The donkey. He is the oldest animal on the farm and stereotypically stubborn and crotchety. He is also intelligent, being the only animal (aside from the pigs) that can read fluently. He never laughs, preferring to make cynical comments, especially the cryptic line, “donkeys live a long time.” Despite Benjamin’s unfriendly nature, he has a special affinity for Boxer. The Rebellion does not change Benjamin’s personality, although he eventually helps the animals read the lettering on the side of the van and the maxim that replaces the Seven Commandments. Benjamin represents the human (and also stereotypically Russian) tendency towards apathy; he holds fast to the idea that life is inherently hard and that efforts for change are futile. Benjamin bears a similarity to Orwell himself. Over the course of his career, Orwell became politically pessimistic and predicted the overtake of the West by totalitarian governments.
Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher
The dogs. When Bluebell and Jessie give birth to puppies, Napoleon confiscates them and secludes them in a loft, where he transforms them into fierce, elitist guard dogs.
The male of the two horses on the farm. He is “an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as any two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first-rate intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of character and tremendous powers of work” (26). Boxer has a special affinity for Benjamin. With his determination to be a good public servant and his penchant for hard work, Boxer becomes Napoleon’s greatest supporter. He works tirelessly for the cause of Animal Farm, operating under his personal maxims, “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.” The only time Boxer doubts propaganda is when Squealer tries to rewrite the story of Snowball’s valor at the Battle of the Cowshed, a “treachery” for which he is nearly executed. But Boxer recants his doubts when he learns that the altered story of the battle is directly from Napoleon. After Boxer is injured while defending the farm in the Battle of the Windmill, Napoleon sends him to be slaughtered for profit. The pigs use the money from the slaughter to buy themselves a case of whisky. Boxer is not pugnacious despite his name, but he is as strong as his name implies. In this way, Boxer is a painfully ironic character. He is strong enough to kill another animal, even a human, with a single blow from his hoof, and the dogs cannot manage to overpower him in Chapter VII. Still, Boxer lacks the intelligence and the nerve to sense that he is being used. Boxer represents the peasant or working class, a faction of humanity with a great combined strength--enough to overthrow a manipulative government--but which is uneducated enough to take propaganda to heart and believe unconditionally in the government’s cause.
The only cat on Manor Farm. She is lazy and indifferent, but she does participate in the Battle of the Cowshed.
The female of the two horses on the farm. She is “a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal.” Clover is Boxer’s faithful companion as well as a motherly figure to the other animals. Like Boxer, Clover is not intelligent enough to read, so she enlists Muriel to read the altered Seven Commandments to her. She sees the incongruities in the government’s policies and actions, but she is not smart or defiant enough to fight for the restoration of justice. Clover represents those people who remember a time before the Revolution and therefore half-realize that the government is lying about its success and adherence to its principles, but are helpless to change anything.
Nine puppies, which Napoleon confiscates and secludes in a loft. Napoleon rears them into fierce, elitist dogs that act as his security guards. The dogs are the only animals other than the pigs that are given special privileges. They also act as executioners, tearing out the throats of animals that confess to treachery. The dogs represent the NKVD and more specifically the KGB, agencies Joseph Stalin fostered and used to terrorize and commit atrocities upon the Soviet Union’s populace.
The owner of Pinchfield, the small farm adjacent to Manor Farm. He is a hard-nosed individual who is known for his frequent legal troubles and demanding business style. He cheats the animals out of their timber by paying for it with fake banknotes. Frederick represents Adolf Hitler. Rumors of the exotic and cruel animal tortures Frederick enacts on his farm are meant to echo the horror stories emerging from Nazi Germany. Frederick’s agreement to buy the timber represents the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty, and his subsequent betrayal of the pact and invasion of Animal Farm represents the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
The owner of Manor Farm and a drunkard. His animals overthrow him in the Rebellion. When he tries to recapture his property, they defeat him, steal his gun, and drive him off again. Mr. Jones dies in a home for alcoholics in another part of the country. He represents the kind of corrupt and fatally flawed government that results in discontent and revolution among the populace. More specifically, Jones represents the latter days of imperial Russia and its last leader, the wealthy but ineffective Czar Nicholas II.
A pig with “a remarkable gift for composing songs and poems.” Under Napoleon’s rule, Minimus sits with him and Squealer on the barn platform during meetings. Minimus composes propaganda songs and poems under Napoleon’s rule. Though we never hear Minimus complain about his duties as propaganda writer, he represents the Soviet Union’s artists, who were forced to use their talents to glorify communism rather than express their personal feelings or beliefs.
The white mare that draws Mr. Jones’s trap. Her personality is superficial and adolescent. For example, when she arrives at the big meeting in Chapter 1, Orwell writes, “Mollie … Came mincing daintily in, chewing a lump of sugar. She took a place near the front and began flirting her white mane, hoping to draw attention to the red ribbons it was plaited with” (27). Mollie is the only animal not to fight in the Battle of the Cowshed, instead hiding in her stall. She eventually flees the farm and is last seen, bedecked in ribbons, eating sugar and letting her new owner stroke her nose. Mollie represents the class of nobles who, unwilling to conform to the new regime, fled Russia after the Revolution.
A tame raven that is Mr. Jones’s “especial pet.” He is a spy, a gossip, and a “clever talker” (37). He is also the only animal not present for Old Major’s meeting. Moses gets in the way of the pigs’ efforts to spread Animalism by inventing a story about an animal heaven called Sugarcandy Mountain. Moses disappears for several years during Napoleon’s rule. When he returns, he still insists on the existence of Sugarcandy Mountain. Moses represents religion, which gives people hope of a better life in heaven. His name connects him to the Judeo-Christian religions specifically, but he can be said to represent the spiritual alternative in general. The pigs dislike Moses’s stories of Sugarcandy Mountain, just as the Soviet government opposed religion, not wanting its people to subscribe to a system of belief outside of communism. Though the Soviet government suppressed religion aggressively, the pigs on Animal Farm let Moses come and go as he pleases and even give him a ration of beer when he returns from his long absence.
The white goat. Muriel can read fairly well and helps Clover decipher the alterations to the Seven Commandments. Muriel is not opinionated, but she represents a subtle, revelatory influence because of her willingness to help bring things to light (as opposed to Benjamin).
One of the leaders among the pigs, Napoleon is a “large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar” that is up for sale. He is the only Berkshire boar on the farm. He is “not much of a talker” and has “a reputation for getting his own way” (35). Napoleon expels Snowball from the farm and takes over. He modifies his opinions and policies and rewrites history continually to benefit the pigs. Napoleon awards special privileges to the pigs and especially to himself. For example, he dines on Mr. Jones’s fine china, wears Mr. Jones’s dress clothes, and smokes a pipe. As time goes on, Napoleon becomes a figure in the shadows, increasingly secluding himself and making few public appearances. Eventually, Napoleon holds a conciliatory meeting with the neighboring human farmers and effectively takes over Mr. Jones’s position as dictator. Napoleon represents the type of dictator or tyrant who shirks the common good, instead seeking more and more power in order to create his own regime. Orwell reflects Napoleon’s greed for power with a name that invokes Napoleon Bonaparte, the very successful French leader who became “Emperor” and brashly invaded Russia before being defeated by Russia. But Napoleon the pig more directly represents Stalin in his constantly changing policies and actions, his secret activities, his intentional deception and manipulation of the populace, and his use of fear tactics and atrocities.
A prize Middle White boar that the Joneses exhibited under the name “Willingdon Beauty.” He is, “stout … But still a majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance” (26). In addition to his laurels in the exhibition world, Major is highly respected among his fellow farm animals. His age is twelve years, which makes him a senior among them, and he also claims to have had over four hundred children. He is the one who calls the meeting in the first chapter to discuss his strange dream. Major claims to “understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living” (28). Months after his death, the pigs disinter his skull and place it at the base of the flagpole beside the gun. Major symbolizes two historical figures. First, he represents Karl Marx, the father of Marxism. Marx’s political hypotheses about working-class consciousness and division of labor worked infinitely better in theory than in practice, especially when corrupt leaders twisted them for their personal gain. Second, Major represents Vladimir Lenin, the foremost of the three authors of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union. Lenin died during the Soviet Union’s early years, leaving Trotsky (Snowball) and Stalin (Napoleon) to vie for his leadership position.
The owner of Foxwood, the large, unkempt farm adjacent to Manor Farm. He is an easy-going man who prefers pursuing his hobbies to maintaining his land. At the book’s end, Mr. Pilkington offers a toast to the future cooperation between human farms and Animal Farm. He also says he plans to emulate Animal Farm’s low rations and long work hours. Pilkington can be seen to represent the Allies. Allied countries explored the possibility of trade with the Soviet Union in the years leading up to World War II but kept a watchful distance. Ominously, as Friedrich Hayek points out in The Road to Serfdom (1944), communist principles had strong proponents among many Allied nations as well. Pilkington’s unwillingness to save Animal Farm from Frederick and his men parodies the Allies’ initial hesitance to enter the War. Napoleon’s and Pilkington’s poker game at the end of the book suggests the beginnings of a power struggle that would later become the Cold War.
A pig that Napoleon enlists as his taster, lest someone try to poison him.
The sheep are loyal to the tenets of Animal Farm, often breaking into a chorus of “Four legs good, two legs bad” and later, “Four legs good, two legs better!” The Sheep--true to the typical symbolic meaning of “sheep”--represent those people who have little understanding of their situation and thus are willing to follow their government blindly.
One of the leaders among the pigs, Snowball is a young pig that is up for sale. He is more intelligent than Napoleon but lacks Napoleon’s depth of character. He is also a brilliant orator. Snowball, who represents Leon Trotsky, is a progressive politician and aims to improve Animal Farm with a windmill and other technological advances, but Napoleon expels him before he can do so. In his absence, Snowball comes to represent an abstract idea of evil. The animals blame misfortunes on him, including the windmill’s destruction, and entertain the idea that he is lurking on one of the neighboring farms, plotting revenge. Napoleon uses the animals’ fear of Snowball to create new propaganda and changes history to make it seem as though Snowball was always a spy and a traitor. Snowball’s name is symbolic in this way. Napoleon encourages the animals’ fear of him to grow or snowball so that it becomes so great it is almost palpable. Snowball’s name may also refer to Trotsky’s call (following Marx) to encourage a revolution outside the Soviet Union that would “snowball” into an international proletariat revolution. Snowball can more generally be said to represent systems of belief outside of communism, which the government demonizes in order to lionize its own system.
The best known of the porker pigs, Squealer has “very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, and a shrill voice.” He is also “a brilliant talker” who is talented in the art of argument. The other pigs say Squealer “could turn black into white” (35). Under Napoleon’s rule, Squealer acts as the liaison to the other animals. He lies to them, rewriting history and reading them encouraging, but false, statistics. Squealer is especially good at playing on the animals’ ignorance and gullibility. He represents the propaganda machine of a totalitarian government.
A solicitor in Willingdon who acts as Animal Farm’s intermediary to the human world. He is “a sly-looking little man with side whiskers.” He visits the farm every Monday to get his orders and is paid in commissions. Mr. Whymper’s business-minded attitude towards Animal Farm, which allows him to ignore the injustices and atrocities committed there, make him a parody of nations that conducted business with the Soviet Union while turning a blind eye to its internal affairs.
Animal Farm Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Animal Farm is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I can only speak for the general North American perception. It is seen as clever satire not only of cold war era politics but human nature itself. Ideas of fake news and propaganda are especially relevant today. The gullible masses, strong-man...