Department of English

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University


Animal Farm


George Orwell

(June 25, 1903 January 21, 1950)



Animal Farm Notes

This short novel was first published in 1945.

15  popholes:

15  Willingdon: an East Sussex village in south-southeast England


27  Sugarcandy Mountain: Compare Moses' animal paradise with the well-known folk song "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" about a hobo's paradise below.

  • Harry McClintock, "The Big Rock Candy Mountains" (1928)
    One evening as the sun went down
    And the jungle fire was burning,
    Down the track came a hobo hiking,
    And he said, “Boys, I’m not turning;

    I’m headed for a land that’s far away
    Beside the crystal fountains
    So come with me, we’ll go and see
    The Big Rock Candy Mountains.

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
    There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
    Where the handouts grow on bushes
    And you sleep out every night.

    Where the boxcars all are empty
    And the sun shines every day
    On the birds and the bees
    And the cigarette trees
    The lemonade springs
    Where the bluebird sings
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    All the cops have wooden legs
    And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
    And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs

    The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
    And the barns are full of hay
    Oh I’m bound to go
    Where there ain’t no snow
    Where the rain don’t fall
    The wind don’t blow
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    You never change your socks
    And the little streams of alcohol
    Come a-trickling down the rocks

    The brakemen have to tip their hats
    And the railroad bulls are blind
    There’s a lake of stew
    And of whiskey too
    You can paddle all around them
    In a big canoe
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
    The jails are made of tin.
    And you can walk right out again,
    As soon as you are in.

    There ain’t no short-handled shovels,
    No axes, saws or picks,
    I’m a-goin’ to stay
    Where you sleep all day,
    Where they hung the jerk
    That invented work
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains (whistling)

    I’ll see you all this coming fall
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
  • “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” has a convoluted history. Harry “Hay-wire Mac” McClintock, the song’s original composer, created two drastically different versions of the song, and both originals were eventually superseded in cultural impact by a later version written and sung by an entirely different songwriter. Numerous later versions engaged discursively with these three major iterations to disseminate leftist ideology, argue that sexual liberty must accompany economic freedom, and perform feminist resistance, among other functions. Making sense of this history will require reconciling the song’s chronology with that of the culture surrounding it. “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” is perhaps the artifact of hobo culture that is best known outside of the hobo community. The song’s shifting fortunes are tied to how Americans have historically reacted to hoboes, and particularly to the sociopolitical conditions underlying these reactions. (Raulerson 422)



17 February 1944
10a Mortimer Crescent NW 6


I am writing a little squib which might amuse you when it comes out, but it is so not O.K. politically that I don’t feel certain in advance that anyone will publish it. Perhaps that gives you a hint of its subject.


19 March 1944
10a Mortimer Crescent NW 6

Dear Mr Moore,
I have finished my book and will be sending you the Ms in a few days’ time. It is being typed now. I make it about 30,000 words. To avoid wasting time I think we ought to decide in advance what to do about showing it to Gollancz. According to our contract he has the first refusal of my fiction books, and this would come under the heading of fiction, as it is a sort of fairy story, really a fable with a political meaning. I think, however, Gollancz wouldn’t publish it, as it is strongly anti-Stalin in tendency. Nor is it any use wasting time on Warburg, who probably wouldn’t touch anything of this tendency and to my knowledge is very short of paper.


8 June 1944

I don’t however remember anything in that contract about full-length novels. As I remember it, it simply referred to my next three works of fiction (you could verify that from the contract.) If so, Animal Farm which is certainly a work of fiction (and any way what is ‘full-length’) would be one of them.

—Peter Davison, George Orwell: A Life in Letters, Liveright, 2013.


Animal Farm was written during the Second World War, at a time when London was being bombed by the Nazis and Churchill's Britain was an official friend of Stalin's Russia. Orwell despised Hitler and fascism and had fought and been wounded as a volunteer soldier for the Spanish Republic, but he chose this unpropitious moment to write a deadly satire on the illusion of Soviet Communism. The original manuscript had to be dug out, in a somewhat scorched and crumpled state, from the ruins of Orwell's blitzed North London home. In this condition, it was sent to T. S. Eliot, the author of The Waste Land, who occupied the extremely influential position of editor at Faber and Faber. Eliot was a political and cultural conservative of the determined Right, and might have been presumed sympathetic to an anti-Stalinist project. But he turned the book down in a letter of extreme condescension which described it as "generally Trotskyite."

This was, bizarrely enough, the same objection that had been made by Orwell's leftist opponents. [...]

[...] In the end, the small house of Seeker and Warburg agreed to publish Animal Farm in a very small edition, for an advance of forty-five English pounds (or $2,020 expressed in today's value).

However, a group of Ukrainian socialists, living in refugee camps in post-war Europe, got hold of a copy of the book and immediately understood its profound relevance. They contacted Orwell, who agreed to write the only introduction to Animal Farm that he ever composed, and who gave them the right to reprint the work in the Ukrainian language, for free. This edition was distributed among refugees in Germany, but most copies were seized by the American military authorities (this, well after the war against Hitler was over) and handed over to the Red Army to be burned.


A later CIA-sponsored cartoon-film of Animal Farm, produced for purposes of Cold War propaganda, cut out the closing passage about the restoration of Farmer Jones as head of the farm. That chapter just did not, for immediate practical purposes, quite "fit" the needs of the Agency.

—Christopher Hitchens, "Introduction," Animal Farm and 1984 (Orlando: Harcourt, 2003).

Just three days after the Japanese surrender, on 17 August, Animal Farm was published, and Orwell's reputation took a great leap forward. Now his name would become known to a vaster readership than he could ever have imagined. The first edition was of a modest 4,500 copies, but even before publication interest in the book was so wide that Warburg, his opinion of Orwell seemingly confirmed, had arranged to rush out a second impression of 10,000. Many more would follow.

This story of an animal revolution is widely considered Orwell's finest achievement, although Eileen's influence, which he admitted, needs also to be acknowledged. In Animal Farm Orwell was, as usual, strangely off-centre, subjecting the political dynamics of the time to his own brand of lateral thinking, yet the result was a singularly well-directed missile. The form may have been fairy story (or Tolkienian 'beast fable'), but its style is satirical, Swiftian and savage. Much from the novel was to become part of the common cultural currency of many countries, not just Britain—'Four legs good, two legs bad', 'All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others'--and Orwell's Napoleon, Snowball, Squealer and Boxer are instantly recognisable literary figures. Benjamin the Donkey, the Farm cynic, was recognized by some as none other than the lugubrious author himself.


After all the difficulty he had getting it published, Orwell was surprised and delighted at its reception. As he told Macdonald later, 'The comic thing is that after all this fuss the book got almost no hostile reception when it came out. The fact is that people are fed up with this Russian nonsense and it's just a question of who is first to say, "The Emperor has no clothes".'

—Gordon Bowker, George Orwell (London: Abacus, 2003).


Study Questions

  • In what ways are Manor Farm and Animal Farm different and similar?

  • In what ways are meanings destabilized in the novel?

  • What is the significance of song?

  • What role do pleasure, leisure, beauty, and adornment play in Animal Farm? Consider, for example, sugar, ribbons, singing, alcohol, medals, and games.

  • How are Napoleon's projects different from Snowball's?

  • What kinds of reasoning does Squealer give the animals in explaining the distribution of milk and apples?

  • What is the windmill to the animals?

  • What happens when you separate actions from their framing language in the novel?

  • Compare the animals' victories against their defeats.

  • Who breaks whose rules in the story? Which rules? How?
  • With the passage of time, what remains and what changes?
  • Orwell’s subtitle for Animal Farm is “A Fairy Story.” Analyze the unrealistic features of the novel. What role does the fantastic, unbelievable, or impossible play in the work?

  • Trace a word or phrase throughout the novel and examine how it is used and how this affects its meaning and function in the story. Some terms to consider:

    • Happy
    • Freedom; free
    • Animal(s)
    • Man, men, human, human being(s)
    • Work, labor
    • Voluntary; wish; want
    • No, not
    • Remember; memory
    • Thought; mind; know; believe; understand
    • See; with ones own eyes
    • Except; only; for once
    • Own; their own
    • Equality; equal
    • Prove
    • Snowball
    • Dream






form; structure
allegory, allegorical
character; characterization
point of view
symbols; symbolism
freedom; liberty
politics, political


Review Sheet



Napoleon – young boar "whom Mr. Jones was breeding up for sale" (25); "large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar...not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way" (25); "it became necessary to elect a President. There was only one candidate, Napoleon, who was elected unanimously" (108–9)
Snowball – young boar "whom Mr. Jones was breeding up for sale" (25); "a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character" (25–26); "flung his fifteen stone against Jones's legs" (48)
Squealer – a male porker, "The best known among them was a small fat pig named Squealer, with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, and a shrill voice. He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white" (26)
Mr. Jones – "of the Manor Farm" (15); "too drunk to shut the popholes" (15); "Some of the animals talked of the duty of loyalty to Mr. Jones, whom they referred to as 'Master,' or made elementary remarks asuch as 'Mr. Jones feeds us. If he were gone, we should starve to death'" (26)
Old Major – "the prize Middle White boar, had had a strange dream on the previous night" (15); "Old Major (so he was always called, though the name under which he had been exhibited was Willingdon Beauty)" (15); "He was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout" (16); "Three nights later old Major died peacefully in his sleep. His body was buried at the foot of the orchard" (25)
Boxer – carthorse (27); "an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as any two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first-rate intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of character" (16)
Clover – carthorse (27); "a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal" (16);
Benjamin – "the donkey. Benjamin was the oldest animal on the farm, and the worst tempered" (16); "Alone among the animals on the farm he never laughed" (17); "devoted to Boxer; the two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small paddock beyond the orchard, grazing side by side and never speaking" (17)
Mollie – "the foolish, pretty white mare who drew Mr. Jones's trap" (17)
Mr. Whymper
Muriel – "the white goat" (16)
Moses – "the tame raven, who slept on a perch behind the back door" (17); "Mr. Jones's especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work, but some of them believed" (27); "In the middle of the summer Moses the raven suddenly reappeared on the farm, after an absence of several years. He was quite unchanged, still did no work, and talked in the same strain as ever about Sugarcandy Mountain" (109)
Mr. Pilkington – "an easy-going gentleman farmer who spent most of his time in fishing or hunting according to the season" (45); "Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously" (128)
Mr. Frederick – "owner was a Mr. Frederick, a tough, shrewd man, perpetually involved in lawsuits and with a name for driving hard bargains" (45)
Mrs. Jones – "was already snoring" (15)


    Red Lion – "Mr. Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday" (28)
    Manor Farm, Animal Farm

    Foxwood – "a large, neglected, old-fashioned farm, much overgrown by woodland, with all its pastures worn out and its hedges in a disgraceful condition" (44–45)
    Pinchfield – "smaller and better kept" (45)



        March – "old Major died [...] This was early in March. During the next three months there was much secret activity. Major's speech had given to the more intelligent animals on the farm a completely new outlook on life" (25)

        April – "In April, Animal Farm was proclaimed a Republic" (108)

    Summer – "In the middle of the summer Moses the raven suddenly reappeared on the farm" (109)


Sample Student Responses to George Orwell's Animal Farm

Prompt: Orwell’s subtitle for Animal Farm is “A Fairy Story.” Analyze the unrealistic features of the novel. What role does the fantastic, unbelievable, or impossible play in the work?

Response 1:






Sarita Suanand
2202685 Contemporary Novels
Acharn Puckpan Tipayamontri
June 8, 2010
Reading Response 1


A Suitable Form


As World War II began its penultimate year and as modernism ran out of its experimental artistic fervor and territory in challenging intellectual and literary conventions, Orwell was working on “a little squib” (A Life in Letters 226) which evolved out of a political urgency that refuses to be denied and a literary demand for a form that could contain both truth and fiction, both hope and disillusionment, both ideals and skepticism, and enable a flexibility for layering meaning and self-reflexiveness. Animal Farm, the result, is impossibly slim for a “full-length” novel. It is unbelievably historical and accurate, enough for Orwell to say “This book is murder from the Communist point of view, though no names are mentioned” (229). It is also fantastically readable for serious art, inevitable from a writer who is passionate about the “aesthetic experience” (“Why I Write”). These unrealistic features enable the novel’s realization.

The subtitle “A Fairy Story” allowed Orwell to fulfill his contract. He had signed on to produce “three works of fiction” (A Life in Letters 233). In reality, goats do not read English, pigs do not design windmills and hens do not stage political protests, but in fiction, they can. And Animal Farm is “certainly a work of fiction” in which Stalinist cruelty becomes a farcical idealist hypocrisy. The fantastic makes it safe, that is, the unrealistic elements make uncomfortable truth safe enough to tell. Orwell is not killed, and the book is more publishable. The allegorical device has a literary but no less practical role as well. Unlike in real life where fairy figures can give deniability of direct reference, in fiction telling, these same metaphors and symbols point to a truth. The metaphorical Squealer, a non-realistic speaking and painting pig, that blares designed messages symbolizes mechanisms for spreading action and opinion manipulation, one of which is reinscribing the figurative commandments which in turn represent actual laws and how they are written and rewritten for public and personal interest. In this sense, contrastingly, the unreal enhances the real, making it more poignant, effectively revealing its absurdity and irony.

The very current political pamphlet couched in age-old fable “fuse[s] political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole” (“Why I Write”). The fantastic image of a pig “strolling in the farmhouse garden with a pipe in his mouth” combines Orwell’s incendiary expose of a power-mad ex-rebel with his Edenic or utopian and artistic yearnings: “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 a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information” (“Why I Write”). When the story is “really a fable with a political meaning,” it not only captures and criticizes a historical moment, but also aspires to a less fleeting relationship with time (A Life in Letters 229). The unbelievable elements, whether in terms of style like non-realistic allegorical animal characters or in terms of content like the blatant stating of lies or disregard of justice and getting away with it (ex. “There had also been a very strange custom, whose origin was unknown, of marching every Sunday morning past a boar’s skull which was nailed to a post in the garden. This, too, would be suppressed, and the skull had already been buried.”), even being praised for it, take on a moral and universal meaning. This creation enables the text to rise above immediate temporal and spatial contexts.

In Orwell’s hands, this 1945 novel becomes a classic, reaching far beyond its circumstances and contemporary audience. The impossible makes possible incompatible combinations. It straddles childhood innocence and world-weary cynicism, amusement and outrage, the past and the future. This edutainment form that appeals to young and old, and the practical and the philosophical fulfills Orwell’s intention of merging action and art indeed.

Works Cited

Davison, Peter. George Orwell: A Life in Letters. Liveright, 2013.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet, 1946.

———. “Why I Write.” 1946. The Orwell Foundation,







Prompt: With Animal Farm, Orwell constructs a fairy tale that aspires, ironically, to jolt the reader out of reveries of any fairy land. His “little squib” aptly fits both the definitions of “a short piece of satirical writing” and “a small firework that burns with a hissing sound before exploding.” Discuss a passage or sequence in which the fairy story explodes its own myth, the dream is questioned, or the ideal concept is revealed to be other than what it claims to be.

Response 1:






2202234 Introduction to the Study of English Literature
Acharn Puckpan Tipayamontri
June 8, 2010
Reading Response 1





Works Cited










Russian Revolution



  • George Orwell: A Life in Pictures, BBC (2003; 1 hr. 28:20 min.)

  • "The Real George Orwell," South Bank Show (2003)

  • Christopher Hitchens, "Why Orwell Matters," The Commonweath Club (2002; 1 hr. 33:18 min.)

  • Animal Farm, directed by John Halas and Joy Batchelor (1954 animation; 1 hr. 9:26 min.)

  • Animal Farm, dir. John Stephenson, TNT (1999 TV movie; 1 hr. 31:28 min.)



George Orwell
Biography Resources





Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet, 1946.


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Last updated January 31, 2022