In “Animal Farm,” Orwell depicts a number of strategies that the Ruling Class (the pigs) use to consolidate their power while at the same time convince the other animals that they are “free” and better off than before. He frames these strategies in a narrative that roughly mirrors the rise of the Soviet Union, but his other writings have made clear that his story is not intended as simply as an indictment of a single individual, government, or country. Rather it is an indictment of a world system that leads to such treacherous outcomes, and an observation of the strategies (including physical violence, but largely rhetorical strategies), which produces them.
If you are able to apply Orwell’s narrative to other situations, this says a lot for your ability to think critically.
Therefore, in this class we will perform a critical experiment of pretending that “Animal Farm” was not written for Soviet Russia, but for the United States. If that were the case, how would the symbolism and the historical analogues change from the original analysis?
Discussion Questions Chapter 1
- Who do Old Major and Mr. Jones represent in Animal–generally and specifically? Who or what would be analogous to the rise of Americanism?
- Answer the same for the characters we are introduced to in Chapter 1–who are they in general; whom are they meant to represent regarding the Soviet Union; and is there an analogue to various sectors of the American public–and if so, who/how?
Consider: Boxer and Clover; Muriel; Benjamin; Moses;
- Analyze the following strategies of Old Major’s speech to the animals:
- identification of a common enemy; identification of friends and allies
2.the identification of an accepted truth that is re-interpreted as a falsehood, and a problem to be overcome
- raising questions (what kinds, and to what effects)?
- the presentation of facts
- a solution to the problem
- the emergence of a new vision
- What are the ideals and values Old Major presents? (Keep these in mind because later we will discuss how these ideals come to be perverted or even reversed). How would you analogize this to original American ideals?
- “Beasts of England” is a tune that inspires the animals to work toward a vision–a glorious, golden future. “Freedom” from tyranny is at the heart of this vision. How does the tune envision “freedom”? What is the role of patriotic slogans or songs for inspiring the masses? What American examples, if any, can you think of?
Animal Farm Questions Ch. 2-4
1. In Chapter 2, the pigs organize the philosophy of Animalism into 7 commandments,which is then broken down into a single motto (â€œFour legs good, Two legs bad!â€) Whatdoes Orwell imply about the concept of Animalismâ€”is it a noble or worthwhile goal?Once the Revolution is completed, how does Orwell depict the animalsâ€™ response totheir new life?2. Assume that, like the pigs of Animal Farm, you were tasked with naming the overridingphilosophy of America and breaking it down to a few essential commandments and/or amotto. What would they be? What documents or cultural artifacts would you turn to tohelp you formulate these commandments?3. The character Mollie appears to be quite content with the conditions of her slavery, andcares more about creature comforts like hair ribbons and sugar than she does principlesand concepts like â€œfreedom.â€ What is Orwellâ€™s attitude toward Mollie? To what extent ishis criticism of her valid?4. In Chapter 3, Snowball is tasked with defining why â€œwingsâ€ count as legs and not armsfor the purposes of Animalism. How credible do you find his explanation, or howcredible did you think Orwell intended it to be? How has America had to deal withsimilar questionsâ€”for example, what is the definition of â€œperson,â€ and how has thatchanged?5. At the end of Chapter 2, the surplus milk from the cows disappears. In Chapter 3, Orwellreveals that the pigs have taken the milk, and recruited Squealer to justify why the milkshould be reserved for the pigs alone. What are the strategies Squealer uses to convincethe other animals? Can you think of examples in an American context where certainbenefits are reserved for the more powerful classes? If so, what are the justifications forthem, and do you agree?6. Orwell introduces some subsidiary characters into the story, such as the cat and theâ€œwild animals.â€ What rhetorical purpose do they serve? (In other words, why doesOrwell include them?)7. In Chapters 2-4, there has been a successful rebellion as well as a successful battle todefend against intruders. The animals, for the most part, seem pleased with thesesuccesses, and animals on other farms are inspired and emboldened by their example.Still, Orwell is setting the stage for the eventual failure of Old Majorâ€™s vision. Whattendencies does Orwell identify in these chapters which, as he implies, will lead todisaster? Do you recognize any of those tendencies in American civilization? Explain.