Who is Old Major in Animal Farm ?  

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.