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Study Guide : Animal Farm: Themes

Overview and Analysis



George Orwell once wrote: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been [...] against totalitarianism.” Animal Farm, Orwell’s tale of the titular farm animals’ takeover of a provincial English farm and their development of a totalitarian state there, is no exception. Totalitarianism is a form of government in which the state seeks to control every facet of life, from economics and politics to each individual’s ideas and beliefs. Different … Read more
Revolution and Corruption
Animal Farm depicts a revolution in progress. Like all popular revolutions, the uprising in Animal Farm develops out of a hope for a better future, in which farm animals can enjoy the fruits of their own labor without the overbearing rule of humans. At the time of the revolution, all of the animals on Mr. Jones’s farm, even the pigs, are committed to the idea of universal equality—but these high ideals that fueled...Read more
Class Warfare
One of the main tenets of Animalism, the ideology that Napoleon and Snowball develop, is that all animals are equal. However, it doesn’t take long for the pigs to begin to refer to themselves as “mindworkers” to distinguish themselves from the other animals, who work as physical laborers. Through this, Animal Farm shows how differences in education and occupation lead to the development of a class hierarchy, which leads inevitably to class warfare, in which… Read more
The Corruption of Socialist Ideals in the Soviet Union
Animal Farm is most famous in the West as a stinging critique of the history and rhetoric of the Russian Revolution. Retelling the story of the emergence and development of Soviet communism in the form of an animal fable, Animal Farm allegorizes the rise to power of the dictator Joseph Stalin. In the novella, the overthrow of the human oppressor Mr. Jones by a democratic coalition of animals quickly gives way to the consolidation of power among the pigs. Much like the Soviet intelligentsia, the pigs establish themselves as the ruling class in the new society...Read more
Language as Power
From the beginning of the popular revolution on Manor Farm, language—both spoken and written—is instrumental to the animals’ collective success, and later to the pigs’ consolidation of power. Through Animal Farm, Orwell illustrates how language is an influential tool that individuals can use to seize power and manipulate others via propaganda, while also showing that education and one’s corresponding grasp of language is what can turn someone into either a manipulative authority figure...Read more
The Societal Tendency Toward Class Stratification
Animal Farm offers commentary on the development of class tyranny and the human tendency to maintain and reestablish class structures even in societies that allegedly stand for total equality. The novella illustrates how classes that are initially unified in the face of a common enemy, as the animals are against the humans, may become internally divided when that enemy is eliminated....Read more
The Abuse of Language as Instrumental to the Abuse of Power
One of Orwell’s central concerns, both in Animal Farm and in 1984, is the way in which language can be manipulated as an instrument of control. In Animal Farm, the pigs gradually twist and distort a rhetoric of socialist revolution to justify their behavior and to keep the other animals in the dark. The animals heartily embrace Major’s visionary ideal of socialism, but after Major dies, the pigs gradually twist the meaning of his words...Read more
The Failure of Intellect
Animal Farm is deeply skeptical about the value of intellectual activity. The pigs are identified as the most intelligent animals, but their intelligence rarely produces anything of value. Instead, the pigs use their intelligence to manipulate and abuse the other animals...Read more
The Exploitation of Animals by Humans
As well as being an allegory of the ways human exploit and oppress one another, Animal Farm also makes a more literal argument: humans exploit and oppress animals. While the animals’ rebellion is mostly comic in tone, it ends on a serious and touching note, when the animals “wipe out the last traces of Jones’s hated reign...Read more


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