Animal Farm Characters – Full List

May 7, 2024

animal farm characters

The title of Animal Farm captures its central focus on a collective rather than a single character. In this respect, the famed novella is markedly different from writer George Orwell’s other world-renowned work, 1984. 1984 forces identification with one man, Winston Smith, so that readers feel the full weight of totalitarian oppression he experiences. Patrick Reilly’s early criticism showed how Animal Farm explored similar political themes using an opposite strategy of distance and disidentification. The reader’s relationship to Animal Farm characters like Napoleon is estranged by differences in both perspective and species type. Part of Orwell’s strategy with the barnyard fable was to tame the real historical horrors the story allegorizes. “Material unbearable in life,” Reilly wrote, “becomes in art a source of comic delight.” Further, rather than feeling the claustrophobic terror of totalitarianism, as in 1984, readers experience characters in Animal Farm through intellectually understanding the political theories and histories they represent.

This article provides descriptions for Animal Farm characters both major and minor. It provides details about Orwell’s characterizations and how characters relate to plot events. Where appropriate, it also suggests how each character has been commonly understood to allegorize aspects of Soviet history. For a fuller account of Animal Farm’s allegorical content, see our article on its themes and symbols.

Animal Farm character list: Napoleon

The embodiment of extreme political tyranny, Napoleon is part of the trio of pigs in leadership roles. Along with Snowball and Squealer, he takes over Old Major’s task of educating the farm animals. Many critics peg him as a stand-in for Joseph Stalin in his corruption and brutality. But his name also draws parallels to the French dictator who once seemed heroic for overthrowing monarchs. Despite his good reputation, Napoleon never contributes to Animal Farm’s success in terms of either work or policy. His one achievement entails training a litter of puppies to serve as his militarized guard. Using the dogs to chase Snowball away, Napoleon helps allegorize Stalin’s rise to totalitarian power and the assassination of Leon Trotsky.

Animal Farm character list: Snowball

An early comrade of Napoleon, Snowball plays a vital role in mobilizing Old Major’s ideas and ousting Jones. Unlike Napoleon, he is dedicated to his work, spreading the creed of Animalism and improving material conditions on the farm. A stand-in for Trotsky, he helps convey Orwell’s respect for that Soviet political leader in contrast with Stalin. Despite his charisma, he is ultimately helpless before Napoleon’s display of sheer force. His schemes for the windmill, which Napoleon later takes credit for, could also be representative of Vladimir Lenin’s modernization plans.

Animal Farm character list: Boxer

Likely the largest animal, Boxer is universally respected for his civic character and heroic work ethic. He’s also not the most intelligent, becoming easily deluded and confused during the farm’s slip into totalitarian control. His name could refer to the Boxer Rebellion, an anti-imperialist uprising that signaled the beginning of Communism in China. Along with the other horses, Boxer helps figure the working-class people of both Britain and the wider world. His betrayal by the pigs, sold to a glue manufacturer in exchange for whiskey money, is perhaps the most openly tragic note sounded in the novella.

Character list: Squealer

A skilled rhetorician, Squealer is the pigs’ best public relations representative. When arguing with other animals, he skips and whisks his tail in ways that make his points more persuasive. Some of the animals believe that Squealer could “turn black into white.” As the farm becomes more hierarchical in structure, he relays information from Napoleon to the rest of the animals. He most likely represents Pravda, the Russian newspaper of the 1930s. More generally, he serves as a locus for Orwell’s central preoccupation with the shape and function of propaganda.

Animal Farm character list: Old Major

A paternal and benevolent elder pig, Old Major is the source of Animalism and a metaphor for Karl Marx. The novella begins with news that he is delivering a speech, rousing the entire farm. His description of barnyard subjugation and his dream of a human-free utopia inspires Animal Farm’s revolution. Though he dies three days after the speech, his words are carried on and translated into action by the other animals. The farcically tragic story that follows helps satirize the idealism of Old Major’s theories. Napoleon did not even attend his speech, but benefits most from adapting Old Major’s ideas to his ultimately capitalist agenda.

Animal Farm characters: Clover

A companion mare to Boxer, Clover is also characterized in terms of her simplicity and suffering. However, she is frequently more perceptive and skeptical about goings on at the farm. Notably, the narrative occasionally takes her point-of-view, making her one of the few whose perspective is prioritized in this way. Clover’s experience and longevity help the reader to track differences between the farm’s original and later conditions. In the dénouement, Clover is the animal who realizes that the men and pigs have become identical.

Animal Farm characters: Benjamin

The oldest animal is the donkey Benjamin, who regularly vents his cynical outlook on the revolution and its aftermath. His pessimism convinces him that any changes undertaken by the animals will fail to alleviate their suffering. As controversies around the windmill mount and the animals are split into factions, Benjamin refuses to take sides. “Windmill or no windmill,” Benjamin says, “life would go on as it had always gone on – that is, badly.” Boxer’s deportation to the glue factory is the only event that rouses Benjamin from his apathy. Though he is the opposite of the unquestioning and hopeful Boxer, his attachment to the horse makes him sympathetic. Perhaps more than any of the characters, Benjamin is a mouthpiece for Orwell’s own cynicism and disillusionment concerning twentieth-century politics.

Character List: Mr. Jones

The owner of Manor Farm, Mr. Jones represents generations of oppressive farmers who have wielded abusive power over animals. He also symbolizes the history of the Russian tsars, whom the Bolsheviks fought and violently overthrew. The contrast between his comic ousting and the execution of the tsars provides an early example of how Orwell uses the fable form to soften or distance the real violence the story explores. Further, his economic troubles that help precipitate the revolt could be analogous to the global Great Depression of the 1930s.

Animal Farm characters: Moses

The raven Moses occupies a special place as a pet of Mr. Jones. Other animals tend to resent Moses’s regular appearances, largely because he does not work. However, many of them do believe his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain, a fantastical afterlife for dead animals. In this regard, Moses most likely symbolizes the function of the church. He returns to the farm after many years away, spinning the same tales about a hopeful life after earthly suffering.

Animal Farm characters: Mollie

Like Moses, the white horse Mollie stands apart from the other revolutionary animals. Her materialism and vanity leads her away from embracing the communitarian ideals of Animalism. Eventually, she abandons the animals to join a neighboring, human-run farm. She helps allegorize the temptations of Western-style consumerism, as well as the more selfish and materialistic middle classes. Notably, Orwell refracts this symbol through the Victorian, gendered trope of the fallen woman.

Character List: Mr. Pilkington

The owner of a nearby farm, Mr. Pilkington likely stands in for English elites who aligned themselves with Russia. In his meeting with Napoleon toward the end of the story, his compliments about the farm veil his underlying suspicion. The narrative suggests latent tensions between Napoleon and Pilkington at the story’s end, mirroring the uncertain relationship between England and the Soviet Union in 1945. Thus, their relationship stages the dynamics that would foster decades of Cold War rivalry between Russia and its Allies.

Characters in Animal Farm: Mr. Frederick

A second neighboring farmer, Mr. Frederick symbolizes Germany. He defrauds Napoleon and the other pigs by paying for timber with counterfeit banknotes. Later, he decimates the animals’ windmill in a surprise attack. Through Frederick, Orwell captures the Russo-German alliance, which Germany betrayed in a surprise 1941 invasion.

Characters in Animal Farm: The Dogs

At the beginning of the story, the dogs named Jessie, Bluebell, and Pincher reside at the farm. Jessie and Bluebell deliver puppies, who Napoleon adopts in the name of educating the farm’s youth. In fact, he raises the puppies to be his attack dogs and army. The dogs chase away Snowball early in the story, and murder pigs and hens after their political trials.

Characters in Animal Farm: The Hens

Animal Farm’s hen community is initially very supportive of the revolution. However, things change when a winter shortage leads Napoleon to insist that the hens donate their eggs for food. The hens then lead a rebellion, absconding to the rafters and dropping eggs that break on the floor. Napoleon responds by starving the hens, leading nine of them to die. Later more hens are put on political trial and executed for their alleged collaboration with Snowball. The hens help to figure the Soviet repression of rebellious Ukrainian “kulaks” and the catastrophic Great Purge Trials.

Characters in Animal Farm: The Sheep

The least intelligent of the animals, the sheep struggle to learn the tenets of Animalism. Snowball teaches them a maxim they remember, “four legs good, two legs bad,” which they are prone to repetitively bleat. Later, Squealer coaches them to repeat a revised version of the maxim that ends with “two legs better.” Therefore, the sheep represent unthinking acceptance of propaganda and authoritarian power structures.

Characters in Animal Farm: Mr. Whymper

Napoleon hires Mr. Whymper, a solicitor, to represent Animal Farm’s interests in the human world. This collaboration is an obvious betrayal of the original tenets of Animalism, causing distrust on the farm.

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