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Allegory in Animal Farm: Characters & Examples

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  • 0:00 Background of Animal Farm
  • 1:00 The Pig
  • 3:53 The Humans
  • 5:05 Other Animals in Animal Farm
  • 8:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Purcell

Natalie teaches high school English and French and has a master's degree in teaching.

In this lesson, we'll explore how George Orwell's novella, ''Animal Farm,'' is an allegory of the problems that arose out of Russian communism. We'll look at how the different characters in the book represented real figures or groups of people from history.

Background of Animal Farm

Animal Farm, a novella written by George Orwell in 1945, is an allegorical commentary on what went wrong when Czarist Russia evolved into Communist Russia. An allegory is a narrative that uses literary devices to unveil hidden meanings. At the time when Orwell's book was published, Animal Farm wasn't very popular because Russia was actually an ally to the western world in the fight against Hitler during World War II. Orwell himself wasn't always completely anti-communist. He was actually a socialist who supported the belief that industry should be controlled and owned by the workers for the good of everyone, not just the elite. It wasn't until he witnessed the corrupt evolution of Communist Russia, and how it departed from the initial goals, that he felt he should warn us of the dangers of unchecked authority. Orwell wanted to show the negative side of communism when it is taken too far. In this lesson, we'll take a look at how George Orwell critiqued Communist Russia through use of allegory.

The Pigs

First, let's look at the pigs in this novella:

Old Major is the oldest boar on the farm and is well respected. At the beginning of the book, he tells all the animals of a strange dream he had about a farm where all animals were equal because they kept what they produced. He further explains that animals don't have to live short lives, dominated by hard labor and hunger, all for the benefit of humans. He declares that man is, ''the only creature who consumes without producing.''

Old Major and his strange dream represent Karl Marx and The Communist Manifesto of 1848, in which Marx presents the evils of feudalism and capitalism, and the idealistic world of communism, thereby inspiring the Russian Revolution of 1917. Just like the revolution on Animal Farm, the Russian Revolution also started out with great intentions. Even the flags of Animal Farm and Soviet Communism resemble one another.

Soviet Communist Flag
Soviet flag
Animal Farm Flag
Animal Farm flag

After his involvement in the revolution on Animal Farm, Snowball is a pig who rises as one of the leaders. Described as ''vivacious'' and ''inventive,'' Snowball wants to spread the word about Animal Farm to all the neighboring farms, so that other animals can be free from man as well.

Snowball represents Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin's second-in-command during the Russian Revolution, and the leader of the Red Army in the subsequent Russian Civil War. Trotsky also wanted to spread the word about communism to other nations. However, both Snowball and Trotsky get elbowed out of their positions of power by other more ruthless and corrupt leaders.

Napoleon is another pig who rises as a leader. Rather than trying to influence and gain consensus from the other animals through energetic speeches, he secretly raised himself a well-trained personal army from nine puppies. He then used them to implement his goals, no matter how brutal or treacherous the methods.

Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party from 1922 until his death over 30 years later. Stalin formed the KGB, the communist party's secret police, who ruthlessly carried out all of his commands. The false confessions of disloyalty on Animal Farm and subsequent executions were modeled after Stalin's Great Purge of the 1930s, in which anyone determined to be a counter-revolutionist was killed.

Napoleon and his entourage
Napoleon and his entourage

Finally, Squealer is the pig who always spreads persuasive messages supporting the leader's goals. He announces changes in the rules, or reinvents history in order to confuse the other animals. He's probably not a symbol for a specific person, but more of an embodiment of hypocrisy and propaganda in general. He could represent the communist newspaper, Pravda, that was the official voice of the party in the 1930s, used to keep the public calm and under control with its misleading messages.

The Humans

Next, let's take a look at some of the humans in this novella:

Mr. and Mrs. Jones are the cruel and incompetent owners of the farm at the beginning of the story. They sometimes forget to feed the animals and try to whip them into submission. They represent the last czar of Russia and his wife, Nicholas II and Alexandra, who were very unpopular, partially because they got Russia dragged into World War I and then mismanaged their involvement.

Mr. Pilkington, the neighboring gentleman farmer, is a symbol for the U.S. and the U.K. Meanwhile, Mr. Frederick, the shrewd neighboring farmer who drives a hard bargain and is always involved in lawsuits, represents Hitler. Napoleon is always negotiating back and forth between the two of them, and simultaneously sending Squealer to explain to the other animals why he's dealing with humans at all.

Mr. Whymper acts as a mediator between Animal Farm and the humans in the outside world. He realized early on that the animals would need a broker to act on their behalf, and he was happy to do it as long as he got paid. Mr. Whymper represents the gullible westerners who were willing to spread the communist message and cater to Stalin's goals for personal profit.

Other Animals in Animal Farm

Now, let's take a look at some of the other animals in this novella, including horses, a donkey, a goat, a raven, ducks, hens and sheep:

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