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Old Major is the "prize Middle White boar" who had a strange dream about which he wanted to tell his fellow farm animals.

His real name is really Willingdon Beauty, but he goes by Old Major. He is quite "highly regarded," and so everyone is willing to come and listen after their daily chores are done. He has a "wise and benevolent appearance," and he calls the others "comrades," a word very much associated with Communism and the dream of equality. He describes the "hunger and overwork" that the animals endure under the leadership of Mr. Jones, the farmer, and his family, and he argues that the humans are the only creatures that consume without producing. Why then, Old Major asks, should humans rule over the animals? He points out how every group of animals on the farm contributes by producing something. Old Major convinces the animals that "All animals are equal" and that humans are the enemy, and he inspires the animals to plan a rebellion, throwing them "into the wildest excitement" with the song "Beasts of England." Then he dies just three days later.

We can interpret Old Major as a symbol of Vladimir Lenin, whose real name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (both he and Old Major are called by catchier names than their originals). Lenin served as the head of the government of Russia from 1917 to 1922 and then the Soviet Union until his death in 1924. He was a political activist who opposed Tsarist rule. When the last Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated his power in 1917, Lenin soon rose to power. However, he died relatively soon after this (just as Old Major died after inciting rebellion), and Joseph Stalin rose to power in his place. Stalin is symbolized by the character Napoleon, and Mr. Jones, the farmer, seems to symbolize Tsar Nicholas II, an incompetent ruler who loses power.

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Old Major is the oldest pig, a "prize Middle White boar" on Manor Farm. He is described as  

...twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his tushes had never been cut (4). 

Most important, Old Major is the ideological inspiration for the animals' revolution and the formation of Animal Farm. His speech to an assembly of all the animals in Chapter One makes the animals understand that they are exploited on the farm, that Jones views them only as commodities to be used up and discarded. "The whole of our labor," he tells the animals, "is stolen from us by human beings" (7). Men were the enemy, he told them, and only by overthrowing Man could the animals ever be free. He went on to teach the animals a song, "Beasts of England" that would become the anthem of Animal Farm, at least until the pigs banned it. Old Major died soon after his speech, but it would become a founding moment on the road to overthrowing the humans and establishing what they hoped would be an ideal society of animals. 

It is important to understand that Animal Farm is meant to be an allegory of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union. In this context, Old Major should recall the revolutionary writings of Karl Marx, whose writings, particularly the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, are echoed in animal form in Old Major's speech. Like Old Major, Marx was long dead when the Russian Revolution broke out, and the course of events in the Soviet Union was far from what he had envisioned.

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