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

The richest exploration of the novel comes after it has been read. While some of the following activities may be required of all students, individual involvement with the novel will be enhanced if students are allowed to choose from among the suggested activities or ones that they propose themselves. Also, students should be encouraged to pursue activities that invite more personal involvement, such as the dramatic and arts/crafts options.

Discussion and/or Written Questions

(1) Compare/contrast students' written expectation of what would happen after Chapter II with what actually happened. These comparison/contrasts can be made either orally or in a written assignment.

(2) After doing research on the Russian Revolution, point out similarities between real events and people and those in the novel. As a variation, do the same with any subsequent rebellion around the world since 1917.

(3) Explain how Animal Farm can been seen as a fable even though it does not have a moral stated at the end. Provide a moral of your own and explain it in terms of the novel.

(4) Remember Orwell's subtitle is "A Fairy Story." Explain how the novel fits this subtitle, citing supporting details.

(5) Give examples of peer pressure as used in the novel, paying close attention to Boxer and the sheep.

(6) Speculate on why Orwell made the reader sympathize with all of the animals except the pigs, who are the most intelligent beasts and the closest to humans of any of the animals.

(7) Look at the list of good leadership qualities made at the beginning of the novel. How do the pigs fit this list? Were there any attributes that the pigs lacked? Did they have some that were not on the list? Write a paper explaining how the pigs do and/or do not qualify as good leaders. Use specific examples.

(8) Discuss the importance of education as it evolves during the course of the novel. At the same time, address the distinctions that may be made between education and indoctrination.

(9) Clover saw many changes on the farm after the first mention of the Rebellion at the meeting with Major. How does her character change? What/who is she meant to represent? What is she thinking as she sees her husband carted off to his death? Put yourself in her mind and write an explanation of major events from her point of view.

(10) Write a continuation of the novel beginning at the point where the novel ends. Could a new revolutionary leader appear? Might Benjamin decide to take a more active role? When and how might the society fail?

(11) Explore Mr. Whymper's possible motives for helping the pigs. Consider how he benefits, what problems he faces with both the pigs and the humans, and whether he will continue to benefit from working with the pigs.

(12) Trace the defamation of Snowball's character from the planning of the windmill to the end of the book. Give specific examples.

(13) Explain why an "enemy" or scapegoat is necessary for the animals. Why does the "enemy" have to change? If there were no "enemy," what would that mean for any society, including that of Animal Farm?

(14) Why did Woodhouse in his introduction to Animal Farm compare the writing of this novel to the development of the atomic bomb?

(15) Watch the movie version of Animal Farm. How effective are the cartoon characters? How does the movie version differ from the book? What would account for the differences?

(16) Read Lord of the Flies and compare/contrast the characters, situations, governments that evolve, and the endings of both novels.

(17) Look at the names of the characters. Why did Orwell use the names he did? How do the names fit the characters?

Examples: Mr. Jones could represent any man. Jones is a common a name as Smith. If he were named Mr. Edgewater, it would individualize him too much. All we know about Jones is that he drinks too much and sometimes is cruel to his animals.

  • Napoleon is a regal name, one fit for an emperor, a tyrant.
  • Snowball is white and represents a thing that melts in the sun or breaks up when it hits a solid object, such as Napoleon. Certainly the name shows no leadership.
  • Squealer does just that. He spies for Napoleon and tells on the other animals.
  • Moses, the crow, like Moses in the Bible, is there to lead the animals to the promised land of Sugarcandy Mountain.
  • Boxer has great stamina, willpower, and strength, and does whatever he is told. He is not too intelligent, but he is loyal. Many human boxers could fit this description.

Dramatic Activities

(1) Select major events from the book and present each as part of a series of televised news reports, possibly on videotape.
(2) Present dramatizations of selected scenes for the class. The meeting scenes provide opportunities for dramatic conflict as well as involving many characters. A set based on the novel could be developed.
(3) Convert the novel into a puppet show. Make simple puppets, such as stick puppets, finger puppets, or paperbag puppets, and present the novel or selected scenes.
(4) Give a reader's theater presentation of selected scenes.
(5) Write a dialogue between Snowball and Napoleon as it might have happened over the need for a windmill. Try to be consistent with the characters as they are presented in the book. Then perform this exchange for the class.

Arts/Crafts Activities

(1) Draw a series of pictures of characters presenting situations and ideas from the book.
(2) Make a scale model of Animal Farm, paying close attention to details given in the book in order to create a realistic model.
(3) Convert the events of the novel into a ballad or song. Write the lyrics and music or adapt words to a melody by someone else. It might even be a song the muppet Miss Piggy would sing.
(4) Design and make your own T-shirt with an illustration about the novel. Create a design using colorfast marking pens.
(5) Design a wardrobe for the cast of characters in the novel.
(6) Make a diorama or shadow box depicting the setting, characters, or the theme from the novel. Shoe boxes are ideal for this project.
(7) Develop time-line charts comparing the history of various totalitarian societies to Animal Farm.

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