Characterisation in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

Napoleon serves as the central figure in the novel, illustrating the futility of revolutionary ideals. His regime epitomizes tyranny and oppression, displaying all the familiar traits of a dictatorship.

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There are human and animal characters in George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, noteworthy among which are Napoleon, Snowball, Squealer, Major, Benjamin, Mr Frederick, and Pilkington.

Napoleon

Napoleon is one of the young boars bred for sale by Mr. Jones before the animals’ rebellion. He possesses more skill in planning than in eloquence.

After ousting Mr. Jones from Manor Farm, the pigs, led by Napoleon and Snowball, assume control and rename it Animal Farm.

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Napoleon swiftly positions himself as a rival to Snowball, opposing every stance and idea put forth by the latter. His aim is to undermine Snowball’s early display of leadership.

The most heated dispute between them arises over Snowball’s proposal to construct a windmill, which Napoleon vehemently opposes to prevent Snowball from gaining political advantage.

In secret, Napoleon meticulously prepares for his eventual seizure of power by training nine robust puppies, who become his enforcers. Utilizing these dogs, he successfully expels Snowball from Animal Farm amidst the height of the windmill controversy, establishing himself as the sole leader and initiating a brutal and dictatorial reign.

Though adept at clandestine scheming, Napoleon lacks the fighting prowess and military strategy demonstrated by Snowball, receiving no notable mention during the Battle of the Cowshed.

He ruthlessly suppresses the hens’ revolt against his authority, introducing public executions to instill a reign of terror on Animal Farm.

Napoleon manipulates the ongoing discord between neighbouring farmers, Frederick and Pilkington, to his advantage, although this strategy backfires during negotiations for timber sales.

During the Battle of the Windmill, he achieves a costly victory, solidifying his control over Animal Farm. Soon after, he proclaims himself President and declares Animal Farm a republic.

In unison with his fellow pigs, Napoleon gradually adopts the traits and vices of humans, the very qualities the animals rebelled against. They systematically dismantle all the laws of Animal Farm, eroding the concept of equality among animals.

Napoleon hosts a delegation of neighbouring farmers led by Mr. Pilkington, inviting them to visit the Animal Republic in order to improve relations and ensure the perpetuation of the pigs’ dynasty.

In a complete reversal, he abolishes the remaining vestiges of the animal revolution and restores the farm’s original name, Manor Farm, sealing the vicious circle.

Napoleon serves as the central figure in the novel, illustrating the futility of revolutionary ideals. His regime epitomizes tyranny and oppression, displaying all the familiar traits of a dictatorship.

By creating a privileged social class within Animal Farm, Napoleon mirrors the class divisions found in human society. The lower animals in the Animal Republic correspond to the lower classes in the human hierarchy.

Snowball

Snowball is a pig with liveliness and quick-wittedness. After Mr. Jones is expelled from the farm, Snowball gains an initial advantage in the struggle for leadership on Animal Farm. He devotes his thoughts to welfare programs and projects that would benefit all the animals, emphasizing the collective well-being.

Despite constant opposition from Napoleon, Snowball remains undeterred in pursuing his ideas, drawing knowledge from old books left by Mr. Jones, including one about Julius Caesar’s campaigns and various technical texts. He uses this knowledge for the betterment of the animals as a whole.

Although Snowball silently approves of the privileged status of the pigs (such as when he agrees that milk and apples should be reserved exclusively for them), he lacks the brutality and power-hungry nature associated with Napoleon.

One of Snowball’s significant proposals is the construction of a windmill as an energy-saving device. Predictably, Napoleon staunchly opposes this idea, leading to a division among the animals on the farm. Nonetheless, Snowball’s persuasive oratory skills would likely have swayed the majority at the Animal Farm meeting had Napoleon not abruptly ended the proceedings by introducing his ferocious dogs. Snowball narrowly escapes with his life, disappearing from Animal Farm forever.

Even after his departure, Napoleon, through his propaganda mouthpiece Squealer, launches a vicious campaign to discredit Snowball, aiming to undermine his achievements on Animal Farm.

Snowball’s greatest contribution to the survival of Animal Farm occurs during the Battle of the Cowshed. There, he demonstrates his prowess as a military strategist and a brave combatant, narrowly avoiding death at the hands of Mr. Jones. Following the battle, both Snowball and Boxer receive military honours in recognition of their valour.

Snowball symbolizes the noble ideals of the animal revolution, as initially proclaimed by Major. He consistently displays a genuine desire to improve the animals’ conditions.

Snowball’s expulsion from Animal Farm by Napoleon signifies the emergence of dictatorship and the derailment of the animal revolution. His absence during the Battle of the Windmill creates a military void, further complicating the animals’ struggle.

Squealer

Squealer is a “plump little pig… with chubby cheeks, sparkling eyes, agile movements, and a high-pitched voice.” He possesses exceptional eloquence.

When engaged in a challenging argument, he has a knack for swiftly shifting positions and wagging his tail in a persuasively effective manner. His fellow animals often remarked that Squealer had the uncanny ability to turn falsehoods into truths.

In the early stages of Animal Farm’s self-governance, when the pigs assumed leadership, Squealer emerged as their primary spokesperson, conveying information and explanations to the other animals.

Given his natural talent for persuasive speech, Napoleon soon handpicked him as his personal and chief propagandist after seizing control of the farm.

Under Napoleon’s direction, Squealer embarked on an extensive campaign to discredit Snowball, systematically distorting all the achievements credited to Snowball and attributing them to Napoleon. The largely trusting and submissive animals, except for the skeptical donkey Benjamin, often found themselves swayed by Squealer’s words.

Covertly, Squealer would sneak to the wall where the original seven commandments of Animal Farm were written and secretly modify them whenever the pigs violated any of the principles. During an attempt to amend the Fifth Commandment, which forbade the animals from consuming alcohol, Squealer had a mishap and fell from the ladder, causing it to break into two. The crash caught the attention of other animals, revealing the mystery behind the changing commandments to perceptive individuals like Benjamin.

During the intense and bloody Battle of the Windmill, Squealer mysteriously vanished, only to reappear suddenly after the animals achieved a hard-fought victory. He approached them with a skip in his step, wagging his tail and emanating a self-satisfied glow. It was clear that he was a true coward.

Squealer also served as the messenger for the abolition of Sunday Meetings and the ban on singing the revolutionary anthem, “Beasts of England.” Furthermore, he would recite fabricated statistics about food increases despite the barns being virtually empty.

When Boxer was taken away from the farm in a knacker’s van, supposedly for medical treatment, Squealer was the one who explained why the van bore the knacker’s mark. He also concocted a report about Boxer’s eventual demise, claiming to have been by his deathbed.

Symbolizing the deceit and falsehoods often associated with a dictatorship, Squealer, as Napoleon’s Public Relations Officer, diligently manipulated the minds of the animals, using both coaxing and threats of Mr. Jones’s return. He took advantage of the animals’ short memories to distort the facts of the revolution. The most pliable and gullible among them were the sheep, whom Squealer consistently targeted.

Squealer’s speeches are rich in irony and sarcasm. Most of the time, Squealer conveys the exact opposite of what he truly means.

Major

Major holds a revered position among the animals on the farm, being the oldest pig in their midst.

At the age of twelve, Major boasts an impressive lineage, having fathered over four hundred offspring.

Gathering the animals one fateful night within the vast barn, Major imparts a wondrous dream that he claims to have had—a vision of a future Earth devoid of mankind. The dream manifests itself in the form of a stirring song called “Beasts of England,” which Major proceeds to teach the animals. Captivated by its message, many of them swiftly commit the song to memory, growing fond of it.

Before introducing the song, however, the venerable Major delivers a lengthy speech, vividly illustrating the animals’ suffering at the hands of cruel humans. He declares, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.”

Major proceeds to outline a set of commandments for the animals to follow and urges them to strive for the ultimate overthrow of humankind.

Three nights after his inspiring address, Major peacefully passes away in his sleep. The animals tenderly lay his body to rest at the base of the orchard, honouring his memory. Later, his skull is unearthed and placed on a stump near the flagstaff, alongside the gun, allowing the animals to pay their respects as they pass by every Sunday.

Old Major serves as the driving force behind the animal rebellion, providing the philosophical foundation that informs the revolution. Both the Seven Commandments and the revolutionary anthem, “Beasts of England,” find their origins in his impassioned speech to the animals.

Tragically, his vision proves bitterly ironic, as the other pigs, led by Napoleon, pervert his ideals, demonstrating to the rest of the animals that humankind is not their sole adversary. Despite the expulsion of Mr. Jones from Manor Farm, the fortunes of the animals, except for the ruling class of pigs and dogs, remain largely unchanged.

Benjamin

He is the oldest animal on the farm and the worst tempered. He hardly talks, except to make cynical remarks. He is highly perceptive and thoughtful.

Benjamin avoids talking about the rebellion because he believes that the lot of the animals is not likely to change in spite of it. So old Benjamin remains unchanged, merely performing his basic duties from day to day. To him, hunger, hardship and disappointment are the unalterable law of life.

On one critical occasion, however, Benjamin breaks his silence and his usually sluggish reaction to events. This is when a knacker’s van comes to cart Boxer away, under the pretext of taking him for medical treatment. While the other animals believe that Boxer is being taken away temporarily for medical treatment, it is only Benjamin who sees through the trick and notices the inscription on the van. By the time he draws the attention of the other animals to it and tries to rally them to prevent Boxer from being taken away to his death, the van has pulled off.

He consents, for once, to help Clover read the latest change in the commandments of the Animal Farm. This time, the entire commandments are erased and replaced by a single commandment: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Old Benjamin symbolizes the pessimistic attitude in any revolution which is often regarded as a vicious circle. The changes which seem to occur are merely superficial and temporary. In reality, nothing changes.

Old Benjamin is significant not because of what he says, but for what he refuses to say. His silence speaks volumes, and his unchanging cynical attitude is confirmed by the trends of development.

Boxer

Boxer, a robust cart-horse, stands as a colossal creature, towering at eighteen hands high, possessing the strength of two ordinary horses combined. While not particularly intelligent, he compensates with exceptional power and an unwavering work ethic.

During the Battle of the Cowshed, Boxer plays a pivotal role in defending Animal Farm against Mr. Jones’ attempt to reclaim it. For his valor, he and Snowball are bestowed with military honours, recognizing their contributions.

Boxer dedicates himself tirelessly to the construction of the windmill, often rising earlier than his fellow animals and devoting his spare time to the cause. The destruction of the windmill during the Battle of the Windmill deeply disheartens him, leaving him in a state of profound despair.

As an ardent and loyal member of Animal Farm, Boxer’s life revolves around two personal mottos: “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.” Sometimes however, he exhibits moments of rational thinking, such as when he defends Snowball against allegations of collaboration with Mr. Jones.

True to his nature, Boxer valiantly fights during the Battle of the Windmill, enduring a bullet wound on his leg that requires time to heal.

Sadly, while working on the third attempt to rebuild the windmill, Boxer collapses and falls gravely ill. Seizing the opportunity, Napoleon claims to arrange external medical treatment for him but deceitfully sells Boxer to a knacker instead. This grim fate fulfills Old Major’s prediction, albeit in an unexpected manner. Boxer is sold not by Mr. Jones, as Major foresaw, but by a fellow animal.

Boxer symbolizes the honest, industrious, and devoted members of society who exhibit unwavering loyalty to their leadership without discrimination.

The circumstances surrounding Boxer’s demise—being sold to a knacker for slaughter—convey both tragedy and irony, highlighting the betrayal and exploitation that can befall even the most dedicated individuals.

Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, serves as the backdrop against which the animals’ rebellion unfolds.

During the gathering of the animals on the night of Major’s speech, Mr. Jones disrupts the proceedings by firing his gun into the air, under the mistaken belief that a fox is causing the commotion. This reaction is triggered by the uproar generated by the animals’ spirited rendition of “Beasts of England.”

Although typically a conscientious farmer, Mr. Jones succumbs to heavy drinking following a substantial loss in a lawsuit. This leads to negligence on the part of his workers responsible for tending to the animals, resulting in chronic underfeeding. Inspired by Old Major’s speech and driven by hunger, the famished animals rise up against their human master, swiftly driving Mr. Jones, his wife, and his workers from Manor Farm.

Approximately four months later, Mr. Jones mounts a futile attempt to retake the farm, which the animals later dub the Battle of the Cowshed. Ill-equipped, ill-prepared, and displaying carelessness, Mr. Jones and his forces face defeat at the hands of the better-organized animals led by Snowball.

Mr. Jones unwittingly contributes to his own downfall through his descent into alcoholism and his negligence in overseeing his workers. These factors hasten the animal rebellion foreseen by Old Major, occurring sooner than anticipated.

Representing humankind in general, Mr. Jones embodies the overthrow of humanity itself.

Following his expulsion and failed attempt to reclaim the farm, Mr. Jones assumes the role of a boogeyman—a fictional character designed to instill fear in the animals. Squealer effectively employs this notion to maintain control over the animals. Merely the mention of the potential return of Mr. Jones by Squealer is enough to quell any uprising among the animals, as the prospect of Mr. Jones’ return is the last thing they desire.

Mr. Frederick

Mr. Frederick is a tough, shrewd businessman who owns Pinchfield Farm. He disagrees frequently with his neighbouring farmer, Mr. Pilkington of Foxwood Farm, and so Napoleon finds it easy to play one against the other, and to decide who to deal with at any point in time.

Both Frederick and Pilkington express the desire to purchase the pile of timber being offered for sale by Napoleon who then exploits the disagreement between them. In the end, Frederick offers twelve pounds more than Pilkington and Napoleon (who has openly ruled out Frederick) double-crosses Pilkington by selling the timber to his rival.

Frederick, however, outwits Napoleon in the business deal by paying for the timber in counterfeit notes and carting the items away before the forgery is noticed. This means that Frederick has had the pile of timber free! Napoleon is truly enraged, and he instantly pronounces the death sentence on Frederick while he tries in vain to make it up with Pilkington. The showdown between Napoleon and Frederick is the immediate cause of the Battle of the Windwill which the animals win — although at the cost of their just-completed windmill and the lives of some of their colleagues.

Frederick’s invasion of Animal Farm results in the Battle of the Windmill where he blows up the windmill the labour of two full years. That gives the animals the courage to fight back and chase out the invading enemy.

The permanent disagreement between Frederick and Pilkington is used by the author to suggest the reason for the survival of the animal rebellion. But for the rivalry, Frederick and Pilkington would have teamed up to crush the rebellion in Manor Farm and reinstate Mr Jones. The animals would have found it difficult to withstand the combined force of both men.

Pilkington

Pilkington is the owner of Foxwood Farm. He is in a perpetual rivalry with Mr. Frederick from Pinchfield Farm.

When Frederick invades Animal Farm, Pilkington chooses not to assist Napoleon due to Napoleon’s deceitful tactics regarding the timber trade. Pilkington turns down Napoleon’s request for assistance with a short, cryptic note: “Serves you right.”

Pilkington is portrayed as a laid-back gentleman farmer, devoting most of his time to fishing or hunting based on the season. Consequently, his farm, although extensive, is neglected, antiquated, overrun by woodland, and its pastures depleted.

Towards the conclusion of the story, he accepts Napoleon’s invitation and leads a delegation of friendly neighboring farmers to visit Animal Farm. This visit solidifies the newfound agreement between the pigs and their human neighbours.

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