If I remember correctly, I read Animal Farm when I was in junior high, probably in 8th grade. Little did I know I would go on to live in a former Soviet Union country and earn a bachelor’s degree in Russian and History. What’s ironic is that I haven’t read the book since then. Of course, in junior high I didn’t have the historical and contemporary perspective I have now. In today’s political environment, this book is as relevant as ever, even though our current administration is not building a communist regime, he is using propaganda and “alternative facts” to shape a distorted world view. It is one brilliant piece of political satire.
Old Major is an old pig who has a vision/dream of a world where animals live free from the tyranny of humans (in this case, Farmer Jones). Not long after his dream, the animals become inspired by the philosophy of animalism. Old major is an archetype of Lenin.
Snowball becomes the pig who develops Old Major’s vision. He develops the philosophy of animalism and teaches the other animal to read (those who are able). He develops the Seven Commandments and develops catchy simple phrases like, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” He is a good thinker and brave fighter. He develops the idea of the windmill. Ultimately, he is driven off the farm by his fellow comrade Napleon. He is a composite of Leon Trotsky.
Napoleon is Snowball’s right hand man early on. Eventually, he develops vicious dogs to help him become a vicious tyrant. He drives Snowball off the farm. By the end of the book, he becomes a two-legged walking human, ultimately replacing Mr. Jones as a tyrant. This is Orwell’s approach to explaining how Stalin was no better (and in some ways worse) than Tsar Nicholai. Snowball’s plan to build the windmill is similar to Stalin’s five-year plan.
Squealer is the propaganda specialist among the pig regime. His simple, hollow, but catchy phrases are used to manipulate and brainwash the animals on the farm. He is the master of “alternative facts.” His most famous quote is “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Boxer is a horse who is a great worker devoted to the cause. He is known for his mantra, “I will work harder.” He is both innocent and naive. He does a disproportionate share of the work on the farm, but as he ages and gets hurt, Napoleon sends him to a glue factory to be slaughtered; further demonstrating the cruelty and tyranny of Napoleon.