Animal Farm Literature Guide

Although Animal Farm is an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the story is just as applicable to the latest rebellion against dictators around the world, which makes it a perfect novel for cross-curricular study. This guide includes chapter summaries, teaching suggestions, discussion questions, and writing assignments.
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Updated on: October 25, 2000
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Orwell's Animal Farm

Some time should be spent helping students understand the terms satire, allegory, irony, and fable. Reading a few of Aesop's, La Fontaine's, and especially Thurber's fables will be time well spent. Animal Farm has attributes of the fable, but there is no stated moral at the end. The animals learn nothing from their experience and are still unaware of their real situation. By the end of the novel, students may suggest some possible morals, but none should be offered at this time.

Since Orwell's subtitle is "A Fairy Story," a discussion of the fairy story itself is in order. It would be more valuable to let the students themselves decide the elements of the fairy tale rather than to provide them. Given a few titles such as "Cinderella" or "Sleeping Beauty," they should be able to supply characteristics such as magic, a villain, a damsel-in-distress, a handsome hero, and a happy ending. At this point, reading C. M. Woodhouse's Introduction to the novel is recommended. Make sure students understand how Woodhouse fits Animal Farm to the definition of the fairy tale. After the novel has been read, students can debate the comparison Woodhouse makes between the development and dropping of the atomic bomb and the writing and publishing of Animal Farm.

Students should now be ready to begin reading the novel itself. At least two weeks (and preferably three) should be allowed for the study of the novel. The following reading assignments should be made:

Reading Assignment 1 - Chapters I and II
Reading Assignment 2 - Chapters III and IV
Reading Assignment 3 - Chapter V
Reading Assignment 4 - Chapters VI and VII
Reading Assignment 5 - Chapters VIII and IX
Reading Assignment 6 - Chapter X

Before reading Chapter I, ask students to think about the qualities of a good leader. List these attributes on the board and ask students to write them in a notebook reserves for notes on this novel. Not only should students jot down interesting incidents from the novel as they read, but they should also answer assigned questions in their notebooks.

Next ask students to think about reasons why a government might be overthrown. Current world events may be brought up. What makes people dissatisfied with their leaders and their living conditions? Write the students' ideas on the board and ask them to write these ideas in their notebooks.

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