Animal Farm

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Old Major Character Analysis

A pig. He creates the ideas behind Animalism and inspires the other animals to rebel. As a prize boar, Old Major has lived a relatively privileged life among the animals. This privileged life has given him the time to think about and understand fully the ways that humans exploit and enslave animals. Old Major's ideas inspire the animals' revolution, though Old Major dies before the revolution occurs. Old Major symbolizes both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, the fathers of Communism.

Old Major Quotes in Animal Farm

The Animal Farm quotes below are all either spoken by Old Major or refer to Old Major. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Animal Farm published in 1996.
Chapter 1 Quotes
Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.
Related Characters: Old Major (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

The boar Old Major gives this rousing speech after calling the other animals into the barn. He argues that men hold an unfair power over animals, for they take resources without offering anything in return.

Old Major’s rhetoric employs many features characteristic of revolutionary speech. For instance, it posits the existence of a single evil that, if removed, would fix all issues. In making man the single and “root cause” of the animals’ hardship, Old Major glosses over any differences or quibbles among the animals themselves. To do so, he selects the quality that all animals hold in common except men: resource production. Though Old Major could have chosen a value that, say, man and some animals have in common, his decision instead allows the animals to unify against this false “lord.”

Orwell here shows the efficacy of this revolutionary speech, while also pointing out its false premise: that all animals can be considered equal and will live in harmony and without hunger once man is removed. It thus becomes a parody of the socialist and soviet efforts to unify disparate groups or people in the fight to overturn governmental systems—for that tactic predicts the fact that new lords will simply replace the vanquished humans.

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Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings.
Related Characters: Old Major (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Old Major continues his rallying speech to the other farm animals. He claims, here, that animals are trapped in a system that extracts the products of their labor and therefore makes them dependent on their human masters.

The entirety of Old Major’s speech is built on a socialist framework, and this line is particularly reminiscent of Soviet speech patterns and ideology. That “labour” has been “stolen” speaks to the common Marxist critique of alienated labor: in this account, Karl Marx, the theoretical origin for communism, believed that capitalist practices had divorced those producing commodities from the actual use of those commodities. Instead of, for example, building one’s own car or farming one’s own corn, capitalism had forced people to build cars and farm corn for others. Old Major is subtly invoking this idea when he points out that what the animals produce is “stolen.” Whereas the Marxist sense was more metaphorical or symbolic, in this case the stealing is literal. The animals are thus a useful way to make abstract concepts concrete (as any good allegory does). Orwell’s work therefore positions the animals as both engaging in and representing a revolution against the “miserable condition” of capitalism. Their relative successes and failures can be read as the corresponding values and limits of other revolutionary movements.

Remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.
Related Characters: Old Major (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

As Old Major’s rousing speech draws to a close, he gives these final polemical statements. They draw harsh boundaries between men and animals and offer a specific, prescriptive strategy for the animals to unite.

What stands out in Old Major’s language here is his absolutism: each sentence carries a term such as “never” “no,” “all” and “perfect” thus permitting no space for nuance or exceptions. The goal in employing such terms is to draw strict boundaries that consolidate one group against another. By defining a singular and complete evil—“All men are enemies”—Old Major can link a disparate set of animals with the single term “comrades.” Thus adopting a direct foe becomes the essential way to consolidate a group with a direct purpose.

Yet Orwell also implies the danger inherent in this kind of rhetoric. Old Major insists, for instance, that the animals not take into account any other perspectives. When he says “No argument” and “It is all lies,” Old Major does not actually offer compelling counter-evidence, but rather asserts that any potential criticism should be ignored without due consideration. This sort of blind acceptance is precisely what will allow new tyrants to take control in the animal world after they have overthrown the humans—for Old Major has paved the way for them by indoctrinating the animals with authoritarian values and squashing the merit of independent thought.

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Old Major Character Timeline in Animal Farm

The timeline below shows where the character Old Major appears in Animal Farm. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
The Soviet Union Theme Icon
Word had spread among the animals during the day that Old Major , an old and respected prize boar, had a strange dream and wants to speak... (full context)
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
The animals gather in the barn to hear what Old Major has to say: the dogs arrive first; then the pigs, who sit in front of... (full context)
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
The Soviet Union Theme Icon
Old Major addresses the animals, calling them "comrades." He says he won't live much longer, then describes... (full context)
Class Warfare Theme Icon
All animals, Old Major concludes, are comrades. Just then, the dogs notice some rats listening to Old Major's speech... (full context)
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
Old Major says that whatever goes on four legs or has wings is a friend, that no... (full context)
Chapter 2
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
The Soviet Union Theme Icon
Old Major dies three nights later, but his message takes hold. The pigs are the smartest of... (full context)