At a Glance

  • Animal Farm is a satirical political allegory that recasts the Russian Revolution with animals in place of humans. Old Major is Vladimir Lenin. Napoleon and Snowball correspond to Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky respectively. After the communist revolution, Stalin exiled Trotsky just as Napoleon exiles Snowball.
  • Orwell uses dramatic irony in scenes where the reader knows more than the animals, such as when Squealer claims that Boxer died in a hospital while receiving the best medical treatment. In reality, Napoleon sent Boxer to a glue factory to be slaughtered.
  • Orwell draws on traditional fairy tales, folktales, and fables in Animal Farm. He subtitled the novel "A Fairy Story," indicating that the narrative has fantastical elements that nevertheless impart an important moral lesson, like traditional fairy tales do.

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(Novels for Students)

Point of View
The third-person point of view traditionally used for fables and fairy tales is the one Orwell chooses for Animal Farm, his tale of an animal rebellion against humans in which the pigs become the powerful elite. The storyteller in this case, as is also typical of the fable, tells the reader only what is needed to follow the story and the bare minimum about each character, without overt commentary. Orwell focuses on the bewilderment of the simple beasts—the horses, birds, and sheep—in the face of their manipulation by the pigs, eliciting sympathy from the reader.

Animal Farm takes place at an unspecified time on a British farm near Willingdon, a town that is mentioned only in passing. The farm is first called Manor Farm, later renamed Animal Farm and, finally, Manor Farm once more. Manor— which can mean the land overseen by a lord, the house of a lord, or a mansion—associates the farm with the upper, or ruling, class. Orwell focuses entirely on activities taking place at the farm, except for a brief scene in Willingdon when Jones asks his neighbors to help him. By keeping a narrow focus, Orwell makes the location in England unimportant.

The narrator in the novel functions as a storyteller, telling a fable Orwell gives the fable ironic overtones by using a naive narrator, one who refuses to comment on events in the novel that the reader understands to be false. After Muriel tells Clover that the fourth commandment of Animalism reads, "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets," the narrator declares: "Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so." Both the reader and the narrator know the truth of the matter—that the words of the commandment have been changed—but the narrator does not admit it. The tension between what the narrator knows but does not say and what the reader knows is dramatic irony.

Dramatic Irony
With dramatic irony an audience, or reader, understands the difference between the truth of a situation and what the characters know about it, while the characters remain ignorant of the...

(The entire section is 5,938 words.)