What does Old Major's speech in Chapter 1 of Animal Farm reveal about his character?

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Old Major shares his vision of animals running their own farm in a barn meeting in chapter 1.  All animals attend.  Old Major is well-respected on the farm, and the animals all willingly come to hear what he has to say.

Old Major addresses the other animals as “comrades” to focus on the camaraderie of the group.  It is a typical communist technique.  He gets their attention by telling them that he is about to die.  This is a flagrant appeal to emotion.  It serves both to make everything he says seem more important and to get everyone’s attention.

Old Major fills his speech with high-powered rhetoric.  For example, he states that “no animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old” (ch 1).  This is intended to get the animals excited and angry.  Old Major continues to describe the farm in a way that is very biased against humans.  Animals are slaves, and no animals are ever free, he tells them.  He accuses humans of stealing what animals produce.

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. ...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. (ch 1)

Old Major continues to stir the animals up, finishing with a rousing rebellion song, “Beasts of England.”  This shows that Old Major has thought through how to make his speech memorable.

As the enotes character analysis of Old Major notes, “He represents Karl Marx, the German political philosopher who wrote, with Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto(1848) that called the workers of the world to unite against the ruling classes” (enotes, Animal Farm character analysis, other characters, Old Major).  His speech shows that Old Major is a thinker and philosopher at heart, but that he is also the master of revolutionary rhetoric and persuasive strategies.  Old Major does die, but he can be reasonably sure that the others will pick up his rallying cry and continue the revolution.

For more on Old Major, read here: http://www.enotes.com/animal-farm/other-characters

Read a summary and analysis of chapter 1 here: http://www.enotes.com/animal-farm/chapter-summary-analysis


Enotes. "Animal Farm." Enotes.com. Enotes.com. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.enotes.com/animal-farm/other-characters>.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm;. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.

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