Animal Farm | Study Guide

George Orwell

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Learn about symbols in George Orwell's novel Animal Farm with Course Hero’s video study guide.

Animal Farm | Symbols



Many of the animals' names are highly symbolic, suggestive of their characters or roles. The historical Napoleon was the all-powerful emperor of France. A major, as in Old Major, is a high military rank held by an army officer. Jones is one of the most common names in English, showing that the farmer represents virtually any human. A snowball, associated with winter fun, has connotations of harmlessness and fragility. A boxer is a powerful fighter. A squealer has negative associations with snitches who tell or "squeal" on people; it is also someone who makes a terrible noise of pain. Finally, Moses is the Biblical prophet who receives the Ten Commandments from God.

Milk and Apples

The milk and apples the pigs claim for themselves shortly after the rebellion represent riches and wealth, to which the pigs feel a special sense of entitlement. The claim on these extra foodstuffs is the first of many special privileges the pigs will claim at the other animals' expense.


When Snowball introduces the plan for the windmill, it represents the hope of a better standard of living for all animals, who will benefit from the electricity the windmill will generate. As time rolls on and the windmill gets destroyed and rebuilt, it comes to represent the constant hard labor the animals do for very little benefit. Its destruction is the loss of their hope.

Old Major's Skull

After Napoleon assumes total control of the farm, he exhumes Old Major's skull and puts it on display for the animals to salute each week. This represents an attempt to acknowledge both the past and the roots of Animalism, giving the pigs' regime authenticity. When the ideals of the rebellion no longer serve the pigs' purposes, the skull is reburied, and the ritual of saluting it is denounced as strange, representing the pigs' abandonment of core principles and history.

Jones's Rifle

Left behind as Mr. Jones and his men retreat from the Battle of the Cowshed, the rifle is a symbol of the animals' victory over their human masters and is fired in celebration of the anniversaries of their greatest victories, the rebellion and the Battles of the Cowshed and the Windmill.

Questions for Symbols

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