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Animal Farm Discussion Questions

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

These discussion questions highlight the major points in George Orwell's Animal Farm. They include the book's themes, their importance, and their real life counterparts.

Background

First published in 1945, Animal Farm is Orwell's dark satire of the events leading up to the Russian revolution of 1917, and a criticism of the totalitarian rule of Joseph Stalin, one of history's most brutal dictators. With that in mind, let us begin.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Politics

How are the political styles of Napoleon and Snowball different? Is one more preferable to the other? Napoleon, a massive, fierce boar, does not talk much, but do not let that fool you. He is constantly manipulating and bullying other animals behind the scenes, making deals and gaining more and more power.

On the other hand, Snowball, another large boar, is passionate about gaining popular support through his ideas, speeches, and winning political debates. As you can see, Snowball works within the political system, while Napoleon circumvents, or goes around, the system at any opportunity.

However, Orwell makes it clear that Snowball's approach to politics is not necessarily preferable to Napoleon's. For example, Snowball stands by and does nothing as power is consolidated with the pigs instead of everyone, and everything is distributed not equally, but in favor of the pigs.

When it all comes down to it, neither Napoleon nor Snowball have the common good in mind when they struggle for power. Napoleon wants complete control, and Snowball thinks he is a genius who should be the leader. As such, they are both dictators, and neither is preferable to the other.

In real life, Napoleon represents Stalin, and Snowball represents his political enemy, Leon Trotsky. Stalin eventually had Trotsky assassinated in exile, similar to how Napoleon used his guard dogs to banish Snowball from the farm forever.

Fact Versus Fiction

Why do you think did Orwell write Animal Farm as a satire, instead of simply writing an essay? Ever since political discussion gained validity in ancient Greece, satire and fables, or fairy tales, have been used to criticize politicians and rulers. That way, the writer could avoid trouble.

And while Orwell was not necessarily afraid of retaliation, he chose a satirical fable over a political essay because its peaceful and calm tone is more inviting. It also allows for more complete character development, making the moral of the story more accessible to a wider audience.

Additionally, many think a fable is more universal than an essay. Because of its gentler tone and use of animals, Animal Farm can be understood and interpreted by most anyone in the world, allowing it to make a bigger impact with its political message, such as it has since its initial publication.

Animal Ideology

What is Animalism? What are its principles? In Chapter 1, Old Major, a prize winning old white boar, who is respected by everyone, calls all the animals to a meeting. He had recently had a vision about a better future of the animals, one free from the abuse and control of humans.

And he wants to share his vision with everyone. All animals attend this meeting, and Old Major lays out his ideas for everyone to follow. These are meant to unify the animals against humans, and to take back the dignity of the animals. The are as follows:

  • Anything on two legs is an enemy, anything that on four legs or with wings is a friend.
  • Animals should not look like humans; they should not use human voice, smoke, drink, wear clothes, sleep in beds, trade, or use money.
  • No animal can rule cruelly over another animal.
  • No animal can kill another animal.
  • All animals are equal, regardless of if they are weak, strong, smart, or simple.

These ideals of equality and unity among the animals are very similar to the tenets, or principles, of communism as initially stated in the USSR. Later in the book, these ideals are codified, or arranged into a system, of government, called animalism, further likening it to communism.

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