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Course Hero, "Animal Farm Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed April 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Animal-Farm/.

Plot Summary

Course Hero’s video study guide provides an in-depth plot summary of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Animal Farm | Plot Summary

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Summary

Animal Farm presents the history of a small farm in England. After a lifetime of oppression at the hands of their human masters, the animals of Manor Farm hear from one of their oldest denizens, a boar known as Old Major. He shares his vision for a future in which all animals are free and control their own destinies, working to provide for themselves, not for the humans who have enslaved them. He urges the animals to prepare for the day when the rebellion will come and they can make his vision a reality. Three days later Old Major dies, but his dream lives on among the animals, especially the other pigs who follow his instructions and prepare for rebellion. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, take the lead in preparing a formalized version of Old Major's teachings they call Animalism.

The rebellion takes place much sooner than the animals originally plan. Three months after Old Major dies, Mr. Jones, Manor Farm's owner, gets drunk and forgets to feed the animals. Accordingly they riot. They expel Jones from the farm and dispose of his tools, which they see as instruments of oppression. They resolve to bring in the year's harvests themselves and inscribe Seven Commandments of Animalism on the wall of the barn to provide guidance as they forge ahead, learning to govern themselves. Some months after the rebellion, Mr. Jones and his men return to the farm and attempt to reclaim the property, but under Snowball's leadership the animals repel the attack, and Jones disappears for good.

After this clash with Mr. Jones, known as the Battle of the Cowshed, Snowball and Napoleon come into conflict, disagreeing over nearly every facet of life on the farm. Their conflict peaks when Snowball proposes construction of a windmill, which Napoleon claims to oppose. When the animals gather to vote on the windmill project, Napoleon unleashes nine dogs he has trained in secret, and Snowball flees the farm. A few weeks later Napoleon announces they will build the windmill, explaining that his opposition to the project was just a ruse to get rid of Snowball's negative influence on the farm.

As the windmill project progresses, all the animals except the pigs work grueling hours of physical labor, none as hard as Boxer the horse. Food runs short but the animals persevere, driven by the pride of working for themselves. To make up for the food shortages and obtain other farm supplies, Napoleon announces plans to begin trade with other farms. The animals are skeptical about this plan but follow his lead.

In November of the second year after the rebellion, the almost-finished windmill collapses during a spell of bad weather. Napoleon and the pigs blame Snowball for sabotaging the project, though no hard evidence exists for his involvement. This event sets a precedent that allows the animals to blame Snowball's scheming for every misfortune that befalls the farm. The animals spend the winter working to rebuild the windmill, and some hens stage a protest when Napoleon expands orders for eggs to trade with other farms. Food continues to run in short supply for the animals. A few months later the hens, along with a number of other animals who confess to colluding with Snowball, are publicly executed as traitors. The other animals become frightened and alarmed, even though they accept the pigs' justification that those executed were traitors to the farm and to Animalism.

Work on the farm and the new windmill continues at a rapid pace. After a long period of negotiation with neighboring farmers, Frederick and Pilkington, Napoleon sells a pile of timber to Frederick despite the animals' reservations about this farmer. Frederick pays for the timber with counterfeit money and launches an attack on their farm. The windmill is destroyed in the battle, but the animals are able to fend off Frederick and his men, so the pigs declare a victory for Animal Farm. Although their spirits are crushed, they recommence rebuilding the windmill.

As the year wears on, the animals continue to work hard for little food as the pigs enjoy luxuries in the farmhouse. The animals never question this arrangement. Boxer the horse, highly respected for his work ethic, collapses while working on the windmill, and the pigs claim to make arrangements to send him to a local veterinary hospital. The "ambulance" that arrives actually bears the logo of the local horse slaughterer, and the animals create an uproar once they realize what is happening. Taken away from the farm, Boxer dies, but the pigs maintain their story that he was sent to a hospital, claiming the van was a recent acquisition for the hospital that had not yet been repainted. Taken in by this explanation, most of the animals settle back into their lives of hard work and little food.

Some years after Boxer's death, the farm and the pigs have become very prosperous, but the animals' lives remain much the same, filled with hard labor and few rewards. Their sole consolation is the memory of the rebellion and the knowledge that they serve themselves, not humans. They lose this last consolation when the pigs begin to wear clothes, walk on two legs, and regularly do business with humans. The pigs change the name of Animal Farm back to Manor Farm and deny that the rebellion ever took place. When the animals peek into the windows during a dinner party the pigs host for some neighboring human farmers, the animals are unable to tell the difference between pigs and men. The animals finally see that their rebellion has changed nothing.

Animal Farm Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Old Major introduces ideas about animal rebellion.

Rising Action

2 Animals rebel against Mr. Jones and take over the farm.

3 Battle of the Cowshed occurs; Mr. Jones tries to take farm.

4 Snowball and Napoleon compete for leadership of the farm.

5 Napoleon expels Snowball and takes total control.

6 Animals defend farm against Frederick's attack.

Climax

7 Boxer is sent away to slaughter as the animals protest.

Falling Action

8 Pigs walk on two legs and begin wearing clothes.

Resolution

9 At party, animals unable to tell the humans and pigs apart.

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