Animal Farm

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Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
The Soviet Union Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Animal Farm, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Totalitarianism Theme Icon

George Orwell once wrote: "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been … against totalitarianism." Animal Farm is no exception. Totalitarianism is a form of government in which the state seeks to control every facet of life, from economics and politics to the each individual's ideas and beliefs. Different totalitarian states have different justifications for their rule. For instance, Mr. Jones runs Manor Farm based on the idea that human domination of animals is the natural order of things, while Napoleon and the pigs run Animal Farm with the claim that they are fighting for animals against evil humans.

Orwell's underlying point is that the stated goals of totalitarianism don't matter because all totalitarian regimes are fundamentally the same. Every type of totalitarianism, whether communist, fascist, or capitalist, is founded on oppression of the individual and the lower class. Those who hold power in totalitarian regimes care only about one thing: maintaining their power by any means necessary. While the story of Napoleon's rise to power is most explicitly a condemnation of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, Orwell intends Animal Farm to criticize all totalitarian regimes.

Totalitarianism ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Totalitarianism appears in each chapter of Animal Farm. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Totalitarianism Quotes in Animal Farm

Below you will find the important quotes in Animal Farm related to the theme of Totalitarianism.
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.

Chapter 5 Quotes
At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their snapping jaws.
Related Characters: Snowball, The Dogs
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

After the animals agree to pursue Snowball’s plan for the Windmill, Napoleon unleashes his dog minions. They successfully oust Snowball and allow Napoleon to implement a tyrannical regime over the other animals.

The dogs, here, represent the use of military force by political leaders to dispose of each other. Napoleon has reared the dogs (i.e. built up a secret military) in case such an instance arrives, but he delays unleashing them until the population of animals moves against his own wishes. Orwell then points out how military force is harnessed in direct opposition to democratic or socialist principles of equality. It becomes a way for leaders with more military power but less social appeal to impose their whims on the world. The specific historical parallel, here, is how in the USSR Stalin (represented by Napoleon) used force to overcome Trotsky (Snowball) after the two disagreed on the future of the country. Orwell stresses the irony of this action by showing just how clearly Napoleon’s actions—attacking another animal—violate the rules of Animalism.

No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?
Related Characters: Squealer (speaker), Napoleon
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Squealer offers these comments to shore up Napoleon’s recent tyrannical actions against Snowball. He claims that power should be concentrated in the hands of fewer animals because others will inevitably make wrong decisions.

Once more, Squealer uses clever rhetorical tactics to convince the other less intelligent animals to give up their freedoms and rights. He first reiterates the central tenet of Animalism—“that all animals are equal”—which makes it seem that the later comments will not violate the principle, even if that is precisely what they do. His further comments rest on this idea that democratically-chosen decisions may not, indeed, be preferable for the other animals and that they should therefore cede their rights to the supposedly smarter animals. The phrase “be only too happy” casts Napoleon as falsely willing to acquiesce, while the taunting rhetorical question “where should we be?” goads the audience. Orwell thus emphasizes the essential role of propaganda in maintaining control of a populace.

Napoleon is always right.
Related Characters: Boxer (speaker), Napoleon
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Boxer makes this characteristically terse comment after listening to Squealer’s defense of Napoleon. Instead of responding to the specific terms, however, he offers his universal adherence to the leader.

This line reiterates Boxer’s role as a committed adherent to the political regime on the Animal Farm. He continues to deal in the absolute of “always right” even after evidence has been presented that would contradict that firm belief. Unable to take into account how Napoleon’s military tactics conflict with his own anti-violent system of ethics, Boxer blindly reaffirms his belief in the leader of-the-moment. He thus symbolizes the unquestioning supporter of a totalitarian governmental system, one who is persuaded by propaganda and will believe in the system despite indications that it is no longer effective.

Chapter 6 Quotes
Comrades, do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL!
Related Characters: Napoleon (speaker), Snowball
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 69-70
Explanation and Analysis:

After the half-finished windmill is destroyed by a storm, Napoleon investigates the rubble. He suddenly concludes, here, that Snowball destroyed it in an act of political subterfuge.

By blaming Snowball, Napoleon is able to protect his own reputation and motivate the animals to work ever-harder at rebuilding the windmill. Whereas his authority could have potentially been challenged for having recommended bad practices, attributing the destruction to Snowball renders himself both immune to criticism and necessary for the future defense of his followers. Napoleon can use the shadowy figure of "Snowball" to effectively instill fear into the animal populace.

This tactic notably parallels the way the animals motivated their revolution in the first place: by blaming a single enemy, the humans, for all their hardships. Orwell thus points out how any given political regime will gather support by selecting such an adversary—whether it be false or accurate—and organizing popular support against that foe. Developing a culture of fear around an unseen enemy allows a group to justify its tactics and explain away any negative events as the result of those enemies’ actions.

Chapter 7 Quotes
If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal.
Related Characters: Snowball
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

As the conditions on Animal Farm continue to worsen, rumors spread through Squealer that Snowball is conducting an extensive campaign against the farm. Here, all negative events are attributed to him, even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary.

Snowball here becomes less an actual agent and more of a social tool to unify the animals. That “someone was certain” to blame him indicates that the animals are not rationally responding to each negative event, but rather are immediately using Snowball as a stock response to the issue. This reaction indicates that Squealer’s propaganda campaign has successfully reordered the way the animals think about the events on the farm. They have come to see these moments as the result of neither poor leadership nor chance occurrence, but rather due to a paranoid belief in foreign espionage.

They believe this theory even in the face of direct counter-evidence, for instance when the location of the “mislaid key” clearly indicates that Snowball has not disposed of it in a well. Orwell thus makes a mockery of how willing citizens are to accept the fear-tactics of despotic regimes, such as that of the USSR. Once a single enemy has been decided upon by the leadership, the populace is apt to reinterpret all events as the result of transgressions by that enemy.

If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak... Instead - she did not know why - they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.
Related Characters: Clover, The Dogs
Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage describes Clover’s disheartened response to the current state of animal farm. She observes that its present conditions are directly opposed to what she had envisioned during the earlier revolution.

Clover’s observations reflect the disenchantment that many felt as the Soviet Union grew poorer and increasingly despotic. She points out the distance between the original image—“set free” and “all equal”—with the current reality of repression and violence. Unlike some of the other animals, who remain unable to compare these two things, Clover’s memory allows her to reflect on the difference between ideal goal and pragmatic implementation. Yet the subtle addition “she did not know why” stresses how she still cannot locate the exact causes of the current state of terror. She may notice that conditions are bad, but she cannot tie that observation to Napoleon’s behavior. Thus Clover represents an ultimately passive citizen, one who can note the occurrence of bad events but cannot make sense of why those events are indeed taking place.

Animal Farm, Animal Farm,
Never through me shalt thou come to harm!
Related Characters: Minimus (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

The pig Minimus composes this new song to replace the now-banned “Beasts of England.” This choice represents the increasing crack down on animal behavior and the turn away from the revolutionary ideas that were spoken in the original song.

It is revealing, here, to consider exactly why the pigs would want to ban “Beast of England.” Recall that the song represented the triumphs of the animals against the despotic human and promised, through that revolution, equality for all. Now that the pigs have taken on more and more human characteristics—and gathered increasing stores of power—they have actually become the hierarchical establishment that “Beasts of England” challenges. As a result, they fear the very revolutionary ideology that created Animal Farm to begin with, and take it upon themselves to censor the information that the other animals receive.

Minimus’s new song swaps out the idea of universal Animalism in order to doubly reaffirm the role of the state: “Animal Farm, Animal Farm.” Ironically, it is through the state that the animals are supposed to be protected from harm—when in fact the government is the main instrument of terror. Orwell points out the irony in much socialist propaganda, in which the promises of protection were actually used to create a state that violated the rights of the people. The fact that  “Minimus" means "smallest" in Latin also speaks to the relative triviality of this song. Whereas “Beasts of England” aggrandized the feats of the animals, the new text downplays their relative merits, instead stressing how they should remain passive with respect to the state.

Chapter 8 Quotes
At the foot of the end wall of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. Squealer, temporarily stunned, was sprawling beside it, and near at hand there lay a lantern, a paint-brush, and an overturned pot of white paint. None of the animals could form any idea as to what this meant, except old Benjamin, who nodded his muzzle with a knowing air, and seemed to understand, but would say nothing.
Related Characters: Squealer, Benjamin
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

After the pigs begin to consume alcohol, Squealer is discovered modifying the Commandments to sanction their behavior. Though most of the animals are unable to make sense of the event, the skeptic Benjamin is unsurprised by what he sees.

The novel has previously implied that the pigs were modifying the commandments, but here their actions become fully conspicuous: not only does Squealer reinterpret the laws with clever propaganda, but also he literally re-writes them to suit the whims of the pigs. What is more surprising about this passage, however, is how the animals are unable to make sense of the event. Orwell points out how, even when confronted with clear evidence of political malpractice, a populace will not necessarily be able to make sense of it or agree to do anything about it. Due, perhaps, to exhaustion, a lack of education, or simply fear, the animals are still unable to challenge the leaders. Benjamin’s character might seem to offer a source of insight, for, from the beginning, he has been skeptical and observant of the pigs’ actions. Yet his passivity and unwillingness to share his opinions renders him fundamentally ineffective, thus pointing out that knowledge of corruption does not necessarily lead to changing it.

Chapter 9 Quotes
"Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out."
Related Characters: Squealer
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

As the conditions deteriorate on Animal Farm, the pigs organize a series of celebrations. They aggrandize the supposed freedom of the animals from their previous human overlords.

This ironic sentence epitomizes the false story the pigs have told about the Animal Farm society. Their belief that things today are preferable to the past relies solely on the abstract idea of being “slaves” versus “free,” rather than the actual conditions experienced by the animals. That this supposed distinction “made all the difference” implies that the animals are not considering other significant differences that may make their current lives equivalent to or worse than they were under the rule of Mr. Jones. And the addition of the clause “as Squealer did not fail to point out” reiterates how this belief is more a trick of rhetoric than an actual indication of content. The passage thus corroborates Orwell’s presentation of the animals as unable to gain an objective viewpoint on their situation. Blinded by the pigs’ rhetoric and crippled by weak memories, they continue to believe in the improvement of their society.

Chapter 10 Quotes
Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.
Related Characters: Napoleon, Squealer, Minimus, The Dogs
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

The text has now jumped several years into the future, and the narrator observes how the relative wealth of the farm is spread unevenly among the animals.

Introducing the phrase with the term “somehow” speaks to the incredulity and naïveté of the animals. Despite having witnessed the pigs’ actions for many years, they remain unable to see exactly why wealth is being unfairly sequestered in their hands. Yet the “of course” stresses how this process is logical considering the story thus far, and how it is at least understood on some level by the animals. Orwell thus points out how the populace in such a fascist regime oscillates between recognition of and blindness to what is taking place. In particular, as time has gone by and few of the animals can recall a different form of society, the current political regime becomes normalized, and inequality fades into the “of course” of a natural order.

Four legs good, two legs better!
Related Characters: The Sheep (speaker)
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

When the pigs begin walking on two legs, the sheep change their earlier stock phrase. Having been trained by Squealer, they replace “two legs bad” with “two legs better.”

The extent and ease of the change to the phrase is remarkable. Whereas earlier acts of propaganda or commandment-revision simply altered phrases slightly, here the text has been entirely rewritten. Yet Squealer has maintained the sonic and rhythmic flow of the phrase, swapping in “better,” which begins with the same “b” sound as “bad.” His action reiterates how the Animal Farm society is founded less on principles and more on a set of empty terms that can be manipulated at will. Unable to actually make sense of what they are saying, the sheep rapidly swap out the new phrase for the old one—and the other animals seem unable to resist the strategy. Orwell has now transformed the pigs into complete human-analogs, showing how after a revolution, the new leaders have a natural tendency to mimic old ones—and then to adjust their principles to slowly revert to the old power structure.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

When Benjamin recounts the Seven Commandments, he sees only this single statement. The pigs have evidently replaced the other principles with this one.

This law is a mockery of the term “equal,” and it epitomizes perfectly how the pigs have manipulated the word throughout the text. Presumably, if all the animals are indeed equal, there would be no ability to form a hierarchy between different "types" of equalities. Yet the pigs’ actions have relied on just this idea, for instance when they claimed that they needed more and better food in order to best help the other animals. The phrase makes explicit what they have been doing all along—manipulating language and ideology to suit their own ends.

Yet, once again, the strategy is effective instead of incriminating. Reducing a set of seven principles to just a single one also shows how simplification can be an instrument of these despotic regimes. Distilling a more complex set of ideas into a single, highly-ambiguous formulation gives the pigs great freedom to interpret the laws as they wish. They can both maintain the supposed ideology of the revolution—“All animals are equal”—and allow for corruption and preferential position—“more equal than others.” Orwell thus stresses how simplified phrases and positions are critical instruments of despotic regimes—and how any equal society has a natural tendency to reorganize itself such that some become “more equal” than others.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
Related Characters: Napoleon, Squealer, Minimus, Mr. Pilkington
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

In the text’s closing passage, the pigs are seen playing cards with men. When they squabble over cheating, the narrator reflects how the two are essentially indistinguishable.

These lines confirm the way the pigs have slowly come to mimic the oppressors they overthrew in the beginning of the book. Whereas before, the animals seemed unaware of this parallel, here they finally see it manifested before them. That the pigs and men are playing poker is no symbolic accident: it stresses their selfish behavior and the way they play fast and loose with resources in a way that harms normal citizens and animals. They become, thus, representations of world leaders casually throwing around wealth and lives stolen from others. It is notable, too, that this reflection is caused by the pigs and humans fighting over cheating: what makes the pigs finally akin to humans is not their liaisons or trade deals, nor the way they consume alcohol or sleep in beds, but rather the way they persist in deceiving each other even when they have no need. Orwell implies that the fundamental character of leader-regimes like that of the USSR is a pervasive and unending greed, even once one has acquired a position of wealth and power.