Suggested Essay Topics
1. Major cautions the animals not to resemble man. Yet by creating animals who speak and reason, Orwell has endowed them with two characteristics which are thought to separate people from humans. Why do you think he does this? Does the ability to speak or to reason lead to any of the vices that Major attributes to humans?
2. Research the life and work of Karl Marx. What were the fundamentals of his Communist Manifesto and how do they compare to the ideas expressed by Old Major in Animal Farm.
1. Research the life of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. What role did he play in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and what was his role in the government after the Revolution?
2. Research the life of Josef Stalin. What part did he play during the Revolution? What was his role in the Soviet government through World War II?
3. Research the life of Leon Trotsky. What was his role during the Revolution and after in the Soviet Union? What was his relationship to Lenin and Stalin?
1. Compare the different attitudes of Napoleon and Snowball in Chapter III of the novel. What do they reveal about each of the characters? How do the other animals respond to each of them?
2. Animal Farm is based on actual events which occurred in Russia, each animal or group of animals represents either historical figures or groups of people. By Chapter III, differences in personality and intelligence are established among the animals. How does this relate to Orwell’s portrayal of people? Do you think he is suggesting that certain kinds of people are more intelligent or capable than others?
1. Research the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920. What part did the Allied Forces (Great Britain, France, the United States) and Japan play in this war? How did the foreign invasion of Russia affect the outcome of the war and the Communist Party’s rise to power?
2. In Chapter IV we learn that news of the animals’ rebellion has spread to neighboring farms, the inhabitants of which are “normal” human characters. They are not surprised by the fact that the animals can talk and reason. Does this make the novel seem more realistic or more fantastical? Does this make it more or less powerful as a political allegory?
1. Trace the events leading to Napoleon’s seizing complete control of the farm, and discuss the different tactics that he uses to succeed.
2. Mollie chooses to live a life of comfortable slavery rather than make the sacrifices necessary in a communal society. Is this a wise choice? What is the significance of her leaving, both in the world of the novel, and considering that the novel is a political allegory based on actual events?
1. It has become evident in this chapter that all of the animals are not equal, and life on the farm is settling into familiar hierarchies and oppressions. What do you think this says about Orwell’s beliefs about human nature? Could this happen in our society?
2. In Chapter VI Squealer plays a most important role in Napoleon’s push to become the dictator of Animal Farm. What does Squealer do to enable Napoleon to achieve this goal? What was the significance of propaganda, the management of information and the alteration of history, in Stalin’s rise to power?
1. The murders and purges which occur in Chapter VII are brutal and terrifying, yet the animals are quick to forget about them and to accept explanations. Explain how the pigs can make words appear more real than the actual murders. How does this have frightening applications in reality, both historically and today?
(The entire section is 941 words.)