Napoleon - The pig who emerges as the leader of Animal Farm after the Rebellion. Based on Joseph Stalin, Napoleon uses military force (his nine loyal attack dogs) to intimidate the other animals and consolidate his power. In his supreme craftiness, Napoleon proves more treacherous than his counterpart, Snowball.
Snowball - The pig who challenges Napoleon for control of Animal Farm after the Rebellion. Based on Leon Trotsky, Snowball is intelligent, passionate, eloquent, and less subtle and devious than his counterpart, Napoleon. Snowball seems to win the loyalty of the other animals and cement his power.
Boxer - The cart-horse whose incredible strength, dedication, and loyalty play a key role in the early prosperity of Animal Farm and the later completion of the windmill. Quick to help but rather slow-witted, Boxer shows much devotion to Animal Farm's ideals but little ability to think about them independently. He naively trusts the pigs to make all his decisions for him. His two mottoes are “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.”
Squealer - The pig who spreads Napoleon's propaganda among the other animals. Squealer justifies the pigs' monopolization of resources and spreads false statistics pointing to the farm's success. Orwell uses Squealer to explore the ways in which those in power often use rhetoric and language to twist the truth and gain and maintain social and political control.
Old Major - The prize-winning boar whose vision of a socialist utopia serves as the inspiration for the Rebellion. Three days after describing the vision and teaching the animals the song “Beasts of England,” Major dies, leaving Snowball and Napoleon to struggle for control of his legacy. Orwell based Major on both the German political economist Karl Marx and the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin.
Clover - A good-hearted female cart-horse and Boxer's close friend. Clover often suspects the pigs of violating one or another of the Seven Commandments, but she repeatedly blames herself for misremembering the commandments.
Moses - The tame raven who spreads stories of Sugarcandy Mountain, the paradise to which animals supposedly go when they die. Moses plays only a small role in Animal Farm, but Orwell uses him to explore how communism exploits religion as something with which to pacify the oppressed.
Mollie - The vain, flighty mare who pulls Mr. Jones's carriage. Mollie craves the attention of human beings and loves being groomed and pampered. She has a difficult time with her new life on Animal Farm, as she misses wearing ribbons in her mane and eating sugar cubes. She represents the petit bourgeoisie that fled from Russia a few years after the Russian Revolution.
Benjamin - The long-lived donkey who refuses to feel inspired by the Rebellion. Benjamin firmly believes that life will remain unpleasant no matter who is in charge. Of all of the animals on the farm, he alone comprehends the changes that take place, but he seems either unwilling or unable to oppose the pigs.
Muriel - The white goat who reads the Seven Commandments to Clover whenever Clover suspects the pigs of violating their prohibitions.
Mr. Jones - The often drunk farmer who runs the Manor Farm before the animals stage their Rebellion and establish Animal Farm. Mr. Jones is an unkind master who indulges himself while his animals lack food; he thus represents Tsar Nicholas II, whom the Russian Revolution ousted.
Mr. Frederick - The tough, shrewd operator of Pinchfield, a neighboring farm. Based on Adolf Hitler, the ruler of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, Mr. Frederick proves an untrustworthy neighbor.
Mr. Pilkington - The easygoing gentleman farmer who runs Foxwood, a neighboring farm. Mr. Frederick's bitter enemy, Mr. Pilkington represents the capitalist governments of England and the United States.
Mr. Whymper - The human solicitor whom Napoleon hires to represent Animal Farm in human society. Mr. Whymper's entry into the Animal Farm community initiates contact between Animal Farm and human society, alarming the common animals.
Jessie and Bluebell - Two dogs, each of whom gives birth early in the novel. Napoleon takes the puppies in order to “educate” them.
Minimus - The poet pig who writes verse about Napoleon and pens the banal patriotic song “Animal Farm, Animal Farm” to replace the earlier idealistic hymn “Beasts of England,” which Old Major passes on to the others.
full title · Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
author · George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair)
type of work · Novella
genre · Dystopian animal fable; satire; allegory; political roman à clef (French for “novel with a key”—a thinly veiled exposé of factual persons or events)
language · English
time and place written · 1943-1944, in London
date of first publication · 1946
publisher · Harcourt Brace & Company
narrator · Animal Farm is the only work by Orwell in which the author does not appear conspicuously as a narrator or major character; it is the least overtly personal of all of his writings. The anonymous narrator of the story is almost a nonentity, notable for no individual idiosyncrasies or biases.
point of view · The story is told from the point of view of the common animals of Animal Farm, though it refers to them in the third person plural as “they.”
tone · For the most part, the tone of the novel is objective, stating external facts and rarely digressing into philosophical meditations. The mixture of this tone with the outrageous trajectory of the plot, however, steeps the story in an ever-mounting irony.
tense · Past
setting (time) · As is the case with most fables, Animal Farm is set in an unspecified time period and is largely free from historical references that would allow the reader to date the action precisely. It is fair to assume, however, that Orwell means the fable to be contemporaneous with the object of its satire, the Russian Revolution (1917-1945). It is important to remember that this period represented the recent past and present at the time of writing and that Orwell understands the significance of the story's action to be immediate and ongoing rather than historical.
setting (place) · An imaginary farm in England
protagonist · There is no clear central character in the novel, but Napoleon, the dictatorial pig, is the figure who drives and ties together most of the action.
major conflict · There are a number of conflicts in Animal Farm—the animals versus Mr. Jones, Snowball versus Napoleon, the common animals versus the pigs, Animal Farm versus the neighboring humans—but all of them are expressions of the underlying tension between the exploited and exploiting classes and between the lofty ideals and harsh realities of socialism.
rising action · The animals throw off their human oppressors and establish a socialist state called Animal Farm; the pigs, being the most intelligent animals in the group, take control of the planning and government of the farm; Snowball and Napoleon engage in ideological disputes and compete for power.
climax · In Chapter V, Napoleon runs Snowball off the farm with his trained pack of dogs and declares that the power to make decisions for the farm will be exercised solely by the pigs.
falling action · Squealer emerges to justify Napoleon's actions with skillful but duplicitous reinterpretations of Animalist principles; Napoleon continues to consolidate his power, eliminating his enemies and reinforcing his status as supreme leader; the common animals continue to obey the pigs, hoping for a better future.
themes · The corruption of socialist ideals in the Soviet Union; the societal tendency toward class stratification; the danger of a naive working class; the abuse of language as instrumental to the abuse of power
motifs · Songs; state ritual
symbols · Animal Farm; the barn; the windmill
foreshadowing · The pigs' eventual abuse of power is foreshadowed at several points in the novel. At the end of Chapter II, immediately after the establishment of the supposedly egalitarian Animal Farm, the extra milk taken from the cows disappears, and the text implies that Napoleon has drunk it himself. Similarly, the dogs' attack on Boxer during Napoleon's purges, in Chapter VII, foreshadows the pigs' eventual betrayal of the loyal cart-horse.