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Animal Farm | Discussion Questions 11 - 20

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What does Benjamin mean in Animal Farm Chapter 3 when he says, "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey"?

Benjamin delivers his observation about the life span of donkeys in his typically cryptic and cynical fashion. He makes this statement to explain his minimal participation in the post-rebellion structure of the farm. He does not actively resist the new leadership but continues to work as he always has, unlike Mollie, who dodges her duties whenever possible. Because he points out his long life, Benjamin implies that he has seen other promises of improvement to the animals' lives, perhaps in the form of promises from past farmers, but has also seen how those promises came to nothing. However, Benjamin is unclear about exactly how long he has lived or what kinds of changes he has seen in the past, so it is impossible to know the details. He does not expect the changes promised by the rebellion to have any lasting impact. His follow-up remark, that none of the animals has ever seen a dead donkey, also implies that Benjamin will outlive this latest change in the farm's leadership as well.

What committees does Snowball form in Animal Farm Chapter 3, and for what reasons, and are they successful?

In his role as a leader on the farm, Snowball forms a number of committees, each of which appears to address a specific need for a different group of animals. Among other enterprises, he establishes the Egg Production Committee for the hens, the Clean Tails League for the cows, and the Whiter Wool Movement for the sheep. Embracing Old Major's early edict that wild animals are also comrades, Snowball also establishes a Wild Comrades' Re-education Committee to bring rats and rabbits into the fold of Animalism. The committees are established both to help the animals buy into the concepts of Animalism and to provide each group with a voice in the running of the farm. Snowball's efforts appear to be sincere. The committees do not exist just to foster the illusion of animal participation, but the long-term results are unclear. Most of the committees fail or disband because the animals lack the interest, intelligence, or skill to fully participate and pursue the committees' goals.

How does Napoleon's decision to take and raise Jessie's and Bluebell's puppies in Animal Farm Chapter 3 contradict the vision Old Major set forth in Chapter 1?

A large part of Old Major's speech in Chapter 1 addresses the familial losses many animals face as a result of the humans' greed, as in when Jones takes away eggs that might have been chicks and sells Clover's foals. Presumably after the rebellion, animals will be able to keep their offspring and form the family bonds denied by their human masters. Yet when Jessie and Bluebell whelp nine puppies, Napoleon immediately takes them away from their mothers. He presents his action as a decision in the puppies' best interests, saying he will educate them, but the action still runs counter to Old Major's early ideas, as the puppies will be raised to serve Napoleon rather than form connections with their dog families.

What propaganda techniques does Squealer use to justify the taking of the the milk and apples by the pigs in Animal Farm Chapter 3?

Squealer explains that the pigs need the milk and apples to preserve their health as they engage in the arduous "brain work" of managing the farm. He denies that the pigs derive any personal benefit from these additional rations, claiming that he does not even like milk and apples himself. His personal testimony makes his claims seem more legitimate. He also says the benefits of the milk and apples for the pigs' unique tasks on the farm have been proven by science, but he does not offer details about the science involved. Citing vague scientific evidence or statistics is a common technique used in propaganda to make an argument appear more convincing. Squealer overstates the role the pigs play in the animals' welfare, suggesting the pigs are looking out for the animals day and night. The milk and apples—extra nutrients that promote health, as he states—are for the animals' own good. Squealer concludes his argument with an appeal to the animals' emotions, adopting a pleading tone and tapping into the animals' greatest fear: that Mr. Jones will come back if the pigs aren't able to run the farm.

Why do the other farmers feel threatened by the existence of Animal Farm in Animal Farm Chapter 4?

The other farmers have seen firsthand what happens to Mr. Jones after the animals expel him. He descends into full-time drunkenness, raving in the local pub about how he lost his farm. The other farmers view his story as a cautionary tale and do what they can to stop the spread of Animalism to their own farms. They have good reason to fear Animal Farm, too, because Napoleon and Snowball send messengers to the neighboring farms to spread word of their accomplishments and teach more animals "Beasts of England." The ultimate goal of Animalism is to make all animals free, not just the inhabitants of Animal Farm. As a result, even though the other farmers have little use for Mr. Jones, they support his effort to retake his farm because the defeat of Animal Farm will help ensure the security of their own farms.

Why is keeping Mr. Jones's gun after the Battle of the Cowshed significant in Animal Farm Chapter 4?

Mr. Jones leaves his rifle behind as he and his men retreat after their defeat in the Battle of the Cowshed. In one respect it makes sense that the animals keep the gun as a trophy that represents the ultimate defeat of their one-time oppressor, and the animals want to remember their victory. Contrarily, at the same time the decision appears to counter the spirit, if not the letter, of the Seven Commandments and the principles of Animalism. The first thing the animals do after taking control of the farm is destroy the tools used to frighten and control them, but now they take a similar tool and raise it to revered status. While the Seven Commandments do not explicitly forbid the possession or use of weapons, the gun is such a uniquely human invention that keeping it seems to go against the commandments. It seems conflicting that animals are forbidden to sleep in beds or wear clothes but that they can keep and even honor a human weapon.

Why is "Beasts of England" a song that appeals to animals everywhere in Animal Farm Chapter 4?

Songs are an appealing means of conveying messages to a general population because catchy lyrics and music can make their messages easy to remember, so the appeal of "Beasts of England" to all animals simply on the basis of its being a song makes sense. Beyond this surface level, though, the song appeals to animals on other farms for the same reasons it appeals to those on Animal Farm. The animals on neighboring farms are similarly oppressed by human masters. Any hope for a better life, a better world in general, is going to appeal to those who are suffering, especially if that hope also gives them agency to change their lives for themselves. The principles of communism spread from the Soviet Union and caught on in other nations where the populations felt exploited by their rulers. Although the animals face punishment from their owners if they are caught singing the song, the punishment seems like a small price to pay in exchange for hope.

What evidence in Animal Farm Chapter 5 indicates that Mollie may not have voluntarily left the farm to live with a new owner?

Mollie never really buys into the principles of Animalism, which makes her a target for expulsion from the farm, or worse. When Clover finds Mollie's stash of ribbons and sugar cubes, Clover presumably tells someone, because Mollie disappears from the farm three days later. In this case the evidence of Mollie's fate lies in the details the novel does not provide, such as whom Clover told or what exactly happened to remove Mollie. As a result the mystery surrounding her disappearance feels ominous. The story circulates that Mollie has been seen in the village, but the pigeons are the only source. No other animals from the farm have seen Mollie themselves, and the pigeons could have been instructed by the pigs to tell this story. It would not be the first or the last time the pigs have manipulated or falsified information given to the animals. Most tellingly, Mollie's disappearance appears in the same chapter that sees Napoleon use his dogs to chase Snowball from the farm. The two exiles bookend the chapter, so the structure of the chapter itself sets up a parallel between them. Given the violent nature of Snowball's expulsion shortly after Mollie's departure, it is not a stretch to imagine Napoleon using his dogs to chase her away or kill her, possibly as part of their training.

How does Napoleon use the sheep to his advantage as he takes control of the farm in Animal Farm Chapter 5?

The sheep's affinity for chanting the slogan "Four legs good, two legs bad" is well established shortly after Snowball introduces it as an abbreviated version of the Seven Commandments. The propaganda technique of sloganeering appeals to the sheep in particular. The sheep frequently break into chanting at critical moments when Snowball makes speeches, most likely not coincidentally but because Napoleon encourages them in private to do so. It benefits Napoleon to have Snowball's speeches interrupted because Napoleon is not a strong speechmaker himself. When he finally makes his move against Snowball, unleashing the dogs to run him off the farm, the sheep begin chanting their slogan, only adding to the chaos after Snowball flees. The chaos ensures that the other animals will be too confused and disoriented to attempt to defend him or question what has just happened, which guarantees Napoleon's success.

How does Napoleon change the running of the farm after Snowball's exile in Animal Farm Chapter 5, and how do his changes help secure his position as leader?

Immediately after Napoleon expels Snowball from the farm, he implements a number of changes designed to solidify his total control over the farm's activities. His first act is to end the practice of Sunday morning meetings, which until now have provided a forum for the animals to discuss, debate, and offer input into decisions that affect the farm. Historically the animals' active participation in the decision-making process has been limited, but the elimination of the meetings altogether closes the door to any possible participation from the animals. Instead Napoleon decides the pigs will make all decisions in a special committee that will meet in private, and they will issue their conclusions to the animals afterward. The private meetings close off any opportunity for the animals to participate in the decision-making process. The animals continue to come together on Sunday mornings to receive their orders, salute the flag, and sing "Beasts of England," but the new system effectively shuts off any opportunities for the animals to oppose Napoleon or question his policies.

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