Old Major

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546

Extended Old Major Character Analysis

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Old Major is the oldest pig on the farm. He is also the prize pig of Mr. Jones’s and is greatly respected by the other animals at Manor Farm. In the novel's allegory of the Russian Revolution, Old Major likely represents the political economist Karl Marx, whose Communist Manifesto advocated for a revolution from the working class, and Vladimir Lenin, one of the main revolutionary leaders in the communist uprising.

Old Major has a strange dream and expresses the dream to the farm animals in a large gathering. There he says that the humans, such as Mr. Jones, are evil and gluttonous. He says that humans use the farm animals for their products and return no benefits to them. He claims that "Man is the only creature that consumes without producing." Old Major calls the animals to join together in saying, “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.” In doing so he asks the animals to rebel against the tyranny of the human race so that the animals may make their labor their own. Old Major’s complaint allegorically points to the faults of Tsarist rule in the Russian Empire and the working classes’ wish for more control. After his speech, he leads the animals in a song called Beasts of England, causing an uproar, which wakes Mr. Jones. After Mr. Jones shoots into the darkness, the animals scatter and go to sleep. However, Old Major has sown the seeds of rebellion in the animals, launchinging the process of revolt.

While Old Major represents Karl Marx and his economic and political ideas—such as the equal sharing of labor and resources—Old Major also represents Vladimir Lenin, a Russian revolutionary leader who led the overthrow of Tsarist rule in Russia. Like Old Major, Lenin incited rebellion but died not long after establishing the Soviet Union and was unable to oversee the process of recreating society under Communist ideals. Before his death, Lenin expressed concern over the two very different men who would assume power: Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, who are represented by Snowball and Napoleon, respectively.

Old Major places no animal above another. The other pigs take Old Major’s ideology and name it Animalism, which can be compared to socialism and communism. The pigs also write the tenets of Animalism onto the barn wall, putting Old Major’s ideas into writing, essentially codifying them into law. Last, the pigs rename the farm “Animal Farm,” which allegorically points to the renaming of the Russian Empire as the Soviet Union.

Old Major serves as a catalyst and influencer, but his role within the novel is brief. While his death does lead to the animals' revolution, it also creates a power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball. Although Old Major had an ideal dream for the animals, this dream becomes distorted by the struggles for power between the pigs. In the end, his dream is ruined by the farm’s return to the same dictatorial leadership that Mr. Jones held over it. George Orwell eschews a cynical comparison between the political turmoil in Soviet Russia and the failings of Animal Farm, showing that even an ideal dream such as Old Major’s can be destroyed by the corrupting nature of power.

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