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. 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 (1945) and 1984 (1949), 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 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 thirty 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

Orwell subtitled Animal Farm "A Fairy Story." Characters in fairy tales tend to be two-dimensional stereotypes used to reveal some broad observation about life. As the critic C.M. Wodehouse wrote in a piece on Animal Farm in 1954, a fairy tale has no moral. It simply says, "Life is like that—take it or leave it." Animal Farm uses the format of a fairy tale to expose the evils of totalitarian exploitation. Rather than attack totalitarianism directly, the book shows its offenses plainly and clearly and lets the reader deduce the dangers posed by totalitarian governments. The literary work most often mentioned alongside Animal Farm is 1984, another Orwell novel. 1984, published in 1949, envisions a future in which a dictatorship monitors and controls the actions of all of its citizens. Like Animal Farm, 1984 depicted the horrific constraints that totalitarian governments could impose on human freedom.
Key Facts about Animal Farm
  • Full Title: Animal Farm - A Fairy Story
  • When Written: 1944-45
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1945
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Novel / Fairy Tale / Allegory
  • 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
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for Animal Farm

Rejection. Though Animal Farm eventually made Orwell famous, three publishers in England rejected the novel at first. One of those who rejected it was T.S. Eliot, the famous poet and an editor at the Faber & Faber publishing house. Several American publishing houses rejected the novel as well. One editor told Orwell it was "impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

Outspoken Anti-Communist. 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.