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Animal Farm | Study Guide

George Orwell

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

Animal Farm | Themes



The pigs who take over leadership of Animal Farm after the rebellion depart from the ideals of Animalism, serving their own interests. The inequalities begin on a small scale—a pail of milk here, a bushel of apples there. As the pigs gain more wealth and power over time, they change the rules of Animalism to suit their own desires and to maintain their control of the farm, eventually turning it into a totalitarian society.


Understanding that literacy offers power, the pigs make sure that none of the animals except their own young learn how to read. As the pigs take advantage of their position, using their superior education and, later, the physical threat of the dogs, the overworked and uneducated other animals find themselves working harder for fewer and fewer benefits. Their efforts benefit the pigs more than themselves.


To maintain their position of power over the other animals, Napoleon and the other pigs create elaborate lies to cover their actions. Squealer uses propaganda to convince the animals they are doing well when, in fact, their lives get worse as the months and years pass. The pigs secretly change the Seven Commandments and other resolutions from the rebellion, convincing the animals that their own memories are faulty. Using Snowball as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong hides the fact that others are really responsible.


The animals embrace the ideals of Animalism and the equality and sharing this political philosophy promises them. They believe in the best intentions of one another, even as the practice of Animalism moves away from its noble concept of free, equal animals working together and sharing the plentiful fruits of their labor. Throughout the story the animals remind themselves of the beliefs that guided their revolution by singing "Beasts of England," which describes their ideal world.


Two kinds of apathy exist on the farm; both enable the pigs to assume absolute power. The apathy shown by characters such as Benjamin the donkey stems from an ability to see and understand what is happening disabled by a belief that action of any kind will not create change and is, therefore, not worthwhile. Most of the animals fall victim to a second kind of apathy, born of unquestioning trust in the pigs' leadership, which leads to a lack of critical thought that makes them susceptible to manipulation and deception.

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