Foreshadowing in Animal Farm

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  • 0:02 Salvation or More of the Same?
  • 0:43 Old Major's Speech
  • 2:17 Characterizations
  • 3:14 The Pigs Take the Lead
  • 4:03 Snowball vs Napoleon
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Foreshadowing is used by George Orwell in 'Animal Farm' to indicate to readers that Rebellion may not be the answer to all of the animals' problems as they originally believed. Learn more about it in this lesson.

Salvation or More of the Same?

Think about a time in your life when you had a feeling something bad was about to happen. Which was more miserable, the actual event or the time spent worrying about it? Authors, like George Orwell in Animal Farm, use foreshadowing to build anticipation.

Foreshadowing gives the reader a hint or warning of something that will happen later in the story. Animal Farm is a novel about animals rising up and promoting animalism, the new political philosophy where animals rule themselves. However, indications appear early in the text that animalism may not be the salvation the animals hoped for. Let's look at some examples.

Old Major's Speech

Old Major is an old, well-respected pig that inspires the animals on the farm with a speech just days before he dies. In Old Major's speech, he motivates the animals to rebel but foreshadowed some things that could potentially go wrong.

Old Major warns them not to make deals with Man: 'Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies.' When Napoleon sells timber to the human Mr. Frederick, he discovers that he's been paid in counterfeit notes. Mr. Frederick and his men attack the farm and blow up the windmill. Had Old Major's warning been heeded, would things have turned out differently?

When voting on which animals should be counted as comrades, the dogs were clear dissenters: 'There were only four dissentients, the three dogs and the cat....' Later, the dogs are used by the pigs to keep the other animals in line, thereby securing themselves to a superior position over the other animals. The animals should have suspected that the dogs would not play nice with others when the dogs showed early on that they did not consider all animals as equals.

The biggest warning Old Major gave them was not to turn into their enemy: 'And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him.' Old Major in his wisdom, realized that it would be tempting to become enticed by the luxuries that men enjoyed. Sure enough, after changing every one of the original commandments, the pigs can hardly be distinguished from Man.


As some of the characters are introduced, the reader can predict how they might react to a world where animals are in charge. Napoleon is a bully that forces others do to as he says. The narrator describes Napoleon as, '... a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way.' Sure enough, Napoleon assumes dictatorship over the farm and ends up getting his way at the expense of the other animals.

Mollie, the white mare, loves being spoiled by Man. Her heart is not in the Rebellion. Before the Rebellion even occurred, she began questioning how having animals in charge would affect the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. She asked, 'Will there still be sugar after the Rebellion?' The other animals are irritated by her narcissism and think she's stupid. Eventually, she abandons Animal Farm and finds a man to take care of her. Her happiness comes from pampering, not freedom.

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