Allusions to the Russian Revolution: From the outset, George Orwell was transparent about the fact that the Russian Revolution was the antecedent for Animal Farm and that its characters were modeled after particular individuals. Though Orwell takes liberty with timelines and simplifies events to better fit the structure of the allegory, readers can draw direct parallels between the animals in the text and historical figures:
- Old Major, who defines the principles of Animalism, is commonly interpreted as Karl Marx, the philosopher, economist, and writer who wrote The Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels in 1848. Other interpretations associate Old Major with Vladimir Lenin, whose death gave way to Joseph Stalin’s rise to power.
- Snowball’s participation in early administration and development of the farm is modeled after Leon Trotsky’s leadership and political involvement in the Soviet Union. Just as Snowball is exiled by Napoleon, so too was Trotsky exiled by Stalin.
- Napoleon is a representation of Stalin himself, who led the Soviet Union as a dictator from his rise to power in the mid 1920s until his death in 1953.
- Squealer is sometimes connected to Vyacheslav Molotov, who acted as Stalin’s prime minister during the 1930s. Molotov was known for issuing death warrants on Stalin’s behalf. He can also be read more generally as a symbol of state-run propaganda.
- The dogs symbolize the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD. Stalin’s private police force, the NKVD (later known as the KGB) enacted a campaign of political terror on Stalin’s behalf during the 1930s, executing those who posed a threat to his authority.
- Boxer represents the proletariat, or the working-class population, in the Soviet Union.
- Moses, the raven, represents faith and, in the context of Russian history, the Russian Orthodox Church. Initially prohibited after the revolution, the church was allowed back into Soviet life during World War II. Moses makes a similar return later in the novel.
- Mr. Jones represents Czar Nicholas II, who was widely considered an unqualified and unprepared military leader.
- Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick are representations of other Western nations, namely the United States and Great Britain as Pilkington and Germany as Frederick. All three nations were initially hostile to the Soviet Union, but became allies later on. During World War II, the Soviet Union initially allied itself with Germany, but realigned with the US and Great Britain after Hitler’s Germany broke a peace treaty and invaded the Soviet Union.
Allusions to History: In characterizing the pigs, Orwell makes references to other historical figures.
- Napoleon’s name is also a reference to Napoleon Bonaparte, a military dictator who controlled France after the French Revolution and during the early 19th century.
- When preparing for the first battle with the humans, Snowball studies “an old book of Julius Caesar’s campaigns.” Julius Caesar was a military leader of the Roman Republic and consolidated power from the senate for himself. Caesar ruled the Roman Empire as a “dictator perpetuo,” or dictator in perpetuity. Interestingly, Caesar is the etymological antecedent of the word “czar.”