Animal Farm

Animal Farm Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on George Orwell's Animal Farm. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of George Orwell

Eric Blair was born and spent his youth in India. He was educated at Eton in England and from 1922-27, he served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. Through his autobiographical work about poverty in London (Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933), his experiences in colonial Burma (Burmese Days, 1934), and in the Spanish Civil War (Homage to Catalonia, 1938), and the plight of unemployed coal miners in England (The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937), Blair, who wrote under the name George Orwell, exposed and critiqued the human tendency to oppress others politically, economically, and physically. Orwell particularly hated totalitarianism, and his most famous novels, Animal Farm and 1984, are profound condemnations of totalitarian regimes. Orwell died at the age of 47 after failing to treat a lung ailment.
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Historical Context of Animal Farm

In 1917, two successive revolutions rocked Russia and the rest of the world. The first revolution overthrew the Russian monarchy (the Tsar) and the second established the USSR, the world’s first Communist state. Over the next 30 years, the Soviet government descended into a totalitarian regime that used and manipulated socialist ideas of equality among the working class to oppress its people and maintain power. Animal Farm is an allegory of the Russian Revolution and the Communist Soviet Union. Many of the animal characters in Animal Farm have direct correlations to figures or institutions in the Soviet Union.

Other Books Related to Animal Farm

The literary work most often mentioned alongside Animal Farm is Orwell’s own 1984. It envisions a future in which a dictatorship monitors and controls the actions of all its citizens. Like Animal Farm, 1984 depicts the horrific constraints that totalitarian governments can impose on human freedom. Other popular novels with antitotalitarian themes include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Animal Farm specifically critiques Communism, as put forth by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s The Communist Manifesto, through its allegorical Animalism ideology. In his autobiographical writing, Orwell cited the British author W. Somerset Maugham as a major influence on his work, though he also wrote about his love of the works of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, as well as the work of some of his contemporaries including T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence.
Key Facts about Animal Farm
  • Full Title: Animal Farm
  • When Written: 1944-45
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1945
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Allegorical Novel
  • Setting: A farm somewhere in England in the first half of the 20th century
  • Climax: The pigs appear standing upright and the sheep bleat, “Four legs good, two legs better!”
  • Antagonist: Napoleon specifically, but the pigs and the dogs as groups are all antagonists.
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Animal Farm

Tough Crowd. Though Animal Farm eventually made Orwell famous, three publishers in England and several American publishing houses rejected the novel at first. One of the English editors to reject the novel was the famous poet T.S. Eliot, who was an editor at the Faber & Faber publishing house. One American editor, meanwhile, told Orwell that it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

Red Scare. Orwell didn’t just write literature that condemned the Communist state of the USSR. He did everything he could, from writing editorials to compiling lists of men he knew were Soviet spies, to combat the willful blindness of many intellectuals in the West to USSR atrocities.