Old Major dies three nights later, in early March. Over the next three months, his ideas capture the imaginations of the more intelligent animals on Manor Farm, specifically the pigs. Two young boars, Napoleon and Snowball, see that they must prepare for the promised rebellion. With a small fat pig named Squealer, who is a brilliant orator and can convince listeners of anything, they hold secret meetings and develop Old Major’s teachings into a system they call Animalism. They try to explain the theory to others, but it’s slow going. Many animals suggest they owe loyalty to Mr. Jones and others point out that they’ll starve without Mr. Jones to feed them. Others insist simply that they don’t need to care about what might happen long after they’re dead.
The differences between how the pigs begin to think about the revolution and how the other animals think about the revolution again start to show how class will develop on the farm. The pigs are already becoming part of an intellectual class concerned with abstract ideas and education, while the concerns of the masses—or in this case, the lower classes—are mostly concerned with making it through the day and don’t have the energy to consider the possibility that things will ever get better.
Mollie asks the silliest questions, such as if there will be sugar after the rebellion and if she’ll still be able to wear ribbons in her mane. Snowball patiently tries to impress upon her that she doesn’t need sugar and that the ribbons are a badge of slavery, but Mollie seems unconvinced. The pigs also have issues with the tame raven Moses. Though he doesn’t work and therefore isn’t well-liked, he also tells tales about a place called Sugarcandy Mountain, a beautiful place where animals go when they die. Many animals believe in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs work hard to convince those believers otherwise. Boxer and Clover, however, prove to be the pigs’ best disciples. They’re not incredibly intelligent, but they distill the pigs’ ideas into simple arguments that they share with the other animals.
As a parallel to the comfortable middle class, Mollie’s main concern is whether she’ll be able to maintain her comparatively decadent lifestyle after the rebellion—a lifestyle that Snowball suggests is indicative of Mollie having bought into the idea that being “enslaved” by the upper classes and trying to move up is totally fine. Moses, meanwhile, is a parallel to organized religion, which in the pigs’ mind distracts people from thinking about what truly matters—the rebellion in this life, not heaven in the next one (as represented by Sugarcandy Mountain).
The rebellion arrives much earlier and happens much more easily than anyone expected. Mr. Jones has, in the last few years, begun drinking more, so he neglects his animals and property. In June, when the hay is almost ready to cut, Mr. Jones goes to Willingdon, gets extremely drunk, and is gone for a full 24 hours. His lazy farmhands hunt rabbits and don’t feed the animals, and when Mr. Jones gets back, he falls right back to sleep. The hungry animals snap, break down the door of the store shed, and eat. Mr. Jones wakes up and leads his farmhands in whipping the animals, but the animals revolt and turn on the men. Terrified, the humans race down the drive, and Mrs. Jones packs a bag and slips out a back way. The animals slam the gate behind Mr. Jones.
One of the most important things to note here is that the rebellion happens when animals use their physical strength as one to overthrow their leader, something that, unfortunately for those in the lower classes, the animals will go on to forget. This event as a whole is a parallel to the Bolshevik Revolution, in which the Red Army—as well as Tsar Nicholas’s own guards—turned on him and ousted him quickly. As in the novel, the revolution grew out of dissatisfaction with the way Tsar Nicholas was running the country.
The animals first gallop gleefully around the farm and then destroy evidence of Mr. Jones’s power. They throw bits, dog chains, and knives down the well, and they burn halters and whips. Snowball even throws the horses’ mane and tail ribbons into the fire, insisting that ribbons are clothes and the mark of humans. Animals, he suggests, should go naked. At this, Boxer throws the straw hat he wears in the summer to protect his ears from flies on the fire. Napoleon serves everyone a double ration, and the animals sing “Beasts of England” seven times and sleep well.
Singing “Beasts of England” here again allows the animals to connect through language. At this point, the song likely has more meaning for more animals, since they now have, in theory, reached the “golden time” the song speaks of. Boxer’s choice to throw his very useful straw hat on the fire again shows how absolutist the ideology guiding this revolution is, as there’s no room for nuance and the possibility that purely useful things should be able to remain.
In the morning, the animals all rush to the top of a hill to gaze upon the farm. They inspect every building and pasture, ending with the farmhouse. Napoleon and Snowball lead the animals into the house for a tour. They’re in awe of the luxury until they realize Mollie is missing, but they find her playing with Mrs. Jones’s hair ribbons and reprimand her. The animals agree to maintain the farmhouse as a museum; no animal should live there. After breakfast, Snowball and Napoleon call everyone together for an announcement. They reveal that the pigs have been teaching themselves to read and write over the past few months. Everyone watches as Snowball covers up “Manor Farm” on the gate with “Animal Farm.”
The farmhouse itself is a symbol of decadence and of totalitarian rule, as it contains all the fruits of Mr. Jones’s illegitimately or immorally amassed wealth. The proposal to make it a museum, meanwhile, will in theory offer the animals a touchstone of what not to do, thereby saving them from corruption. The revelation that the pigs taught themselves to read and write throws a wrench in things, as it means that they’ll be more powerful than the other illiterate animals. Renaming the farm is only the first instance of the pigs literally rewriting history.
Then, at the big barn, the pigs explain that they’ve come up with the Seven Commandments, which convey the ideals of Animalism. Snowball climbs a ladder and paints the rules on the side of the barn. They read that anyone on two legs is an enemy, while anyone on four legs or with wings is a friend. Animals shouldn’t wear clothes, sleep in a bed, drink alcohol, or kill other animals. The final rule is that all animals are equal. Snowball reads it aloud for everyone and then calls everyone for the hay harvest. The cows protest, as they haven’t been milked. The animals wonder what to do with the milk, but Napoleon gallantly tells everyone not to worry about it. When the animals return that evening from the hay fields, the buckets of milk are gone.
The Seven Commandments encapsulate the idealistic nature of the rebellion as, in theory at least, they set out the groundwork for the animals to celebrate themselves. Vilifying everything that makes humans human, however, leaves little room for the animals to advance, given that the novel has already laid out the expectation that as individuals become more powerful (as through literacy, for one), they effectively become more human. The missing milk is an early clue, too, that this revolution isn’t as rosy as it might seem at first.