Animal Farm, like the first book of Gulliver’s Travels (a satire on Queen Anne’s court), began as a tract with a political motive. Farmer Jones’s Manor Farm is an Orwellian Lilliput, satirising the pretensions of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its prompt corruption by a new, more ruthless power elite than even the Czarist regime under Ivan the Terrible.
Manor Farm was once owned by aristocrats – lords of the manor. Hence its name. Before the ‘Rebellion’ it has become the property of a gentleman farmer, who is in fact, a drunken, philistine brute, lower, morally, than the animals he owns and exploits.
The clever pigs make the political analysis that the animals slave, and are harvested, for the sole benefit of their owner. What right has Jones to exploit them, their labour and their very flesh on his table? They draw up a political code – ‘Animalism’ (ch. 2). Its slogans are ‘All Animals Are Equal’ (ch. 2) and ‘Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad’ (ch.
The pigs mastermind a successful uprising, calling it a ‘Rebellion’. After much bloodshed the animals take over the farm. Power then has its universal effect. Having ruthlessly secured their leadership, the pigs install a totalitarian state, complete with canine police, thought control, liquidation and purges. They reserve for themselves creature comforts and owners’ privileges.
For the lower animals, life is, if anything, even harder than it was under Jones:
But if there were hardships to be borne, they were partly offset by the fact that life nowadays had a greater dignity than it had had before.
There were more songs, more speeches, more processions. Napoleon had commanded that once a week there should be held something called a Spontaneous Demonstration, the object of which was to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of Animal Farm. (ch. 9)
In the fable’s controversial conclusion the pigs – now owners of a highly profitable enterprise (for them and their dogs) – make peace with their ‘fellow’ human farmers. The animals look, in perplexity, through the windows of the farm-house:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. (ch. 10)
The new guiding slogan for the future of the farm is: ‘All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others’ (ch. 10).