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Animal Farm Symbolism & Symbols

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  • 0:04 What Is Symbolism?
  • 1:13 Mr. Jones
  • 2:56 The Windmill
  • 4:24 Animal Farm
  • 5:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Symbols are everywhere in George Orwell's allegorical satire ''Animal Farm.'' In this lesson, learn about a few of those symbols and their importance in the novella.

What Is Symbolism?

Picture Valentine's Day: red and pink everything, chocolates and flowers exploding through the store aisles. And everywhere you turn there are hearts; red ones, pink ones. And you know why hearts are everywhere. It's because a heart has come to represent love, an elusive idea that's really hard to describe or understand on its own.

That's symbolism, which is the topic of this lesson. Symbolism is using a person, place, or thing to represent an idea that may otherwise be difficult to grasp or to explain. Authors use symbols all the time in their work to help readers understand an abstract thought or concept.

And George Orwell, author of the satirical novella Animal Farm is a master of symbolism. This work is actually one giant allegory about the Soviet Union and its history. This is a subject readers in the 1940s, when the book was released, would have widely understood. There are some very big symbols in this work, and most of them represent something about the Soviet Union or the ideals imposed by its government in the first half of the 20th century.

Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones is the farmer the animals wind up kicking off the farm, originally called Manor Farm, in a revolutionary coup. Mr. Jones is widely despised for his incompetence, his drunkenness, and his cruelty. Overall, he's just not a great guy to have in charge, and he's always out of touch with what his animals want or need. Instead of encouragement, he whips and beats them. Instead of being good at his job, he sleeps in when he's hung over, forgetting to milk the cows, which causes them physical pain.

So how can a character be a symbol? Well, as said before, this whole novella is an allegory about the Soviet Union, so everything has a direct parallel in the real world. Mr. Jones symbolizes Tsar Nicholas II, Russia's last tsar. You may have heard of him: he was the father of Anastasia, subject of an animated musical film and also subject of many conspiracy theories. Well, he wasn't so great of a leader, and was deposed in a revolution in 1917. He and his whole family were later executed.

Mr. Jones is hated by his animals for being cruel and incompetent, and the peasants and laborers of Russia in the 1900s believed the same of Nicholas. He lavished money on himself and his court while his subjects suffered in devastating poverty and hunger. He also got Russia involved in World War I, which cost a fortune, while his subjects, again, suffered in abject poverty and starved to death. Tsar Nicholas' people got sick of it, much like the animals of Manor Farm got sick of Mr. Jones. Both rulers are kicked out by their subjects in a revolution.

The Windmill

One of the big projects the animals attempt is trying to construct the windmill. At first, when the animals overthrow Jones and the pigs take over, the windmill is presented as a way to bring the animals great comfort. Snowball, the most idealistic of all the pigs, tells the animals they must build the windmill because it will make their jobs easier by providing heat and electricity. So at the start, the windmill is a good thing, and the animals want to build it because it will help them.

But of course, nothing stays good for long on Animal Farm. The windmill is destroyed and Napoleon, the pig who takes over the farm after violently chasing Snowball off the property, blames Snowball for tearing down the windmill. He manipulates the animals into rebuilding, and lo and behold, by the end of the story, the windmill is being used for commercial purposes, and the animals gain nothing from it.

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