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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Animal Farm

by George Orwell


Animal Farm is an excellent selection for junior and senior high students to study. Although on one level the novel is an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the story is just as applicable to the latest rebellion against dictators around the world. Young people should be able to recognize similarities between the animal leaders and politicians today. The novel also demonstrates how language can be used to control minds. Since teenagers are the target not only of the educational system itself but also of advertising, the music industry, etc., they should be interested in exploring how language can control thought and behavior.

Animal Farm is short and contains few words that will hamper the reader's understanding. The incidents in the novel allow for much interactive learning, providing opportunities for students to dramatize certain portions, to expand on speeches, and to work out alternative endings.

The novel can be taught collaboratively with the history department as an allegory of the Russian Revolution, allowing students to draw parallels between actual events and people and the imaginary ones created by Orwell. The novel can also be taught as a beast fable following the study of shorter fables by Aesop and James Thurber. Examining the work as a satirical comment on the corrupting influence of power, students should be able to trace the corruption of the pigs and perhaps relate their findings to individuals in our own government who have succumbed to the lure of power at any cost and by any means.

Teenagers are especially influenced by peer pressure. In exploring the skillful use of peer pressure (along with the threat of death later in the book) used by the pigs to keep the other animals in line, the students can analyze their own lives and discover how peer pressure controls their actions.

This teacher's guide contains a brief synopsis of each chapter, followed by teaching suggestions for use before, during, and after reading the novel. Activities, discussion questions, and topics for writing assignments are also included, most of which can be adapted easily for either slower or more advanced students.


Chapter I – Twelve-year-old Major, Manor Farm's prize-winning boar, calls a meeting of all of the animals to talk about the difficulty of their lives under man's rule. He reveals his dream and prophesies a future rebellion of animals against man, teaching the animals a song called "Beasts of England."

Chapter II – Major dies, but the other animals, led by two young boars named Snowball and Napoleon, keep the idea of a future rebellion against man alive. On Midsummer's Eve, Mr. Jones becomes too drunk to feed or care for the animals, and the hired hands forget about them, as well. The animals break into the grain bins. When Mr. Jones and the hired hands appear, the animals attack and drive them off the farm. The animals are now in control of Manor Farm. They change its name to Animal Farm and establish their own rules for behavior, which are painted on the wall of the barn.

Chapter III – The farm animals, supervised by the pigs, harvest the crops with better results than ever before. Sundays are established as days of rest, for meetings, and for singing "Beasts of England." Having already taught themselves to read and write, the pigs attempt to teach these skills to other animals. Committees such as the Clean Tails League for the cows are set up, but none is successful. Since most of the animals cannot learn to read or to memorize the seven commandments, the commandments are reduced to one simple maxim: "Four legs good, two legs bad." Napoleon takes nine puppies for private instruction, and the pigs are now the only ones allowed to eat the apples and drink the milk produced on the farm. The pigs force the other animals to accept this by reminding them of the threat of Mr. Jones's return.

Chapter IV – The song "Beasts of England" is now being hummed and sung over half of the county, although no other farms have joined the Rebellion. Armed with a shotgun, Mr. Jones and several men from town attempt to recapture the farm, but Snowball leads the animals in successfully defending it. Medals for bravery are awarded to Snowball, Boxer, and the one sheep killed in the battle. Mr. Jones's gun is set up at the foot of the flagpole, and it will be fired on the anniversaries of the Rebellion and the newly renamed Battle of the Cowshed.

Chapter V – Mollie, the horse, is seen consorting with humans who have petted her and given her sugar and ribbons. When Clover the drafthorse confronts her, Mollie abandons Animal Farm and the Rebellion. Meanwhile, Snowball wants the animals to build a windmill that will provide electricity, heat, and running water in each stall, but Napoleon disagrees with the idea and urinates on Snowball's diagrams. When Snowball tries to present his idea to the animals at their weekly meeting, Napoleon reveals the nine dogs he has trained as guard/attack dogs, and the dogs drive Snowball from the farm. When some animals protest, the sheep drown them out by bleating, "Four legs good, two legs bad," and the dogs growl menacingly. Napoleon soon tells the animals they are going to build the windmill and that it has always been his idea. With the aid of three growling dogs, Squealer convinces the animals to believe this.

Chapter VI - Although they are working a 60-hour week, including Sunday afternoons, the animals are happy during the next year. They believe they are working for themselves, despite being threatened with half rations if they do not work on Sunday. Because of construction on the windmill, some crops are not planted on time, and the harvest is not nearly as good as last year's. The animals devise a way to break up the stone they need for the windmill. Boxer gets up earlier to work harder. The need for seeds and other supplies causes the pigs to begin trading with other farms, first selling a load of hay, but warning the hens that their eggs may have to be sold as well. Mr. Whymper, a solicitor living in Willingdon, serves as intermediary. Squealer assures the animals that no resolution had ever been made forbidding trade with humans.

The pigs move into the farmhouse and begin sleeping in the beds. The fourth commandment now says, "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets." With the dogs' aid and the threat of Jones's return, Squealer convinces the animals that the rule had always referred to sheets. When the half-built windmill blows down during a storm, Napoleon accuses Snowball of destroying it and orders the animals to begin rebuilding it.

Chapter VII - Always cold and usually hungry, the animals labor to rebuild the windmill over the long, hard winter. Napoleon rarely leaves the farmhouse. Squealer makes all his announcements and informs the hens they must produce eggs to sell so that grain can be bought for the animals to eat. The rebellious hens, led by three pullets, go on strike, laying their eggs from the rafters so that they smash on the floor. Napoleon starves them into submission, and nine hens die before the rebellion is over.

Anything that goes wrong on the farm is blamed on Snowball. Squealer again counts on the growling dogs and Boxer's belief that whatever Napoleon says is right to persuade the animals that Snowball had always been in league with Jones and was a traitor at the Battle of the Cowshed. He warns them that there may be other animal traitors in their ranks. A few days later Napoleon calls a meeting in which the dogs attack the four pigs who had earlier protested Snowball's guilt. Under pressure they confess to spying for Snowball, and the dogs quickly tear out their throats. The hen ringleaders of the strike confess, as do several other animals, and all are promptly killed.

When the shocked animals gather together for comfort and sing "Beasts of England," Squealer silences them and states that the song has been abolished; it is unnecessary now that the Rebellion has been achieved. When some attempt to protest, the sheep's bleats drown them out until discussion time has passed.

Chapter VIII - When some of the animals think to check the commandments, they find that the sixth now reads, "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause." They accept the deaths as perfectly reasonable in light of the rule. Though the animals are working harder than ever, they wonder if they are any better off than they were under Mr. Jones, yet Squealer quotes figures that seemingly support his statements that production has increased. Now when Napoleon appears, he is attended by the dogs and a black cockerel who marches in front and crows before Napoleon speaks. Napoleon has his own apartment, eats from the best china, has two dogs to wait on him, and orders that the gun be fired on his birthday.

The windmill is finally finished. Napoleon sells a stack of lumber to Frederick and insists on being paid in five-pound notes. After the lumber is carted away, the pigs discover that the money is counterfeit. Frederick and his men then attack Animal Farm. Armed with rifles, the men force the animals to flee. Only Benjamin realizes they are going to blow up the windmill. When it is destroyed, the animals throw caution to the wind and attack Frederick's men, who kill several of the animals and wound the others. After the animals chase the men off the farm, Napoleon orders that Jones's rifle be fired in a victory celebration. The injured Boxer questions the victory, but Squealer assures him that they have won back their farm and will rebuild the windmill. In celebration the animals are given extra food.

The pigs discover a case of whiskey and get very drunk. The next day, a hungover Squealer announces that Napoleon is dying. When Napoleon recovers, he sends for books on brewing and distilling, and orders that the field originally designated as the grazing plot for retired animals be plowed up and planted with barley. The fifth commandment now reads, "No animals shall drink alcohol to excess."

Chapter IX - Although Boxer was injured in the battle, he still works as hard as ever on rebuilding the windmill. The animals are colder and hungrier than last winter, but Squealer again recites statistics to assure them that even with a "readjustment" of rations, they are still much better off than when Jones ran the farm. Since most of the animals cannot remember what life under Jones was like, they believe him.

Thirty-one baby pigs now wear green ribbons on their tails on Sundays and are taught by Napoleon, who has plans to build a schoolhouse. The pigs, fatter than ever, have learned to brew beer and receive a daily ration of it. Once a week the animals participate in a Spontaneous Demonstration to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of Animal Farm, which helps them forget their hunger and misery.

The farm is declared a Republic and Napoleon (the only candidate) is elected President. Moses, the raven, returns with his tales of Sugarcandy Mountain and is allowed to stay. Hardworking Boxer finally collapses. He believes he and Benjamin now will be allowed to retire; however, the wagon that comes to take him to the hospital actually belongs to the horse slaughterer. When Benjamin convinces the others of Boxer's danger, it is too late: Boxer is too feeble to break out of the wagon on his own.

Several days later, Squealer announces that Boxer has died in the hospital and has been buried in town. He reassures the animals that he was there right at the end and that Boxer died saying, "Napoleon is always right." He explains away the wagon and assures the animals that a memorial banquet will be held for Boxer. On the day of the celebration, a case of whiskey is delivered to the pigs, who have somehow found money to pay for it.

Chapter X - Over the years most of the animals who took part in the Rebellion have died, leaving only Clover, Benjamin, Moses, and several of the pigs. None of the animals has ever been allowed to retire. Many animals have been born who have little knowledge of the Rebellion, and those bought by the Farm have never heard of it at all. The farm flourishes. The windmill is used to grind corn, and another is being built. The animals have been told they don't need the hot and cold water and electric lights they thought they would have once the windmill was built. Napoleon tells them "the truest happiness... lay in working hard and living frugally." There are many more pigs and dogs, and even though they do not produce food, their appetites are hearty. The overworked animals often suffer from hunger and cold; however, they never lose sight of the truth that they are members of Animal Farm, the only farm owned and run by animals. They still hope and believe in Major's Republic of the Animals, when all of England will be free of mankind.

Squealer takes the sheep away and teaches them a new slogan. To the horror of the other animals, the pigs begin to walk on two legs, and the sheep drown out their protests with their newly learned slogan, "Four legs good, two legs better." There is only one commandment now: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

The pigs dress in the Jones's clothing, and nearby farmers come for a tour of the farm. The farmers comment favorably on the fact that the animals work longer hours and are fed less than their own animals. Napoleon announces that he is abolishing several practices at the farm such as the use of the "Comrade," Sunday marches, and the horn and hoof symbols on the flag. The farm will resume its original name: The Manor Farm. As the animals peek in the farmhouse windows, to their amazement they can no longer tell who are the pigs and who are the humans.

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