Chapter One: Summary
As the story opens on Mr. Jones's farm, the farm animals are preparing to meet after Mr. Jones goes to sleep, to hear the words that the old and well-respected pig, Old Major, wants to say to them. The animals gather around as Old Major tells them that he had a dream the previous night and senses that he will not live much longer. As the animals prepare for his speech, the narrator identifies several of the animals which will become more important in the story: the cart-horses Boxer and Clover, the old donkey Benjamin, and Mollie the pretty mare. Before he dies, he wants to tell the animals what he has observed and learned in his twelve years. Old Major goes on to say that animals in England are cruelly kept in slavery by man, who steals the animals' labor and is "the only creature that consumes without producing". He describes his vision of an England in which animals are free and live in complete harmony and cooperation, free of the tyranny of man and his evil habits. Old Major tells the animals that they must all band together to fight the common enemy, Man, and rise up in rebellion when the opportunity comes. He exhorts them to remain true to their animal ways, and then leads them in a rousing song of revolution, called "Beasts of England". They are stirred into a frenzy by Old Major's speech and sing the song five consecutive times, until Mr. Jones stirs and fires a shot into the air to quiet them down. Soon the whole farm falls asleep.
Chapter One: Analysis
Animal Farm is a satire on the Russian Revolution, and is one of the best 20th-century examples of allegory, an extended form of metaphor in which objects and persons symbolize figures that exist outside the text. As its title suggests, the setting for this fable-like novel is a farm, and the bulk of the characters are the farm animals themselves, all of whom symbolize various revolutionary figures or political ideologies. The opening chapter introduces the theme of revolution that dominates Animal Farm, as well as introduces the farm animals who are less notable for their individual characters than for the political figures they will symbolize in later chapters. Old Major is the central figure in Chapter One. He lights the spark of revolution on the farm, and symbolizes the idealistic revolutionary leaders whose ideas served as the catalyst for revolution in Russia and more general within the Communist movement. His statement that "the life of an animal is misery and slavery" echoes the 17th-century philosopher Hobbes, who famously described human life as "nasty, brutish, and short". The first chapter contains many examples of the whimsy which is scattered throughout Animal Farm, most notably in the way Orwell describes the various farm animals in semi-human terms. We meet Clover, the mare "who never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal," an example of Orwell drawing attention to the very "animalness" of the farm animals by juxtaposing it with traditionally human characteristics and foibles. Orwell's writing style here, as throughout the novel, is plain, spare, and simple, a technique which emphasizes the fable aspect of Animal Farm; by using minimalist language and short, simple sentence structure, Orwell draws the reader's attention to the animals' perspective, a point of view which will lead to great irony as the revolution unfolds.
Chapter Two: Summary
Three days later, Old Major dies and is buried. His revolutionary fervor lives on, and the animals begin to flesh in the revolutionary ideology with which they will overthrow Mr. Jones. Two of the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerge as the leaders of the animals. Snowball is naturally vivacious, while Napoleon "has a reputation for getting his own way". Another pig named Squealer also becomes prominent for his persuasive speaking ability. These three pigs create a system of tenets and name it "Animalism,"...