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Chapter 2

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 2 of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

Animal Farm | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Old Major dies three days after the meeting takes place, passing peacefully in his sleep. The animals bury him in the farm's orchard. In the three months that follow, the most intelligent of the animals begin meeting regularly, organizing for the rebellion, even though they don't know when the rebellion will begin. As the pigs take the lead in these early preparations, among them two leaders emerge: Napoleon and Snowball. A third pig, Squealer, becomes well known for his powers of speech and persuasion. These three pigs work together to formalize Old Major's ideas into a system of ideas they call Animalism. This philosophy helps convince the animals to consider a rebellion. Some wonder why they should work for a rebellion that might not happen in their lifetimes, especially when Moses the raven promises them they will go to a land of plenty called Sugarcandy Mountain when they die. Boxer and Clover prove helpful in winning the animals over to the cause because the animals believe the horses are so trustworthy.

As it turns out, the rebellion does come within the animals' lifetimes. Having lost a lawsuit, Mr. Jones continues to neglect the farm and drink too much. One Saturday in June, Jones gets inebriated in the village; neither he nor his workers return to feed the animals. The cows break into the store shed, and the animals help themselves to the grain inside. When Mr. Jones and his men return and try to stop the animals, the animals fight back. Mr. Jones, his family, and his men flee the farm. The animals, seeing what they have accomplished and realizing that they are now free, destroy the farmer's tools and the symbols of their bondage, such as bits, nose rings, and halters. Touring the farmhouse, they see the luxuries inside, such as featherbeds and carpets. On the barn wall they write the basic tenets of Animalism as Seven Commandments:

  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 any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal.

They change the farm's name to Animal Farm and resolve to bring in the harvest themselves, faster and better than Jones ever did. Just before the animals move out to the hayfield to harvest, the cows need milking, so the pigs do the job. When the animals wonder what will be done with the buckets of milk, Napoleon tells them not to worry. When the animals return from the hayfield, they notice that the buckets have disappeared.

Analysis

Old Major's death contrasts sharply with the violent and brutal deaths at the hands of Men, which he describes at the meeting. This ending allows him the dignity that befits the founder of Animalism. Because the rebellion originated with Old Major, and because the pigs are the only animals besides Benjamin who can read and write fluently, it makes sense that they take the lead in organizing the rebellion and running the farm afterward.

Moses and his tales of Sugarcandy Mountain parallel a religion. Moses's name makes this connection clear, as he shares his name with the Biblical prophet who led the Hebrews out of servitude in Egypt and presented them with the Ten Commandments. In Animal Farm, these are replaced with the Seven Commandments of Animalism. Sugarcandy Mountain seems like a heaven, a place of leisure and plentiful food, the animals' reward in the next life for hard work and suffering in this one. Communism rejects such religious ideals because these beliefs provide the workers with a reason to endure suffering rather than the motivation to overthrow their oppressors so they can improve their lot in this life. Karl Marx called religion the "opium of the masses," meaning that it dulls people's thinking so they remain content with their lot. Obviously, such thinking runs counter to the process of rebellion, so Moses's speeches are not helpful to the animals' ultimate goals.

In the parallel to the Russian Revolution of 1917 presented in Animal Farm, Mr. Jones, his family, and his men represent Tsar Nicholas II and his family. However, in the more generalized critique of communism the novel presents, Jones and his men represent the entire ruling class that not only neglects the needs of the poor, but makes its fortunes on the labor of the working classes. In the same way that all revolutions are won and lost, the farmers underestimate the physical strength and numbers of the animals, so the farmers lose in direct confrontation.

Likewise, the renaming of Manor Farm to Animal Farm mirrors the decision of the Russian communist government to rename the country following the revolution and ensuing civil war. Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) or Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991.

The Seven Commandments form the cornerstone of the animals' new way of life, so it is important for them to have these close at hand. Even though most of the animals cannot read, having the commandments posted for all to see instills a sense of pride in the animals and creates a sense of legitimacy for the new regime.

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Questions for Chapter 2

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