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themuffinman
16 May 04,, 00:37
ClassicNote on Animal Farm


Short Summary of Animal Farm


Animal Farm is set on an English farm named Manor Farm, owned by Mr. Jones. The fable-like story concerns the rebellion of the farm animals, and is told entirely from their point of view. The story opens with Mr. Jones stumbling into bed, unable to lock up the farm properly after a night of excessive whisky drinking. Old Major, the venerable and well-respected pig, has called all the animals together for a meeting to take place after Mr. Jones has gone to bed, and they gather outside the big barn on the farm. Old Major tells them all that he had a miraculous dream last night, in which he saw his approaching death, and also understood more clearly the life of animals. He wants to impart his realizations to the rest of the animals while he still can, as well as rouse them to take the action that he has come to feel is necessary.

Old Major points out to the animals that the cause of their miserable existences is the tyranny of Man, who is a lazy, incompetent creature who steals the fruits of animals' labor for his own benefit. Old Major describes his vision of an England where animals could live in peaceful and plentiful coexistence with each other, free from the cruel tyranny of Man. He exhorts the animals to band together to defeat their common enemy, and teaches them all "Beasts of England," the song which becomes their revolutionary anthem and battle cry. The animals are greatly moved by Old Major's speech, and rally around the rebellion idea, singing "Beasts of England" until Mr. Jones is roused from his sleep and fires a shot into the air, quieting the animals to sleep.

Three days later, Old Major dies and is buried. His revolutionary fervor lives on, and the animals begin to flesh in the revolutionary ideology with which they will overthrow Mr. Jones. Two of the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerge as the leaders of the animals. Another pig named Squealer is also prominent for his persuasive speaking ability. These three pigs create a system of tenets and name it "Animalism," and begin imparting it to the rest of the animals, often simplifying and slowly reasoning with the less-intelligent animals such as the Sheep, or the frivolous animals, like Mollie the white mare.

Revolution comes earlier than anyone expected, when Mr. Jones gets so drunk that he is unable to go feed the animals. After a day and a half without food, the hungry animals finally riot and break into the feeding area themselves, prompting Mr. Jones and his field hands to come outside. The animals attack them with a vengeance, and the men flee, leaving Manor Farm to the animals. Mrs. Jones wakes up during the commotion, and when she discovers what has happened, she runs off with a suitcase of clothes herself. The animals rejoice, walking over the farm to examine their property, and celebrate with extra rations of food. The next morning, Snowball repaints the sign reading "Manor Farm" to say "Animal Farm," and he and Napoleon introduce the animals to The Seven Commandments, which form the tenets of their "Animalism":

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill another animal.
7. All animals are created equal.

The cows by this time need milking, so the pigs manage to milk them. Several of the animals want some of the milk for themselves, but Napoleon distracts them, saying that they have more important things to attend to and that he will take care of it. Later that day, the animals notice that the milk had disappeared.

The Animalism regime begins very promisingly, with all the animals working industriously to improve the farm, and enjoying the feeling of self-governance and "animal pride" which their regime produces. The animals observe a flag-raising ritual on Sundays, which is a day of rest for them. Snowball forms an array of committees aimed at social improvements, education, training, and the like. The education program achieves the greatest success. Boxer the horse becomes the most admired of all the animals for his zealous devotion to the cause and his personal motto "I will work harder". After the discovery that the stupider animals could not learn the Seven Commandments, Snowball reduces the tenets down to the maxim "Four legs good, two legs bad," which even the sheep can memorize, and bleat for hours on end. After the apple harvest, the pigs announce that they will reserve all the apples and milk for themselves, to fuel their strenuous efforts to manage the farm. The other animals reluctantly acquiesce.

News of the rebellion at Animal Farm spreads quickly to the rest of the animals in England, all of whom learn the words to "Beasts of England". Mr. Jones gathers some townsmen and attempts to reclaim his farm, but the animals successfully defend it. Snowball and Boxer are given medals for their courageous fighting. Soon thereafter, Mollie runs off to work pulling a dogcart for a man who feeds her sugar lumps, and she is never spoken of again. When winter comes, Snowball begins talking of a plan to build a windmill to increase the productivity of the farm. Napoleon, who by this times disagrees with Snowball about almost everything, is bitterly opposed, and the animals become divided into two camps of supporters. During a debate, Napoleon whistles for nine large dogs that he has trained, and they attack Snowball and drive him off the farm. Napoleon becomes the single leader of the animals, and announces that they will go through with the windmill scheme after all.

The animals begin working like slaves to complete the harvest and build the windmill. When Napoleon announces that Animal Farm will begin trading with the men who run nearby farms, the animals think they remember Old Major speaking against evil human habits such as trade. Squealer convinces the animals that they are only imagining it. The pigs then move into the farmhouse, and Squealer again convinces that animals that they are only imagining the earlier rules against sleeping in beds. Some of the animals go to check the Fourth Commandment, and discover that it now reads "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets". The windmill is destroyed in a storm, and Napoleon blames it on Snowball, and places a reward on his head.

A hard winter comes, and the animals face near-starvation. Napoleon announces that the hens will have to give up their eggs to be sold for money to buy grain. The hens refuse at first, but Napoleon cuts off their food rations until they relent, after nine of them have died from starvation. Soon after, Napoleon announces that an attempted rebellion has been discovered, and has several of the farm animals executed. The remaining animals react with fear and horror, and huddle around Clover the mare for comfort. She reminds them of Old Major's glorious speech and leads them all in "Beast of England," which prompts Napoleon to forbid the singing of the song.

The animals discover that after the executions, another commandment is different from how they remembered it; the Sixth Commandment now reads "No animal shall kill another animal without cause". Napoleon has a long poem praising his leadership painted on the side of the barn. The farm is again attacked by neighboring farmers, who the animals repel, but only with great difficulty. Napoleon celebrates the victory by drinking lots of whisky, and the Fifth Commandment soon reads "No animal shall drink alcohol in excess". Boxer's injury sustained in the attack is slow-healing.

Rations continue to be reduced for the animals, except for the pigs, who are allowed to wear green ribbons on Sundays, drink beer daily, and actually seem to be gaining weight. Boxer falls ill and Napoleon promises to send him to a hospital, but the animals read the sign of the truck as he is hauled away and discover that he is being taken to the butcher's. Squealer eventually convinces the animals that they are mistaken.

Years pass, and many of the older animals die off. Squealer assumes a position of power, and learns to walk upright. He teaches the sheep to change their chant to "Four legs good, two legs better," and the Seven Commandments are replaced with a single commandment: "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others". The pigs invite the neighboring farmer to dinner to inspect the efficiency of Animal Farm, and the men congratulate the pigs on their achievements, noting that the animals at Animal Farm did more work and required less food than any farm in the county. As the animal watch the dinner proceedings through the window, they realize with horror that they can no longer tell the pigs' faces from the human ones.

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