Summary: 8 min
Book reading time: 2h22
Published in: 1945
- Greed prevails disregarding the political system in place.
- No one is fighting for you (unless you pay them). People only fight for themselves.
What Animal Farm Talks About
Animal Farm is a satirical political novel written by George Orwell. It came out in 1945. Taking the Soviet Union as an example, Orwell mocked “the people’s revolution” by outlining how these are seldom about the people. Using a farm as an example, he demonstrates that greed and thirst for power always end up corrupting the revolution’s initial intentions.
A must-read in these times.
Summary of Animal Farm Written by George Orwell
The story begins in the Manor Farm, in England, with an old pig called Old Major. One night, Old Major has a dream and decides to tell all of the animals about it during a conference.
“Your lives are miserable, he says. The farmer Mr. Jones, is a drunk that barely feeds us enough food to survive. We have to work all day every day, have few hobbies, and when we become too old for labor, we are just killed and transformed into food.
Because of humans. Humans steal the work of the animals, which prevents us from enjoying it ourselves. As a result, by getting rid of the humans, we will solve all of our problems.”
The animals agreed, but Old Major warned them: animals, by fighting humans, should not become like them. Two-legs animals are the enemies, four-legs animals are the friends. Animals can never wear clothes, sleep in a bed, drink, smoke, or do business. No animal can ever tyrannize or killed another.
Old Major subsequently sings them a revolutionary song, Beasts of England, before the end of the meeting. He died in the following days.
All the animals now waited impatiently for the revolution to happen.
Their organization in a movement was undertaken by the smartest animals, the pigs. The leaders were Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer.
Together, they organized secret meetings and develop the political ideology called Animalism. Animalism says that animals should rule over their lives by themselves, without humans.
In the beginning, the animals are skeptical. Without Mr. Jones to take care of them, who will?
Slowly though, the ideas of Animalism gained ground.
One day, Mr. Jones drank too much, and no one fed the animals. Hungry, they started looking for anything to eat. Mr. Jones, who had heard the mess, came with his employees to put some order on the farm.
But the animals counter-attacked. Surprised, the humans ran away and didn’t come back.
The animals had succeeded. The farm belonged to them.
The next day, the animals explored their new domain. They threw in the fire everything that reminded them of humans, and transformed the farm into a museum. It was decided that no one would ever live in it.
The pigs, who had learned to read and write, renamed the farm “Animal Farm”.
They also established the 7 commandments of Animalism that they wrote in the stable.
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equal.
Unfortunately, only the pigs and the donkey could read them properly.
And so the animals began to work, under the supervision of the pigs. Since the pigs were the smartest, they told everyone what to do, but worked little themselves.
Every Sunday, the animals met and decided together what to do during a general assembly led by Napoleon and Snowball.
They decided to teach the animals how to write and read, but few of them ever managed. And since the less intelligent among them, the sheep, couldn’t even remember the 7 commandments, Snowball decided to summarize them as follow: four legs good, two legs bad.
Later, it was revealed that the pigs received a bit more food than the rest of the animals. They justified it by the fact that the entire organization of the farm rested on them, and that without them, Mr. Jones would come back.
Indeed, one day, Mr. Jones came back with 6 other men to get his farm back. The battle was hard, but the animals won.
Winter came, and it was cold. Snowball and Napoleon disagreed on everything.
The former wanted to build a windmill to light and heat the stable, while the latter thought it was insanity.
So the animals decided they would vote for it.
The final vote happened at the general assembly on Sunday morning. After a fierce discourse, it seemed like Snowball was going to win. So Napoleon made a high-pitched song, and nine big dogs appeared and chased Snowball away.
No one ever saw him again.
Napoleon then declared that the Sunday assembly was a waste of time, and the decisions would now be taken by a group of pigs exclusively.
One day, it was eventually announced that the windmill would be built.
When the animals asked why Napoleon was against it in the beginning, Squealer told them it was only to get rid of “the criminal Snowball”.
And so the animals started making the windmill. It was tough, and they worked 60 hours a week.
Soon, some materials that the farm could not produce came to miss. So Napoleon decided that he would do business with the farms of the region – only to get what they could not make themselves!
The animals were surprised. They remembered that business and relations with humans were forbidden. But Squealer convinced them they had probably dreamed about this, and that it had never happened.
Soon after, the pigs moved into the farm. Once again, the animals were surprised, but Squealer convinced them otherwise.
Also, the 9 dogs were always nearby, and didn’t hesitate to grunt if one of the animals asked too many questions.
Yet, one of the horses was skeptical and tried to read one of the 7 Commandments about the ban on sleeping in a bed.
It said “no animals shall sleep in a bed…with sheets”.
They could not remember that sheets were mentioned at all in the beginning.
The windmill moved forward and was now half-built.
One day though, a storm destroyed it entirely.
To avoid a revolt, Napoleon declared that it had been destroyed by Snowball.
Snowball was condemned to death and animals would be rewarded for finding him.
So the animals went back to building the windmill.
It was winter, and food was missing.
Napoleon demanded that the hens lay more eggs, which provoked a mini-revolt. So Napoleon stopped feeding them, and after five days of strike, they eventually accepted. Nine of them had died – officially, of a disease.
Meanwhile, every mistake, every misfortune, was attributed to Snowball. Napoleon revealed that Snowball had always been a traitor, and that he was working for Mr. Jones since the beginning.
The animals had a hard time believing it, but Squealer persuaded them.
A few days later, Napoleon reunited all of the animals, and launched his dogs on four piglets that had protested more than a few times. They confessed that they had been working with Snowball since the beginning.
They were executed right away.
Other animals moved forward to confess more crimes, and each of them was executed right away.
Few had ever seen so many corpses.
The animals were shocked. The oldest of them did not remember that it was what Animal Farm stood for in the beginning. They went deep into the farm and began to sing Beasts of England.
Squealer subsequently announced that now that the “utopian society” had been established, it was forbidden to sing Beasts of England.
A few days later, some animals remembered that killing other animals was normally forbidden.
When the commandment about killing was read, it said “no animal shall kill any other animal…without good reason”.
Nobody remembered that the three last words had been written.
Meanwhile, Napoleon wrote songs about himself, gave himself titles, had moved into his own private apartment within the farm, and never appeared in public anymore.
When the windmill was finished, Napoleon congratulated the animals and announced that it would be named “Windmill Napoleon”.
Later on, Snowball sold some wood against cash, and bought other merchandise with the cash. The problem was that the cash was fake, so his business partner invaded the farm for vengeance. Since the men had guns, the animals could not fight back.
The men, which hated the farm and the animals, destroyed the windmill with dynamite and left.
Looking at the damages, the pigs found whisky and during the entire night, got drunk in the farm.
The next day, it was announced that Napoleon was dying. His last order was that anyone that would consume alcohol would be put to death.
The next day, he felt better.
Soon, it was announced that the farm would start to brew beer and Squealer was somehow seen changing the commandment “No animal shall drink alcohol” to “No animal shall drink too much alcohol”.
Three years after the revolution, the animals had still to build back the windmill, and life was still tough.
But the pigs managed to convince everyone that life was worse under Mr. Jones.
Meanwhile, it was decided that pigs would have priority on the farm, and that they could also wear a green ribbon on their tail on Sunday.
The food rations were decreased, and animals had to work harder.
The farm was transformed into a republic and Napoleon, the sole candidate, was elected president unanimously.
One day, the horse Boxer, the fiercest worker on the farm, had an accident. He had to stop work.
Napoleon promised to send him to the vet. When the truck came to pick him up, it was not an ambulance, but a knacker. Napoleon had sold Boxer
Three days later, it was announced that Boxer had died “at the hospital”, and that the van that had taken Boxer was in fact the van of the hospital purchased from a knacker, and that it had not yet been repainted.
A few years later, most of the animals that had lived through the revolution had died.
Boxer and Snowball had been forgotten.
The windmill had been finished, but it didn’t heat or lighten the stable. It molded wheat, and made a lot of money.
The pigs were fatter than usual, and Napoleon was old.
He had rewritten Animalism to say that frugality and work were the core ideas of it, not a “three-day workweek” or any other ideas of such.
Despite that, the animals never lost hope. They still felt proud to be part of the Animal Farm.
One day Squealer took the sheep for several days and taught them a new catchphrase.
After a few days, the animals could not believe what they saw: all of the pigs now stood on their back legs. They no longer walked on the four.
The sheep then screamed, “four legs good, two legs better!”
One of the horses, present from the beginning, felt lost. She asked the donkey to read the 7 commandments.
All of them had been replaced by one only.
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
It was no longer strange to see the pigs manage the farm with a whip, make phone calls, or listen to the radio.
A few days later, farmers from the farms around were invited by the pigs.
Napoleon further announced that the name of Animal Farm would change to “Manor Farm”.
As the animals were observing them from outside, they seemed not to be able to distinguish the humans from the pigs anymore.
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