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Animal Farm Themes

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  • 0:04 What Is a Theme?
  • 0:37 Animal Farm Story
  • 1:03 Weaknesses of…
  • 2:22 Danger of Uneducated…
  • 3:24 The Allure of Power
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Catherine Rose

Catherine taught middle and high school English and has a master's degree in Education.

Explore the diverse themes found in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.' In this lesson, we'll learn about the book's take on communism/socialism, the dangers presented by an uneducated working class, and the allure of power.

What Is a Theme?

Think about your favorite story or movie. What lesson did the characters learn as a result of the events of that story? What lesson about life did you learn from these events? This life lesson, or theme, really defined as the main idea behind a story or part of a story, is one of the most important elements of a story. What we learn about life from the characters makes the story memorable and sometimes even life-changing. The themes found in George Orwell's Animal Farm add to the legacy of this story.

Animal Farm Story

This novel tells the story of a neglected group of animals and a series of events that begins with a revolt and an idealistic view of a better life but ends with a corrupt and powerful ruling class controlling every aspect of the lives of the uneducated animals on the farm. Some themes found in this story are the weaknesses of communism/socialism, the dangers presented by an uneducated working class, and the allure of power.

Weaknesses of Communism/Socialism

This novel is often seen as an allegory, or a story with a hidden, symbolic meaning. Many of the animal characters - including Napoleon, Snowball, Boxer, Squealer, and Old Major - stand in for major players from the Russian Revolution, and their bad acts reflect the detrimental effects of communism and socialism. The connections Orwell makes to Stalin, Marx, Trotsky, and groups like the working class help readers to see the problems with this economic and political philosophy.

Socialism is an economic belief system that promotes an equal distribution of wealth and the idea that each person works according to his or her own capabilities. Communism holds some of the same beliefs as socialism, but takes on a more severe tone and is often connected with politics. While communism and socialism profess to take care of everyone, this novel shows how, in practice, the only ones living in comfort are those in power (in this case, the pigs on the farm). While the other animals are being worked to death to build a windmill, starving from a lack of food, and kept in the dark about important decisions, the pigs move into the farmer's house, eat well, make deals and decisions without input from anyone else, and instill fear as they execute anyone who does not follow their orders.

Danger of Uneducated Working Class

One of the great developments early in the novel is when the pigs learn to read and write and initially try to teach the others to do the same. They write the commandments and plan to use their newly acquired education to make a better life for themselves.

The problem comes when the other animals have trouble learning at first, and then are made to work so many hours that they do not have time to learn. Because they don't learn to read like the pigs, they are uncertain of what the original commandments are and make it possible for the pigs to change them without argument. As the pigs increase their education, they are able to impose more regulations, and the animals are either too tired or too uneducated to fight back.

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