The book is a satire on Communism.
- It was written between 1943 and 1945, and since Britain, US and Soviet Union had good relations, majority publication houses refused to publish the book.
- After Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm, falls asleep in a drunken stupor, all of his animals meet in the big barn at the request of old Major, a 12-year-old pig.
- Major delivers a rousing political speech about the evils inflicted upon them by their human keepers and their need to rebel against the tyranny of Man. After elaborating on the various ways that Man has exploited and harmed the animals, Major mentions a strange dream of his in which he saw a vision of the earth without humans.
- He then teaches the animals a song — “Beasts of England” — which they sing repeatedly until they awaken Jones, who fires his gun from his bedroom window, thinking there is a fox in the yard. Frightened by the shot, the animals disperse and go to sleep.
- After the death of old Major, the animals spend their days secretly planning the rebellion, although they are unsure when it will occur. Because of their intelligence, the pigs are placed in charge of educating the animals about Animalism, the name they give to the philosophy expounded by Major in Chapter 1.
- Among the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon are the most important to the revolution.
- Despite Mollie’s concern with ribbons and Moses’ tales of a place called Sugarcandy Mountain, the pigs are successful in conveying the principles of Animalism to the others.
- The rebellion occurs when Jones again falls into a drunken sleep and neglects to feed the animals, who break into the store-shed in search of a meal. When Jones and his men arrive, they begin whipping the animals but soon find themselves being attacked and chased off the farm. The triumphant animals then destroy all traces of Jones, eat heartily, and revel in their newfound freedom. After a tour of Jones’ house, they decide to leave it untouched as a museum.
- Snowball changes the sign reading “Manor Farm” to “Animal Farm” and paints the Seven Commandments of Animalism on the wall of the barn. The cows then give five buckets of milk, which Napoleon steals.
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equal.
- Despite the initial difficulties inherent in using farming tools designed for humans, the animals cooperate to finish the harvest — and do so in less time than it had taken Jones and his men to do the same.
- Boxer distinguishes himself as a strong, tireless worker, admired by all the animals.
- The pigs become the supervisors and directors of the animal workers.
- On Sundays, the animals meet in the big barn to listen to Snowball and Napoleon debate a number of topics on which they seem never to agree.
- Snowball forms a number of Animal Committees, all of which fail. However, he does prove successful at bringing a degree of literacy to the animals, who learn to read according to their varied intelligences. To help the animals understand the general precepts of Animalism, Snowball reduces the Seven Commandments to a single slogan: “ Four legs good, two legs bad”.
- Napoleon, meanwhile, focuses his energy on educating the youth and takes the infant pups of Jessie and Bluebell away from their mothers, presumably for educational purposes.
- The animals learn that the cows’ milk and windfallen apples are mixed every day into the pigs’ mash. When the animals object, Squealer explains that the pigs need the milk and apples to sustain themselves as they work for the benefit of all the other animals.
- As summer ends and news of the rebellion spreads to other farms (by way of pigeons released by Snowball and Napoleon), Jones spends most of his time in a pub, complaining about his troubles to two neighboring farmers: Pilkington and Jones; Frederick.
- In October, Jones and a group of men arrive at Animal Farm and attempt to seize control of it. Snowball turns out to be an extraordinary tactician and, with the help of the other animals, drives Jones and his men away.
- The animals then celebrate their victory in what they call “The Battle of the Cowshed.”
- Winter comes, and Mollie works less and less. Eventually, Clover discovers that Mollie is being bribed off Animal Farm by one of Pilkington’s men, who eventually wins her loyalties.
- Mollie disappears, and the pigeons report seeing her standing outside a pub, sporting one of the ribbons that she always coveted.
- The pigs increase their influence on the farm, deciding all questions of policy and then offering their decisions to the animals, who must ratify them by a majority vote.
- Snowball and Napoleon continue their fervent debates, the greatest of which occurs over the building of a windmill on a knoll. Snowball argues in favor of the windmill, which he is certain will eventually become a labor-saving device; Napoleon argues against it, saying that building the windmill will take time and effort away from the more important task of producing food. The two also disagree on whether they should (as Napoleon thinks) amass an armory of guns or (as Snowball thinks) send out more pigeons to neighboring farms to spread news of the rebellion.
- On the Sunday that the plan for the windmill is to be put to a vote, Napoleon calls out nine ferocious dogs, who chase Snowball off the farm. Napoleon then announces that all debates will stop and institutes a number of other new rules for the farm.
- Three weeks after Snowball’s escape, Napoleon surprises everybody by announcing that the windmill will be built. He sends Squealer to the animals to explain that the windmill was really Napoleon’s idea all along and that the plans for it were stolen from him by Snowball.
- During the following year, the animals work harder than ever before.
- Building the windmill is a laborious business, and Boxer proves himself a model of physical strength and dedication.
- Napoleon announces that Animal Farm will begin trading with neighboring farms and hires Mr. Whymper, a solicitor, to act as his agent. Other humans meet in pubs and discuss their theories that the windmill will collapse and that Animal Farm will go bankrupt.
- Jones gives up his attempts at retaking his farm and moves to another part of the county.
- The pigs move into the farmhouse and begin sleeping in beds, which Squealer excuses on the grounds that the pigs need their rest after the daily strain of running the farm.
- That November, a storm topples the half-finished windmill. Napoleon tells the animals that Snowball is responsible for its ruin and offers a reward to any animal who kills Snowball or brings him back alive.
- Napoleon then declares that they will begin rebuilding the windmill that very morning.
- As the human world watches Animal Farm and waits for news of its failure, the animals struggle against starvation. Napoleon uses Mr. Whymper to spread news of Animal Farm’s sufficiency to the human world.
- After learning that they must surrender their eggs, the hens stage a demonstration that only ends when they can no longer live without the rations that Napoleon had denied them. Nine hens die as a result of the protest.
- The animals are led to believe that Snowball is visiting the farm at night and spitefully subverting their labor. He becomes a constant (and imagined) threat to the animals’ security, and Squealer eventually tells the animals that Snowball has sold himself to Frederick and that he was in league with Jones from the very beginning.
- One day in spring, Napoleon calls a meeting of all the animals, during which he forces confessions from all those who had questioned him (such as the four pigs in Chapters 5 and 6 and the three hens who lead the protest) and then has them murdered by the dogs.
- Numerous animals also confess to crimes that they claim were instigated by Snowball. Eventually, the singing of “Beasts of England” is outlawed and a new song by Minimus, Napoleon’s pig-poet, is instituted, although the animals do not find the song as meaningful as their previous anthem.
- The following year brings more work on the windmill and less food for the workers, despite Squealer’s lists of figures supposedly proving that food production has increased dramatically under Napoleon’s rule.
- As Napoleon grows more powerful, he is seen in public less often. The general opinion of him is expressed in a poem by Minimus that lists his merits and virtues. More executions occur while Napoleon schemes to sell a pile of timber to Frederick — who is alternately rumored to be a sadistic torturer of animals and the victim of unfounded gossip.
- After the completion of the new windmill in August, Napoleon sells the pile of timber to Frederick, who tries to pay with a check. Napoleon, however, demands cash, which he receives. Whymper then learns that Frederick’s banknotes are forgeries, and Napoleon pronounces the death sentence on the traitorous human.
- The next morning, Frederick and 14 men arrive at Animal Farm and attempt to take it by force. Although the humans are initially successful, after they blow up the windmill, the animals are completely enraged and drive the men from the farm.
- Squealer explains to the bleeding animals that, despite what they may think, they were actually victorious in what will hereafter be called “The Battle of the Windmill.”
- Some days later, the pigs discover a case of whisky in Jones’ cellar. After drinking too much of it, Napoleon fears he is dying and decrees that the drinking of alcohol is punishable by death.
- Two days later, however, Napoleon feels better and orders the small paddock (which was to have been used as a retirement-home for old animals) to be ploughed and planted with barley. The chapter ends with Muriel rereading the Seven Commandments and noticing, for the first time, that the Fifth Commandment now reads, “ No animal shall drink alcohol to excess”.
- After celebrating their so-called victory against Frederick, the animals begin building a new windmill. Their efforts are again led by Boxer who, despite his split hoof, insists on working harder and getting the windmill started before he retires.
- Food supplies continue to diminish, but Squealer explains that they actually have more food and better lives than they have ever known.
- The four sows litter 31 piglets; Napoleon, the father of all of them, orders a schoolroom to be built for their education. Meanwhile, more and more of the animals’ rations are reduced while the pigs continue to grow fatter.
- Animal Farm is eventually proclaimed a Republic, and Napoleon is elected President.
- Once his hoof heals, Boxer works as hard as he can at building the windmill — until the day he collapses because of a lung ailment. After he is helped back to his stall, Squealer informs them that Napoleon has sent for the veterinarian at Willingdon to treat him.
- When the van arrives to take Boxer to the hospital, however, Benjamin reads its side and learns that Boxer is actually being taken to a knacker, or glue-boiler. Clover screams to Boxer to escape, but the old horse is too weak to kick his way out of the van, which drives away. Boxer is never seen again.
- To placate the animals, Squealer tells them that Boxer was not taken to a knacker but that the veterinarian had bought the knacker’s truck and had not yet repainted the words on its side. The animals are relieved when they hear this. The chapter ends with a grocer’s van delivering a crate of whisky to the pigs, who drink it all and do not arise until after noon the following day.
- Years pass, and Animal Farm undergoes its final changes.
- Muriel, Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher are all dead, and Jones dies in an inebriates’ home. Clover is now 14 years old (two years past the retiring age) but has not retired. (No animal ever has.)
- There are more animals on the farm, and the farm’s boundaries have increased, thanks to the purchase of two of Pilkington’s fields.
- The second windmill has been completed and is used for milling corn. All the animals continue their lives of hard work and little food — except, of course, for the pigs.
- One evening, Clover sees a shocking sight: Squealer walking on his hind legs. Other pigs follow, walking the same way, and Napoleon also emerges from the farmhouse carrying a whip in his trotter. The sheep begin to bleat a new version of their previous slogan: “ Four legs good, two legs better!”
- Clover also notices that the wall on which the Seven Commandments were written has been repainted: Now, the wall simply reads, “ ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL / BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS ”. Eventually, all the pigs begin carrying whips and wearing Jones’ clothes.
- In the novel’s final scene, a deputation of neighboring farmers are given a tour of the farm, after which they meet in the dining-room of the farmhouse with Napoleon and the other pigs. Mr. Pilkington makes a toast to Animal Farm and its efficiency. Napoleon then offers a speech in which he outlines his new policies: The word “comrade” will be suppressed, there will be no more Sunday meetings, the skull of old Major has been buried, and the farm flag will be changed to a simple field of green. His greatest change in policy, however, is his announcement that Animal Farm will again be called Manor Farm. Soon after Napoleon’s speech, the men and pigs begin playing cards, but a loud quarrel erupts when both Napoleon and Pilkington each try to play the ace of spades. As Clover and the other animals watch the arguments through the dining-room window, they are unable to discriminate between the humans and the pigs.