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Animal Farm | Discussion Questions 51 - 53

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How does the identity of the narrator and the point of view and style affect the telling of the story in Animal Farm?

Animal Farm has an omniscient third-person narrator, which means the story can be told very freely, with the author able to communicate what is inside the heads of virtually any and all of the characters involved—not, for instance, just one, as with a first-person narrator. In this way the author can make their thoughts and inner motivations visible to the reader. An omniscient narrator is therefore a decided advantage in a story with a lot of characters, such as Animal Farm, and particularly with two distinct groups: here, two actual species—humans and animals—that can be expected to have very different viewpoints themselves. Finally, omniscience enables the author to emphasize physical action in the story, important in Animal Farm, which features a lot of activities and events.

How do the first two paragraphs of Animal Farm deftly and quickly set up the conflict that will be the focus of the whole book?

Each paragraph is dedicated to one of the two groups, humans or animals, that will conflict from the start until the very end. Furthermore, each features a main character in the group with a brief note of a key characteristic. The first paragraph describes Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm and the dominant human, going to bed drunk. He has not shut up the henhouses properly, so we immediately understand that he is not taking good care of his animals. The second paragraph describes what is going on among the animals throughout the "farm buildings." They are discussing a meeting they are about to hold "as soon as Mr. Jones was safely out of the way" to hear about the "strange dream" of a "prize boar," clearly an important animal, Old Major. Again, we quickly understand a number of things. These animals can communicate. They can plan. They can act as a group. They have leaders—or at least one. They are afraid of Mr. Jones. The stage is set for conflict, and we have had a glimpse of the nature of each side.

In respect to the animals' initial rebellion in Animal Farm, what sparks it, what is it like, and who are the major players?

As the narrator tells us, in the months after Old Major's death in March, "pre-eminent among the pigs were two young boars named Snowball and Napoleon, whom Mr. Jones was breeding up for sale." They emerge as leaders among the animals. One weekend in June, Mr. Jones gets so drunk he forgets to feed the animals. One of the cows breaks into the store shed, and all of the animals converge on it, helping themselves to the grain inside. When Jones and his four men rush out with whips to stop the animals, the animals fight back, butting and kicking. They chase Mr. Jones and his men completely off the farm. Although Napoleon later leads the animals back to the store shed for "double rations," playing a leadership role, neither he nor Snowball play a part in the signal incident that sets off the rebellion, a spontaneous reaction by the animals as a group.

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