Animal Farm

Literary analysis and summary of the 1945 novella by George Orwell – Animal Farm.

napoleon from animal farm
Napoleon from Animal Farm, Illustrated by Omar Rayyan

‘Well, that was far too accurate to be enjoyable.’ Says a review on Goodreads.

A satirical allegory of the Russian Revolution, ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. Scholars consider this one of his most remarkable works. Orwell based his political fable on the occurrences of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution and the corruption of the cause by Joseph Stalin. We distinguish Orwell’s work because of its keen brilliance and wit, a deep awareness of social injustice, intense resistance to totalitarianism, a fascination for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

Numerous publishers rejected the seminal anti-totalitarianism satire, they considered it controversial. Nonetheless, the fuss only contributed to Animal Farm becoming an instant success upon its first publication by Secker and Warburg in London, England on August 17, 1945. The novella has continued to captivate readers of all ages, and has secured Orwell’s position as one of the greatest writers of all-time.

Learn how to write satire with examples here!


Orwell’s original title for his book was Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, and it was first published as such U.S. publishers subsequently dropped Orwell’s subtitle when publishing the novella in 1946, and only one of the translations during Orwell’s lifetime kept it.

In a 1946 letter from George Orwell to Dwight Macdonald, the author discusses his intent in writing Animal Farm. Orwell writes, “What I was trying to say was: You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as benevolent dictatorship.”

Orwell satirizes the Russian revolution, know as Bolshevik revolution, by making the leaders of the rebellion pigs. The pigs form a tyranny even more domineering and cruel than that of their former human masters.


The book accounts the fierce struggle, initiated by the animals, that alters Mr. Jones’s Manor Farm into Animal Farm, a wholly democratic society built on the ideology that “All Animals are Created Equal”. Out of their intelligence, the pigs: Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball materialize as leaders of the new community in a subtle evolution that proves disastrous.

The main antagonist is Napoleon, who was presumably named after the French emperor and leader of the French revolution. But Orwell based his character on Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953. Napoleon and Snowball mirror the relationship between Stalin and Leon Trotsky.

Snowball represents Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was a political theorist, revolutionary and a leader of the Red Army. After the Revolution he was involved in Russian foreign affairs and policy making. No character in Animal Farm is uniformly good or evil, but Snowball is a more compassionate and idealistic leader than Napoleon is. He genuinely wants what is best for the animals and the farm and he is not selfish.

Squealer serves as second-in-command to Napoleon and is the farm’s minister of propaganda. He is described in the book as an effective and very convincing orator and a fat porker.

Animal Farm quotes

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.”

What literary devices in Animal Farm?

The satirical novella makes use of literary devices in the text including foreshadowing, point of view, personification, conflict, figurative language and irony. Read more about literary techniques and literary elements here!

What are the key themes in Animal Farm?

Animal Farm explores themes of power: totalitarianism, the corruption of ideals, and the power of language.

What are the literary conflicts in Animal Farm?

The central conflict of Animal Farm arises when the animals’ desire for freedom and equality is corrupted by the consolidation of political power amongst the pigs.

The external conflict between Napoleon and Snowball over power are shown, due to Napoleon’s greeds. Although the common animals of the farm found Snowball more likeable, the nine loyal dogs of Napoleon frightened the animals and strengthened the power of Napoleon allowing him to become the leader after Rebellion.

The internal conflicts in Animal Farm: MAN vs. SELF: Boxer vs. Himself. Boxer worries about the farm, and blames himself. MAN vs. MAN: Napoleon vs. Snowball. These two pigs have it out for each other. MAN vs. SOCIETY: The Animals vs. Humans. Old Major begins the ideology of “Animalism”, which goes against the current way of life.


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