The story takes place on a farm somewhere in England. The story is told by an all-knowing narrator in the third person. The action of this novel starts when the oldest pig on the farm, Old Major, calls all animals to a secret meeting. He tells them about his dream of a revolution against the cruel Mr Jones. Three days later Major dies, but the speech gives the more intelligent animals a new outlook on life. The pigs, who are considered the most intelligent animals, instruct the other ones. During the period of preparation two pigs distinguish themselves, Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon is big, and although he isn't a good speaker, he can assert himself. Snowball is a better speaker, he has a lot of ideas and he is very vivid. Together with another pig called Squealer, who is a very good speaker, they work out the theory of "Animalism". The rebellion starts some months later, when Mr Jones comes home drunk one night and forgets to feed the animals. They break out of the barns and run to the house, where the food is stored. When Mr Jones sees this he takes out his shotgun, but it is too late for him; all the animals fall over him and drive him off the farm. The animals destroy all whips, nose rings, reins, and all other instruments that have been used to suppress them. The same day the animals celebrate their victory with an extra ration of food. The pigs make up the seven commandments, and they write them above the door of the big barn. They run thus:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill another animal.
All animals are equal.
The animals also agree that no animal shall ever enter the farmhouse, and that no animal shall have contact with humans. This commandments are summarised in the simple phrase: "Four legs good, two legs bad". After some time, Jones comes back with some other men from the village to recapture the farm. The animals fight bravely, and they manage to defend the farm. Snowball and Boxer receive medals of honour for defending the farm so bravely. Also Napoleon, who had not fought at all, takes a medal. This is the reason why the two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, often argue. When Snowball presents his idea to build a windmill, to produce electricity for the other animals, Napoleon calls nine strong dogs. The dogs drive Snowball from the farm, and Napoleon explains that Snowball was in fact co-operating with Mr Jones. He also explains that Snowball in reality never had a medal of honour, that Snowball was always trying to cover up that he was fighting on the side of Mr Jones. The animals then start building the windmill, and as time passes the working-time goes up, whereas the food rations decline. Although the "common" animals have not enough food, the pigs grow fatter and fatter. They tell the other animals that they need more food, for they are managing the whole farm. Some time later, the pigs explain to the other animals that they have to trade with the neighbouring farms. The common animals are very upset, because since the revolution there has been a resolution that no animal shall trade with a human. But the pigs ensure them that there never has been such a resolution, and that this was an evil lie of Snowball. Shortly after this decision the pigs move to the farmhouse. The other animals remember that there is a commandment that forbids sleeping in beds, and so they go to the big barn to look at the commandments. When they arrive there they can't believe their eyes, the fourth commandment has been changed to: "No animal shall sleep in bed with sheets". And the other commandments have also been changed: "No animal shall kill another animal without reason", and "No animal shall drink alcohol in excess". Some months later a heavy storm destroys the windmill, which is nearly finished. Napoleon accuses Snowball of...
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