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Old Major relates his dream to the animals. His dream was about the state of happiness that will exist once Man is eliminated. In the dream, a tune his mother and the other sows sang to him in his childhood returned to him, and new words accompanied the tune. Old Major is sure that he has, in his dream life, uncovered an old animal anthem that has lain dormant for generations. It is called “Beasts of England,” and he sings it to the other animals. Orwell describes the song as “a stirring tune, something between Clementine and La Cucaracha” (32). The song glorifies the freedom and joy that will follow “Tyrant Man’s” overthrow, and he urges all animals to “toil for freedom’s sake,” even if they die before the cause is won.
Old Major assumes the role of philosopher, creating a detailed model for a utopian society. His role is also that of visionary or prophet because, smart as he is, part of Major’s vision of the future came to him in a dream. In his roles of philosopher and visionary, Major represents the political theorist Karl Marx. Old Major is older and wiser than the other animals, a fact that mirrors history. Marx and his theories predated (and therefore influenced) the ideas of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. All three men were still children at the time of Marx’s death.
Major’s vision of mankind’s problems and his plan for a utopian society closely match the tenets of Marxism as expressed in The Communist Manifesto. Major’s ideas of the animal and Man correspond with Marx’s views of the common man and the elite. We should bear this symbolism in mind as we examine Major’s speech. First, Old Major focuses on the exploitation of the animal by Man, who is concerned only with making a profit. Although the animal does all the work, it gets no stake in what it produces because man controls not only the means of production but also the means of distribution. Marxism argues that the common man becomes confused by the elite’s self-serving ideology and becomes separated from its true nature. In the same way, Major says that Man keeps animals in submission only because he is the one creating the ideology and the rules. In order to claim their destiny of being “rich and free,” the animals must overthrow Man.
Major also represents Vladimir Lenin, the foremost author of the Russian Revolution and of the formation of the Soviet Union. If historically Marx played the role of grandfather theorist, then Lenin played that of young interpreter and motivator. Old Major not only bestows his theory upon the animals, he awakens them from the dreamtime of Man’s ideology and rouses them to action. He does so with the help of “Beasts of England,” a revolutionary song that helps the animals envision the “golden future time” when they will live free of man’s (literal and metaphorical) yoke. Orwell also connects Major to Lenin by his use of the word “comrade,” which is associated with communism.