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Animal Farm
George Orwell




In Animal Farm, [Orwell] chose for the first time an unrealistic, expressionistic device, the beast fable, as his satiric vehicle. The beast fable- a very ancient satiric technique- is basically the dramatic realization of metaphor; in a realistic work a man might be called a pig, but in the beast fable he is presented as an actual pig. Satirists have always found this translation of metaphor to dramatic fact an extremely effective way of portraying the true nature of vice and folly.

Alvin Kernan, in Modern Satire, 1962

By transferring the problems of caste division outside a human setting, Orwell was able in Animal Farm to avoid the psychological complications inevitable in a novel, and thus to present his theme as a clear and simple political truth.

George Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit, 1966

The allegory is very precise in its use of the major figures and incidents of the Russian Revolution. It expresses quite nakedly and with a complete lack of intellectual argument those aspects of Stalinism that most disturbed Orwell. At the same time the humbleness and warmth of the narrative give an attractive obliqueness without turning the direction of the satire. We can feel compassion for Orwell's creatures in a way that we cannot for Winston Smith, for the stark narrative of 1984 stuns our capacity for reaction. But Animal Farm is equally relentless in its message.

Jenni Calder, Chronicles of Conscience, 1968


...this grim little parable is by no means about Russia alone. Orwell is concerned to show how revolutionary ideals of justice, equality and fraternity always shatter in the event. The ironic reversals in Animal Farm could be fairly closely related to real events since the work was written- this is not the least of their effectiveness- as well as to the events on which they were based...

A. E. Dyson, The Crazy Fabric: Essays in Irony, 1965

It is not merely that revolutions are self-destructive- Orwell also is painting a grim picture of the human condition in the political twentieth century, a time which he has come to believe marks the end of the very concept of human freedom.... At the end, all the representatives of the various ideologies are indistinguishable- they are all pigs, all pigs are humans. Communism is no better and no worse than capitalism or fascism; the ideals of socialism were long ago lost in Clover's uncomprehending gaze over the farm... perhaps more distressing yet is the realization that everyone, the good and the bad, the deserving and the wicked, are not only contributors to the tyranny, are not only powerless before it, but are unable to understand it... The potential hope of the book is finally expressed only in terms of ignorance (Boxer), wistful inarticulateness (Clover), or the tired, cynical belief that things never change (Benjamin). The inhabitants of this world seem to deserve their fate.

Robert A. Lee, Orwell's Fiction, 1969

[Animal Farm] has taken its place alongside Candide and Gulliver's Travels as one of those parables which embody permanent truths: a myth that will long outlast the particular historical events which form its background. Now that it is possible to view the work in context, freed of the emotional circumstances surrounding its publication, we can recognize it for what it is: a dystopia [an anti-utopia, an imaginary picture of the worst possible world], a satirical commentary upon human societies which vividly recalls Swift's...

J. R. Hammond, A George Orwell Companion, 1982


What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, "I am going to produce a work of art." I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an esthetic experience... So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.

...The problem of language is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.

from "Why I Write"

[Animal Farm Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials. -

Murray Bromberg, Principal
Wang High School of Queens, Holliswood, New York

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member, Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[Animal Farm Contents]



Crick, Bernard. George Orwell: A Life. London: Penguin, 1982. -

Dyson, A. E. The Crazy Fabric: Essays in Irony. New York: St. Martin's, 1965. -

Kernan, Alvin, editor. Modern Satire. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962. -

Lee, Robert A. Orwell's Fiction. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1972. -

Williams, Raymond, editor. George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1974. Read especially Stephen J. Greenblatt's "Orwell as Satirist." -

_____. George Orwell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981. -

Woodcock, George. The Crystal Spirit. Boston: Little Brown, 1966. -


Orwell's books that will shed the most light on Animal Farm are Homage to Catalonia (1938) and 1984 (1949). Orwell's other principal works include:


    Burmese Days (1934)
    A Clergyman's Daughter (1935)
    Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
    Coming Up for Air (1939)


    Inside the Whale (1940)
    Critical Essays (1946)
    Shooting an Elephant (1950)


    Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
    Such, Such Were the Joys (1953)


    The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)


ECC [Animal Farm Contents] []

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