Figurative Language in Animal Farm

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  • 0:00 What Is Figurative Language?
  • 0:58 Personification
  • 2:20 Symbolism
  • 3:48 Simile and Metaphor
  • 5:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
'Animal Farm,' George Orwell's satirical novella, is still widely read to this day for many reasons, including its captivating storyline. In this lesson, find out how figurative language moves that storyline along and for what purpose it's used.

What Is Figurative Language?

How do authors make writing interesting? What makes the difference between a newspaper article, which is all facts and straightforward writing, and a novel? Figurative language.

Figurative language is crafting a meaning with language that goes beyond what is literally said by the words on the page. It's a literary technique used by writers to make text easier to read, make the story more interesting, and help the reader visualize an image much better than a straightforward, simple sentence might. It also can help the author convey a tone for a work, or communicate something new about a character or situation.

George Orwell's 1945 allegorical novella Animal Farm uses memorable figurative language. In this lesson, you'll learn about four specific types of figurative language that appear in this work: personification, symbolism, simile, and metaphor.


Personification means giving human traits or characteristics to an inhuman object. That object could be a rake, a tree, or even an animal. And boy, are there plenty of examples of personification in Animal Farm; really, the whole novella is based on the idea of personification. George Orwell has crafted an entire world of animals with human emotions, traits, and ideas - they even rebel against their farmer, Mr. Jones, because they want equality.

The dogs are enthusiastic, but not too bright; the draft horses are brave and strong but do whatever they're told; the raven is crafty. But perhaps the best example comes from the pigs of the farm. Orwell writes:

As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly.

Well, of course you know pigs can't read and write. But, Orwell's pigs are the geniuses of Animal Farm. By personifying the pigs, assigning them the very human intelligence that allows them to learn to read and write, and, later on, manipulate their fellow animals, he's making a point.

The novella is an allegory for the Soviet Union. With the pigs, Orwell is making a point about the leaders of revolutions. They have superior manipulative abilities, and that enables them to take charge and lead the revolution - only to betray the people they drove to revolutionary frenzy in the first place.


Symbolism is using a noun of some type to represent a larger, more abstract idea that would otherwise be difficult to explain or communicate. It's just like using a heart to represent the idea of love, which would otherwise be too abstract to explain. Animal Farm is chock-full of symbols, because the whole novella is an allegory of the Soviet Union and Stalin's rise to power.

One such symbol is the flag of Animal Farm, which is erected after the animals kick out Mr. Jones. The flag has a green background and a white horn and hoof emblem painted on it by one of the leading pigs. In the novel, that same pig, Snowball, tells the animals the flag is meant to symbolize the green, free fields of England and the equality of all animals after man has been extinguished.

This directly symbolizes the Soviet Union's flag, which was in use from 1923-1991. It had a bright red background and a yellow hammer and sickle emblem in the corner.

Sound familiar? So will the symbolism. The hammer and sickle represented the union of peasants and workers in the Communist struggle, and the bright red background the blood spilled by these workers.

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