Animal Farm—Short version
The animals are summoned to the barn to hear Old Major talk about his strange dream. In fact, he describes the injustice and suffering to which the animals are subjected by their human masters. He encourages them to work towards rebellion and to dream of a time when animals will live free from Man’s slavery. He tells them “All animals are equal” and teaches them an old song “Beasts of England” which tells of how Man will be overthrown.
Old Major dies three days later. Inspired by his words, the animals begin to prepare the rebellion. The pigs, who are the most intelligent animals, devise a system of thought called Animalism based on Old Major’s ideas. They organize nighttime meetings to teach the animals about their ideas. The rebellion happens spontaneously on Midsummer’s day when, having been neglected by Jones for several days, the animals break into the food store. When the farmer and his men try to stop them, the animals attack and force the humans off the farm. Now in control of the farm, the animals inspect the premises, including the farm house which they decide shall be preserved as a museum, vowing that no animal shall ever live there.
The pigs explain that they have learnt to read and write. They rename the farm “Animal Farm” and the pigs paint the “Seven Commandments” of Animalism on the barn wall:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
The animals begin the work of bringing in the harvest. Napoloen arranges for the pigs to milk the cows. He sets the milk aside secretly for his own purposes.
The animals finish the harvest successfully in record time and little by little they organize their new life. Sunday is decreed a rest day, when the animals assemble for a weekly Meeting. At these meetings, work is planned for the week, resolutions passed and important decisions taken together. Only the pigs put forward ideas as the other animals cannot think independently. The rivalry between Napoleon and Snowball grows rapidly. Snowball concentrates on organizing committees to improve aspects of life on the farm. Most importantly he tries to teach the animals to read and write. Although his classes are very successful, not all the animals manage to learn and consequently they cannot read all the seven commandments. Snowball simplifies the commandments into the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad”, which they can all remember easily.
Meanwhile, Napoleon takes a litter of young puppies away from their mothers and teaches them about Animalism in secret. The animals learn that the cows’ milk has been taken away for the exclusive use of the pigs, and Napoleon also decrees that all windfall apples are be kept for the pigs. Squealer is sent to explain that the pigs need the extra food to keep their brainpower up in order to lead the farm. He reminds the other animals that the alternative to the pigs is the threat of Farmer Jones coming back.
The pigs send pigeons to neighbouring farms to spread news of the rebellion and stir up the spirit of revolt among other animals. The tune of Beasts of England is now known by animals across the county. The humans are increasingly worried, and in October Jones, his men and a small group of neighbouring farmers attack “Animal Farm”. The well prepared animals counter attack and succeed in driving the men off the Farm. The battle is named “The Battle of the Cowshed”. Snowball is given a medal “Animal hero, first class” for his bravery shown in battle and a sheep that died is awarded the honour “Animal hero, second class”. The animals celebrate their victory by raising a flag and singing “Beasts of England”. A gun captured during the battle is placed next to the flagstaff and they decide to fire it each year on the anniversaries of the rebellion and of the battle.
During the winter it is impossible to do any farming and time is spent on meetings and planning. The rivalry between Snowball and Napoleon continues to increase. Snowball’s eloquence brings him support at meetings, but Napoleon builds up a support base behind the scenes, particularly amongst the sheep. Snowball is busy devising plans to build a windmill that he claims will provide electricity to the farm bringing comforts such as heating and mechanical labour, thus reducing the need to work. Napoleon opposes the plans that he claims will lose time on the harvest. A big meeting is organised to vote on whether to build the windmill or not. The farm is divided into two factions: “Vote for Snowball and the three-day week” and “Vote for Napoleon and the full manger”. At the meeting Snowball’s brilliant speech looks sure to win the vote until Napoleon suddenly calls in his dogs (the puppies he has been training secretly) who viciously chase Snowball off the farm. Napoleon tells the animals that Sunday Meetings are now abolished and that decisions will be taken solely by the pigs. Any potential resistance is squashed by growls from the dogs. Three weeks later, Napoleon announces that the Windmill will be built after all. Squealer explains that Napoleon’s previous opposition was necessary in order to get rid of the traitor Snowball.
The animals work very hard all year on the farm and to build the windmill. Food supplies are low and they are asked to work on Sundays. This is on a voluntary basis, but those who do not participate will have food rations halved. The pigs begin to trade with humans in order to buy supplies they cannot produce on the farm: fuel, seeds, manure and machinery. Consequently, the hens are forced to give up some of their eggs for sale. The animals are doubtful about this development. They seem to remember that after the rebellion they agreed to have no contact with humans, but Squealer convinces them otherwise. The pigs move into the farmhouse and begin to sleep in the beds. Again, the animals are concerned; they seem to remember that they agreed the house would be kept as a museum. They check the fourth commandments written on the barn wall: “No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets”. They don’t remember sheets being mentioned before, but Squealer convinces them of the need for the pigs to sleep comfortably to facilitate their brainwork of running the farm.
In November, the half-finished windmill is destroyed in a storm. Napoleon however blames the destruction on Snowball whose footprints he claims to see leading up to the windmill.
The animals face hardship and scarcity food throughout the winter. The pigs decide that more eggs should be sold to obtain grain and other food from the outside world. The hens attempt a rebellion by laying eggs from the rafters so that they smash to the ground. The pigs force the hens to capitulate by cutting off their food ration completely. The pigs are now spreading rumours about Snowball, accusing him of entering the farm secretly and of being responsible for all the mishaps and problems. After weeks of paranoia surrounding Snowball’s activities, Napoleon states openly that Snowball as in league with Jones from the very start of the rebellion. Boxer questions this: he remembers Snowball’s brave actions at the Battle of the Cowshed and finds it hard to believe that Snowball was already a traitor. He is eventually convinced by Squealer and Napoleon’s arguments.
In this atmosphere of doubt and dissent, a meeting is called in the yard. Napoleon himself attends, accompanied by his now ever-present escort of dogs. Several animals are violently dragged out of the crowd. Surrounded by the dogs, they confess to plotting with Snowball against the farm. They are all murdered on the spot by the dogs.
After the meeting, the other animals creep away sadly in a state of shock. This is the first time animals have been killed by other animals since the rebellion. Sadly they begin singing “Beasts of England” to remind them of what they had fought for. Squealer arrives to tell them that they will no longer be allowed to sing this song: according to him it is no longer needed as the rebellion has been accomplished.
Following the mass execution, the animals are uneasy. Clover and Muriel check the sixth commandment on the barn wall. It now reads “No animal shall kill another animal without cause.” They do not remember the last two words.
Napoleon is now known as “Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon.” He rarely leaves the farmhouse and is always accompanied by his dogs and a cockerel who acts as herald.
While Napoleon negotiates alternately with two nearby farms to sell them a pile of timber, rumours circulate constantly about their neighbours’ intentions: a plot to murder Napoleon is uncovered; one of the farmers is accused of ruining the animals’ wheat crop. The animals are nervous and confused and an atmosphere of insecurity and danger is maintained by the pigs’ rumours. Napoleon eventually sells the wood, but three days later the animals discover that the banknotes paid by the farmer were forged. Napoleon now warns that an attack is imminent and the next day a group of farmers attack with guns and dogs. For a short time the animals are forced to hide in the barn and the men make the most of their advantage to blow up the windmill. In fury, and despite the bullets fired at them, the animals run out to drive the men off their land,. Although the animals have obtained a victory, “The Battle of the Windmill” cost lives and the windmill has been destroyed yet again.
During the celebrations, the pigs discover a case of whisky in the farmhouse. After sampling the pleasures of inebriation, they decide that a field near the verger, originally set aside for retired animals, is to be sown with barley so that they can brew their own alcohol. When the other animals check the barn wall, they discover that the fifth commandment now reads “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”
Rebuilding of the windmill recommences and conditions continue to be harsh as the animals suffer another cold winter with little food. Nevertheless, Squealer continues to dupe the animals by announcing productivity figures that prove conditions are better than under Jones. As they struggle to survive, the animals can’t really remember any more what life was like before the rebellion. While the animals’ rations are regularly reduced and more and more of the hens’ eggs are sold to buy supplies from outside the farm, a schoolroom is built to teach young pigs and the beer is brewed for the pigs’ consumption. A weekly event called a “Spontaneous Demonstration” is organised which involves the animals celebrating the achievements of the farm in a pseudo military procession. Boxer collapses due to over work and is taken away from the farm in the horse-slaughterer’s van. The animals have been told that he is going to a veterinary surgeon for treatment, but they realise at the last minute when Muriel reads the sign on the van that this is not the case. However, three days later Squealer is sent to convince them that their suspicions are not true and that Boxer died in hospital.
Years have passed and many of the animals are now dead. Only a few of the older animals remember the days before the rebellion. None of the old animals has been able to retire. The windmill is finished but is used to mill corn sold for profit rather than to generate electricity. The numerous pigs are all involved in endless farm bureaucracy and paperwork, but they do not actually do any work: Squealer insists that their contribution is of vital importance to the farm. The farm grows richer and Squealer continues to demonstrate with detailed figures that life has greatly improved on the farm. The animals however do not benefit from improved conditions and deep down they realize this. They still remain proud that theirs is the only farm in England run and owned by animals.
During the summer, Squealer disappears for a week with the sheep. The sheep eventually reappear, but that evening the animals are shocked to see the pigs walking upright on their two hind legs. Napoleon himself carries a whip. Before the animals can react, the sheep break into a chorus of “Four legs bad, two legs better”, and when the animals check the commandments, they discover that they have been effaced and that the only thing now written on the barn wall is “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The pigs now wear clothes are carry whips. One day, local farmers arrive on a courtesy visit to inspect the farm. Afterwards, they are invited to dinner in Napoleon’s farmhouse. When the animals watch through the windows they overhear Napoleon announcing that the farm will no longer be called “animal Farm” but “Manor Farm”. They can no longer see any difference between the pigs and the humans.