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Old Major in Animal Farm: Character, Allegory & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

Before the pig Old Major makes his speech, the animals are content under the oppressive leadership of the Man who runs the farm. Read more to find out how Old Major begins to make change happen in 'Animal Farm' by George Orwell.

Unity

Who do you know that has the gift of being able to bring people together? When the prize Middle White boar, Old Major, called the animals together three days before his death to explain his dream, the animals began to unite.

Most likely, there is no one else on the farm that the animals would stay awake to listen to, but all of the animals thought very highly of Old Major, and wanted to hear what he had to say. Let's find out more about Old Major in Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Old Major unites the animals.
middle white boar

The Problem

Old Major begins by telling him that he is nearing the end of his life and wants to share what he has learned in his years. 'Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.'

He goes on to explain that if it were not for men stealing the fruits of their labor, many times as many animals could live comfortably on Manor Farm. The problem is Man. 'Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever.'

Men do not contribute to the food supply; they control it. Man steals the offspring of each of the animals and sells them for his own profit. Then, in the end, each of the animals is slaughtered mercilessly.

Promoting Rebellion

But Old Major has a solution: 'Rebellion! I do not know when that Rebellion will come, it might be in a week or in a hundred years, but I know, as surely as I see this straw beneath my feet, that sooner or later justice will be done.' He begs the other animals to share the message with future generations so that someday the animals might unite to take over.

When the dogs attempt to chase a rat, Old Major puts it to a vote of the animals and it is decided that even wild animals, such as rats and rabbits were comrades. He followed up with some important advice that would later become the Seven Commandments. Old Major warns against trusting Man or behaving like him. 'No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in tradeā€¦No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.'

The Dream

In Old Major's dream, Man was no longer on earth. It reminded him of a song that his mother taught him when he was young called 'Beasts of England.' Old Major taught the song to the other animals. Three days later, Old Major died, but his ideas stuck with the animals. Unfortunately, those that followed him and initiated the Rebellion did not share Old Major's dream and were able to twist it into a nightmare worse than they could have imagined.

Symbolism and Analysis

Old Major is a symbol in this allegorical tale for Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Karl Marx was a theorist who wrote 'The Communist Manifesto' to promote a humanitarian, communal lifestyle with common land ownership. It was published in 1848 and served as the basis for several revolutions in European countries during that time. Karl Marx died in 1883.

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