70 pages 2 hours read

George Orwell

Animal Farm

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

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Humans Versus Animals

Underlying Animal Farm is the question: Are humans better than animals? Orwell presents his animal characters anthropomorphically—i.e., with human characteristics and actions. They embody a variety of personality traits that we recognize in people every day: the rabble rouser (Major), the inspiring leader (Snowball), the corrupt tyrant (Napoleon), the dedicated and loyal worker (Boxer), etc. Thus, Orwell’s purpose is to depict human nature under an unfamiliar and whimsical guise.

In Animal Farm, humans and animals are presented as being on the same level and as interacting as equal beings. We are accustomed to speaking of animal behavior as savage and cruel, but Orwell asks us to reflect on whether human behavior is really different from that of animals. Like the animals in the book, humans have led violent revolutions, engaged in corrupt rule, carried out murder under the guise of charity (as happens with Boxer), and bent morality to suit their desires. On the other hand, the animals are also capable of displaying virtues like hard work, loyalty, kindness, and self-sacrifice. Like human beings, they show extremes of intelligence, cunning, and stupidity.

The idea that humans are little different from animals is driven home in the final scene in the farmhouse, when the boundaries between human and the pig identities literally blur.