Animal Farm themes - Wentworth High School

Animal Farm
By George Orwell
Key Themes
Key Themes
•Leaders and followers
•Propaganda and communication
•Appearance and reality
A theme can be developed in a number of
ways, for example through character, irony
and events.
The theme of ‘Greed’ can be seen from the
start of the novel.
Greed is one of the biblical seven deadly sins
and can manifest itself in several different
Mr Jones drinks to excess, as a result he loses
his grip on the farm and enables the animals to
take charge.
“Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses
for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the
Chapter 1, page 1.
Old Major’s speech berates the human
farmers for being greedy.
He points out that humans only take from the
animals, they do not actually produce anything
"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He
does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull
the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is
lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to
them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving,
and the rest he keeps for himself."
Chapter 1, page 4.
The characters of the pigs automatically have the
connotation of greed – ‘greedy pig’.
This is shown to be true as the story progresses; we see
the pigs take a larger and larger share of the available
“ ‘Never mind the milk, comrades,’ cried Napoleon,
placing himself in front of the buckets. ‘That will be
attended to…I shall follow in a few minutes. Forward,
comrades! The hay is waiting.’
…when they came back in the evening it was noticed
that the milk had disappeared.”
Chapter 2, page 16.
As the animals become more deprived of
food, the pigs live in more and more luxury.
They not only drink the milk that is produced,
but also start to drink alcohol.
It is telling that their desire for alcohol
leads them to explore methods of brewing
and that the money raised by selling Boxer
for glue is spent on alcohol.
“The word went round that from
somewhere or other the pigs had
acquired the money to buy themselves
another case of whisky.”
Chapter 9, page 78.
Old Major’s principles are thrown aside as
Napoleon’s desire for money and physical goods
Orwell shows that the pigs, and Napoleon in
particular, have taken the place of Mr Jones.
As their power over the other animals increases so
does their greed until there is no discernable
difference between the pigs and the humans.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig,
and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which
was which.”
Chapter 10, page 88.
Leaders and Followers
This is an important theme in ‘Animal Farm’ as it
is closely linked to Orwell’s reasons for writing
the novel.
Orwell wanted to draw people’s attention to the
fact that the Communist leaders had taken the
ideas of Karl Marx and exploited them for their
own means.
“I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be
easily translated into other languages.”
Introduction, page xv.
Leaders and Followers
At the start of the novel, Mr Jones is in charge of
the animals. The animals respect Old Major, but he
is not really their leader.
The animals who vie for the leadership, Napoleon
and Snowball, are not introduced until Chapter 2.
This distances them from the ideals stated in Old
Major’s speech. They take charge as they are more
intelligent than the others.
“The work of teaching and organizing the others fell
naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognized as
being the cleverest of the animals.”
Chapter 2, page 9.
Leaders and Followers
The cracks in the shared leadership start to show
before long.
“Snowball and Napoleon were by far the most active in the debates. But
it was noticed that these two were never in agreement: whatever
suggestion either of them made, the other could be counted on to oppose
Chapter3, page 19.
The tension begins to build up from this
point, as it is obvious that the two pigs will
not be able to share power for long.
Leaders and Followers
Snowball’s plans for the windmill becomes an issue
which divides the animals:
“The animals formed themselves into two factions under the slogans,
‘Vote for Snowball and the three-day week’ and ‘Vote for Napoleon
and the full manger’.”
Chapter 5, page 31.
We know that this situation
can not last; it has become a
popularity contest for
Leaders and Followers
Napoleon takes charge of the battle for
leadership, and as is so often the case, it is this
pre-emptive strike that takes Snowball by surprise.
“But just at this moment Napoleon stood
up and…uttered a high-pitched whimper
of a kind no one had ever heard him
utter before.
At this there was a terrible baying sound
outside, and nine enormous dogs
wearing brass-studded collars came
bounding into the barn. They dashed
straight for Snowball.”
Chapter 5, page 33.
becomes the
Leaders and Followers
The followers are a very varied group. The sheep are
never looked at as individuals. The sheep chant the
maxims they have learnt:
“often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating ‘Four legs
good, two legs bad!’”
Chapter 3, page 21.
At the end of the book this habit of the sheep is used
by Squealer:
“He was, he said, teaching them to sing a new song, for which privacy
was needed.”
Chapter 10, page 82.
Leaders and Followers
The sheep’s mindless acceptance, and repetition of
phrases is used to sinister effect:
“Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn
off and when, in spite of everything – in spite of the terror
of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years,
of never complaining, never criticizing, no matter what
happened – they might have uttered some word of protest.
But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep
burst out into a tremendous bleating of –
‘Four legs good, two legs better!’”
Chapter 10, page 83.
Leaders and Followers
The two horses, Boxer and Clover are also unquestioning
followers. Neither of them have enough intelligence to
see through the lies Squealer spreads.
Boxer has two maxims, and this is almost all he says in
the book:
“I will work harder.”
“Napoleon is always
This blind obedience leads Boxer to work himself
almost to death; the pigs then sell him to the
This is a relatively simple theme. It can be traced from
the beginning of the story all the way through to the
Old Major’s ideas, as stated in Chapter 1 page 3-6,
are betrayed from the start:
“No animal must ever live in a
“or sleep in a bed,”
“or drink alcohol,”
“No argument
must lead you
“or touch money,”
“And, above all, no animal must ever
tyrannize over his own kind.”
Some more examples of betrayal are:
•Snowball’s idealism is betrayed by Napoleon.
•Boxer is betrayed by the pigs, he never receives
the retirement he is promised, and when he is too ill
to work, he is sold.
•The animals’ faith and belief in Napoleon, Squealer
and the rest of the leadership is betrayed.
•They end up being worked harder and treated
worse under Napoleon than they ever did under Mr
Propaganda and Communication
Communication is vital to help the pigs maintain their
The media is represented by Squealer; the name of this
pig suggests treachery, so we may feel it is not wise to
believe all he says.
History is rewritten by the pigs, perhaps criticising the
unreliable nature of nostalgia.
Propaganda and Communication
Squealer’s speeches to the animals are all propaganda.
He often uses ‘facts’ and figures to back up his points.
He knows that the majority of the animals are unable
to read and therefore have no option but to believe
what he says.
“Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science,
comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the
well-being of a pig.”
Chapter 3, page 22.
“Squealer…would read out to them lists of figures proving that the
production of every class of foodstuff had increased by 200%, 300%, or
500%, as the case may be.”
Chapter 8, page 56.
Appearance and Reality
This is a common theme in literature; Shakespeare
often uses it in his plays. This theme is explored on
many levels throughout the novel.
The novel was originally titled
‘Animal Farm – A Fairy Tale’, and
on the surface that is what it is.
However, when you look beneath
the surface you can see that it
is an allegory, with the animals
representing historical
characters and types of people.
So it is possible to say that the
book itself is not what it
appears to be.
Appearance and Reality
An example of how to examine the theme of
appearance and reality can be seen by looking at the
beginning of the novel.
Mr Jones appears to be in control of the farm, but the
meeting held in the barn shows that he is not.
Old Major is a well respected character and his speech
seems very impressive, however he makes the comment
“Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of
ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?” Page 5.
This is shown to be untrue, so Major is actually very
naïve, not the wise expert he claims to be.
Appearance and Reality
Old Major’s death at the start of Chapter 2 can be
seen as something inevitable, as he is old. However, as
Old Major saw the rebellion in a dream, the death of
the dreamer can be seen as the death of his ideals.
The rebellion appears to be fulfilling Old Major’s
dream, however, in reality it is merely a reaction to
hunger. The rebels are in fact animals behaving
according to their natural urges.
Appearance and Reality
The following characters can be linked to these
historical figures, however they can also refer to types
of people. Things are not always as simple as they
appear to be.
Napoleon the Pig
Old Major
Mr Jones
Nicholas II
Themes are everywhere! You need to know at least
some of them for the exam.

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