head is put on display for all to see.  In these connections, one sees how Old Major and his Animalism represents Lenin and his brand of Communism in Russian history.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial