What Happens in Animal Farm?

In Animal Farm, George Orwell crafts a fictional story about an animal rebellion gone awry to critique the real-life events that followed the Russian Revolution of 1917. Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, is a disheartened drunkard who underfeeds his animals and neglects the farm. One day, a prize-winning boar named Old Major encourages the farm animals to rebel against the humans. 

  • Old Major dies just three days after proposing the rebellion. Three young pigs (Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer) lead the resistance. When Mr. Jones gets drunk and forgets to feed the animals one night, the animals drive him and his men off the farm, which they rename Animal Farm.
  • Together, the pigs write the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the new political philosophy that declares all animals equal. Under the pigs' leadership, the farm animals work hard to bring in the harvest and build an idyllic society.
  • Snowball and Napoleon fight for control of Animal Farm. Napoleon uses specially trained dogs to run Snowball off the farm. Napoleon then makes false promises of comfort and prosperity to the other animals. Life gets worse on the farm, and Napoleon and the other pigs assume the role that Mr. Jones and the humans once held.

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Summary

Animal Farm begins on Manor Farm in England. After Mr. Jones, the neglectful owner of the farm, has drunkenly shut the animals away and gone to sleep, the animals all assemble in the barn to hear a respected boar named Old Major speak. Old Major proceeds to share his dream of a world without men, one ruled by animals. He points out that all of the suffering endured by the animals is the result of man. Mr. Jones forces the animals to work too hard and then steals the products of their labor. Furthermore, the animals all know that Mr. Jones does not value their lives and will mercilessly slaughter each and every one of them once they have outlived their usefulness. Old Major tells the animals that their lives would be much better if they could overthrow man and find freedom. He cautions them, however, that if they should ever overthrow their human masters, they must take precautions against acting like humans themselves and should remember to treat all animals as equals.

Three days later, Old Major dies and the animals begin to prepare for the rebellion. The preparations are led by the pigs, who are the cleverest animals on the farm. Two pigs in particular—Snowball and Napoleon—take on leadership roles and are aided by Squealer, an extremely persuasive pig. The pigs turn Old Major’s speech into a philosophy, which they call “Animalism.” They then hold weekly meetings to teach the rest of the animals about Animalism, though they find the animals are easily distracted by Moses, a raven who likes to tell the animals about a place called Sugarcandy Mountain where animals go when they die. The rebellion comes sooner than expected when Mr. Jones forgets to feed the animals and then attacks them when he sees them helping themselves. Incensed, the animals drive Mr. Jones and his men off the farm and take over, changing the name to Animal Farm. The pigs paint the principles of Animalism on the barn wall. There are seven commandments in total, and each one comes from Old Major’s speech to the animals.

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

The animals are eager to prove themselves a success and complete the harvest more quickly and efficiently than their former human master could ever have done. Most of the animals believe strongly in Animalism and work very hard to do their part for the farm. However, there are troubling indicators that not all the animals are being treated equally. The pigs, being the cleverest of the animals, quickly become the permanent leaders of the farm....

(The entire section is 1,632 words.)