After Jones has thrown himself into bed the animals creep to where a secret meeting has been called by an old pig, Major, who tells the animals it is time to rise and fight against the oppression that has held them down too long. He rails against man, who, he says, has held them down.
The ideas he puts forth that night are turned into an entire branch of thought, called Animalism, and secret meetings and societies are set up, while the old pig himself passes away.
Not long after that, the animals find themselves not being fed properly due to Jones’ drunkenness and his men’s laziness. They chase the men out of the gates of the farm, and begin creating laws and ordering themselves on the newly named Animal Farm. There is however, a little mystery. A batch of puppies goes missing, but no one complains, and soon they forget.
But things begin to go sour quickly. The characters are too varied and many to be held together easily. There is Mollie, Jones’ horse, who likes lumps of sugar and being patted on the nose more than she likes living there, and runs away early on. There is the stupid, but strongest of all animals, Boxer, the horse. And there are the sheep, who chant endlessly “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
But there are the more sinister characters. The pigs. Who quickly confiscate the milk from the cows and the apples from the trees, saying they do not even like such things, but they must be taken for their use, while they do “brain work.” Anyone who complains is cowed by the idea, no matter they are complaining about, that if it is not done, Jones will come back. And for that there is no counter argument.
Two factions soon form. There is Napoleon, the pig who rarely speaks in the debates, but always seems to have a following. And Snowball, the eloquent, the brilliant, and man of the people. (Make that pig of the animals.) He soon comes up with an idea (amidst fighting off an attempt at taking the farm back by Jones’ with tactics taken form a book by Julius Caesar) for a windmill.
Napoleon says he is against it, but will not say why. At the meeting however, just as Snowball is about to win the vote, the puppies, who had disappeared on the first day, return, as massive dogs, and break up the meeting. Snowball flees and never returns, and Napoleon states that he was a trader, and that he (Napoleon) is now in charge. Four young pigs leap to their feet to debate, but the dogs snarl, and when the rest of the animals begin to complain, they are told that all debates are from now on canceled, and the “Rebellion” is over. If these orders are not followed, Jones will come back. The sheep pick up their song again, and everyone is quieted. Boxer invents the motto “Napoleon is always right.” And peace returns. But so does the tyranny begin.
Quickly, Napoleon tells everyone that the windmill was actually his idea all along, and they are going to build it. And so they do. It falls down, and they build again. But this time things are harder, and the animals are beginning to go hungry. And yet always Boxer is there to stir them on with his spirit. But when the windmill is completed a second time, it is knocked down again, this time by dynamite from a neighboring farm.
And now the privations begin. The pigs take over the old house where the people lived when it was Manor Farm, and Animal Farm begins to be ruled by whips. The food gets less and less, and the work gets harder and harder. Yet always the animals of Animal Farm are rallied by their “comrades” the pigs, who tell them that they are happier than in Jones’ time, and much better off, proving it by figures no one but they understand.
But by now, Boxer is giving out. And one day he finally faints. Napoleon sells him to a glue factory, and executions of animals who go against him begin. And so the animals forget their tales of happiness and dreams of prosperity. The seven commandments are replaced by only one. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Until one day men from the surrounding farms come, to meet with Napoleon, who by now, with his pig cohorts, can walk on two legs and wear clothes and talk. He has changed the chant of the sheep to “Four legs good, two legs better.” And says that is what it has always been.
The old donkey and a few friends who still live from the time of Jones,’ creep up to the house, and to their horror, while they watch, the men congratulate Napoleon on having the farm in all of England where the animals work the most, and eat the least. And he laughs, and toasts. And then, according to Orwell, the faces of the pigs seem to change before the very eyes of the donkey.
As he looks from one to another, he can suddenly find no difference. Napoleon calls out that the name of Animal Farm is to be changed. It will be called instead, Manor Farm, the old name under the humans. And then the wise old donkey realizes what has changed in the pigs faces. They have become like the men’s. He cannot tell them apart. They have already become the same.
The tale ends here. We are left wondering if the animals rise and form a new rebellion, or flee, or simply live out their lives in squalor and working “harder than slaves, and yet without chains.”
The parallels of course are there. They do not even need pointing out. Keeping them busy. The figures, the lies. No one needs to explain. We know. Mankind is not, in the unfree nations of the world, very different from the animals of Animal Farm. And every free nation must constantly against becoming like that.
But one is left wondering in the end. Does the donkey, (symbol of democracy) rise up and fight and conquer the pigs? Or is he, like Boxer, in the end shipped off to be made into glue? The question is undying, it is only the deeds of men that can answer it.
Andrew C. Abbott