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Animal Farm Chapter Summaries
Get to know the plot in more detail with these chapter by chapter summaries.
While Mr Jones, the drunken owner of Manor Farm, is asleep, the animals are electrified by the speech of Old Major, who tells them “The life of an animal is misery and slavery.” He exhorts them to rebel against Man, declaring that “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.” He tells them they must never adopt man’s habits when they take power and the assembly ends with a rendition of “Beasts of England” promising a “golden future time.”
Three days after his speech, Old Major dies, but the animals continue to prepare their rebellion. The pigs are seen to be the most intelligent animals- particularly Napoleon and Snowball, aided by the very persuasive Squealer. They develop the philosophy of Animalism. The rebellion comes unexpectedly – as did the Russian Revolution of 1917. Jones is driven from the farm and the symbols of animal oppression - harnesses, whips and reins – are destroyed. The pigs, who can read and write, paint The Seven Commandments of Animalism on the barn wall. All animals are equal but only the pigs get the milk from the cows!
The separation of the pigs is again apparent as they “supervise” the gathering of the harvest, but the animals are happy to have things under their own control. Boxer, the cart-horse, works particularly hard. On Sundays the animals gather to meet and discuss all the ideas put forward by the pigs, though Snowball and Napoleon always disagree. Their new flag with the horn and hoof is very similar to the Soviets’ hammer and sickle. Literacy classes take place, although not all the animals can master all the alphabet. Snowball suggests “Four legs good, two lags bad” as the essence of Animalism. Napoleon takes some puppies into his care. When it’s discovered by the animals that all the milk goes into the pigs’ mash, Squealer tells them that such food is essential for the pigs’ brain-work- and they don’t want Jones back do they?
News of the rebellion is spreading to other farms- while Jones sits in the pub drinking and complaining. The two neighbouring farmers, Pilkington and Frederick, are on bad terms with each other so Jones gets no help, though they hate and fear the rebellion too. Jones and his allies attempt to re-capture the farm, but the animals, under the heroic leadership of Snowball eject them. This mirrors the Civil War in Russia, where foreign powers tried to bring down the Bolsheviks. The Battle of the Cowshed will always be celebrated on the farm.
Mollie, the foolish mare, deserts the farm for an easier life. During a severe winter the arguments between Napoleon and Snowball become more noticeable. Napoleon trains the sheep as a choir to drown out Snowball’s voice. There is great controversy over the building of a windmill to provide power- this is Orwell’s way of showing the painful process of Russian industrialisation. The two pigs also bicker over defending the farm, or spreading rebellion elsewhere. On the day when Snowball finally presents his plans, Napoleon unleashes the nine puppies he adopted – now savage, ferocious and fully grown – and Snowball just escapes with his life. After Snowball’s removal the dogs become Napoleon’s bodyguard, and it’s announced that there will be no more meetings, but orders instead. Boxer adopts the motto: “Napoleon is always right...I will work harder.” The animals are even persuaded by Squealer that Napoleon had wanted the windmill built all along – “Tactics, comrades, tactics.”
Work gets harder. Napoleon, now in complete control, tells the animals that they must work on Sunday afternoons too. Building the windmill is a great struggle; only Boxer’s tremendous strength keeps them going. Because of shortages, trade with other farms, which was forbidden before, becomes the norm. The pigs begin to adopt some human habits – like sleeping in beds – but Squealer persuades them it was really a rule against the use of sheets! When the windmill collapses, Napoleon blames Snowball, (“Saboteurs” were often blamed in the Soviet Union) and orders that it must be rebuilt.
In another harsh winter food supplies fall short, and when human visitors come, the animals cover up the shortages. When Napoleon orders that the eggs will be sold to other farms the hens smash them in protest, however under threat the rebellion fizzles out. Some hens die but everything bad is increasingly blamed on the absent Snowball. It is even claimed he was Jones’ agent all along, and the history of The Battle of the Cowshed is re-written to show Snowball as the villain and Napoleon the real hero. Four pigs who have questioned some decisions are executed by the dogs, having confessed (these are the notorious Moscow show trials of the 1930s when bizarre confessions led to tens of thousands of deaths). Horrified by these events, the animals seek comfort in singing “Beasts of England” only to be told the song is “no longer needed.”
Increasingly, it is the “triumphs” of Napoleon, rather than the rebellion that are celebrated- “It had become usual to give Napoleon the credit for every successful achievement...” The animals fear an attack by Frederick (Hitler) only to find that “Napoleon had really been in secret agreement with Frederick.” This mirrors the Hitler/Stalin pact of 1939 which preceded the 2nd World War), but just as that pact failed in 1941 when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, Frederick fools Napoleon and launches an assault on Animal Farm. This time the struggle is much harder and the windmill is again destroyed. Only Boxer’s heroism prevails, just as the Soviet people had to make enormous sacrifices to triumph in 1945. When the animals discover the pigs have been drinking alcohol to celebrate, they find the drunken Squealer with a paint pot. He has altered the Seven Commandments whenever it suited the pigs.
After the great victory, life remains as hard as ever for most of the animals. No one gets to retire and rations are reduced, “but doubtless it had been worse in the old days,” they tell themselves. There are many “spontaneous” celebrations to thank the great Napoleon. Boxer works harder than ever but even his great strength begins to falter. He is taken away for treatment, they think, until Benjamin points out that the “ambulance” belongs to a horse-slaughterer… “Boxer was never seen again.” The pigs pretend he really is getting treatment and meet to celebrate his life, but they end up getting drunk instead.
Years have passed. Many of the old animals are dead. The survivors feel better, but only the pigs and the dogs seem richer. They still believe that, “All animals are equal,” until they see a pig walking on its hind legs! Napoleon, like Jones, now carries a whip in his trotter. The animals now see written on the barn wall: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL. BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.” The word “comrade” is no longer to be used, and the farm returns as the proper title, Manor Farm- “its correct and original name.” In the final scene, the animals look through the farmhouse windows... “From pig to man, and from man to pig...but already it was impossible to say which was which.”