Animal Farm – Summary of Each Chapter

May 7, 2024

animal farm summary

In exploring Animal Farm’s characters and themes, George Orwell’s allegorical treatment of twentieth-century history has been an unavoidable topic. The hyper-canonical novella has been the locus of endless interrogation about its relationship to Soviet-era communism. Indeed, its intellectual appeal mostly rests in tracing how its political theories come out of specific historical conditions. But that focus can obscure the novella’s status as a piece of literature appealing to many generations of readers. For example, it can prevent us from interrogating why Orwell allegorizes vain materialism through Mollie, a horse who conforms to the literary trope of the fallen woman. Or it can neglect the critical question of why Orwell’s commentary takes the form of a story about animal exploitation. This article, offering an Animal Farm summary, strips away the expected focus on allegory. Somewhat radically for this text, it sticks resolutely close to the surface level of the plot.

On one level, this Animal Farm summary acquaints new readers with the story and reminds those familiar with key events. But it also might inspire new questions about the text outside of its allegory dimensions. It might also help rescue the text from its own legacy of propagandistic usage, forcefully reasserting its status as literature. It remains to be seen what new insights can be made into this much-studied text, which is not likely to disappear from our culture anytime soon.

Animal Farm Summary: Chapter 1

The story of Animal Farm commences as evening descends on Manor Farm. A gathering of animals in the locked barn listen to the dream of Old Major, an elder Middle White boar. Included are cart horses Boxer and Clover, a white goat named Muriel, Mollie the white mare, and Benjamin the donkey. Notably absent is Moses, a raven who is the farmer, Mr. Jones’s pet. The rest of the animals listen as Old Major explains his imminent death. He also shares his belief that, while animals suffer imprisonment and slaughter, this is not a natural or inevitable situation. Because Man is the source of suffering, Old Major reasons, removing Man would result in the amelioration of that suffering. He tells the audience they must “work night and day, body and soul for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you comrades: Rebellion!”

Orwell Continued

Old Major then outlines several axioms that can guide the animals during the revolution. For example, he says “whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” Almost immediately, he illustrates how this axiom works in practice when rats emerge and provoke some of the animals. The boar calls a vote that marks the rats, as well as all other animals, as equals. Subsequently, Old Major describes his dream of a utopic future without humans to the animals.

Connecting this future to the past, Old Major remembers a song taught by his mother concerning the overthrow of Man. He teaches the song, called “Beasts of England,” to the gathered animals. As they sing louder in unison, Mr. Jones is awakened and fires a bullet through the barn’s wall. The animals scatter and settle for the night, perhaps to dream their own dreams of revolution.

Animal Farm Summary: Chapter 2

Three nights later, Old Major dies. The rest of the pigs, as the most intelligent animals, take up his task of organizing for revolution. Three of the pigs, Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer, develop his rhetoric into a coherent theoretical system they call Animalism. In secret nightly meetings, they strive to convince the farm of the necessity for political struggle. During these meetings, Moses offers distracting anecdotes about the riches of Sugarcandy Mountain.

Other animals raise concerns about surviving without human assistance. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones suffers a series of economic setbacks brought on by a lawsuit and his drinking problem. His harvest suffers, as do his neglected and starving animals. He travels to Willingdon on Midsummer’s Eve, drinking excessively and failing to return the next morning. When he returns, he falls asleep and forgets to feed the animals. A frustrated cow kicks in the feed storehouse door, prompting Jones and his helpers to whip the animals that follow.

Orwell Continued

Finally, the beleaguered and angry animals revolt. As one, they turn on the men and force them to flee. After confirming the total absence of humans on the farm, the animals take food for themselves. They also remove objects associated with their imprisonment and slaughter. The following morning, the animals explore Jones’s former house. Mollie is discovered admiring herself in the mirror, donning Mrs. Jones’s ribbons. The other animals chastise her for coveting human things.

Later, hams that were left in the kitchen are removed for burial. The comrades resolve to make the house a museum and warn each other from living there. Several of the pigs, who have taught themselves to read, change the sign from “Manor Farm” to “Animal Farm.” As the cows haven’t been milked since the humans left, the pigs teach themselves to milk. While the other animals desire the milk, the pigs tell them to focus on the harvest. Later, the milk is revealed to have mysteriously vanished.

Animal Farm Summary: Chapter 3

Over the summer, the pigs supervise the labor of the other animals. Through their dedicated toil, they complete the harvest more quickly than Jones. The optimistic Boxer works particularly hard, adopting “I will work harder!” as his mantra. Conversely, Mollie shirks work and Benjamin shares his cynical outlook on the revolution’s trajectory. Sunday is decided upon as a day of rest and ceremonial activity. Each Sunday, the hoof-and-horn flag of Animalism is raised and the animals deliberate on work as a group.

The pigs discover through Mr. Jones’s library material that helps them learn industrial skills like carpentry and blacksmithing. Snowball organizes the animals into committees, hoping to speed along the revolution’s productivity and efficiency. He also tries to teach the animals the Commandments of Animalism, summarizing them with the phrase “four legs good, two legs bad.” When the birds complain that this phrase excludes them, he argues that their wings are included as legs.

Concurrently with Snowball’s organizing, Napoleon declares the importance of youth education. He takes Jessie and Bluebell’s puppies under his tutelage. The regular supply of milk from the cows and early allowance of apples are claimed for the pigs. The other animals complain that this surplus should be shared. But Squealer successfully argues that the pigs need extra nutrients to fuel their brainwork. He also justifies the unequal allocation of resources by gesturing to the danger of Mr. Jones returning to the farm.

Animal Farm Chapter 4 Summary

Mr. Jones seeks comfort from other farmers at the pub, but they resolve to use his misfortunes to their advantage. They spread rumors of the horrid conditions of Animal Farm, including tales of cannibalism and torture. However, pigeons spread news of the successful revolution and the “Beasts of England” tune to neighboring farms. Soon, animals from other farms begin to revolt. Consequently, Jones and his allies launch a counterinsurgency against Animal Farm with sticks and guns. Snowball leads a defensive series of ambushes against the men.

The animals are successful, though Boxer quickly expresses remorse for accidentally killing a stable boy. Snowball chides the horse for his sentimentality, arguing that humans deserve no sympathy. The only casualty on the animal side is a sheep, who is given a hero’s funeral. Snowball and Boxer are awarded the honor of “Animal Hero, First Class.” The animal’s find Jones’s forgotten gun, resolving to fire it each October 12 to commemorate the Battle of the Cowshed.

Animal Farm Chapter 5 Summary

Throughout a bitter winter, Snowball endeavors to improve the farm. Napoleon takes issue with these schemes, splitting the farm into factions after urinating on Snowball’s plan for a new windmill. The cynic Benjamin is the only animal to not take a side in the dispute. He insists that the future will be bad regardless of the direction the animals take. During a tense meeting, Napoleon summons the nine grown-up dogs he has raised to chase Snowball away. After taking power, he disbands the regular Sunday meetings. Squealer once again uses the specter of Jones to encourage the other animals to comply. Boxer obtains another mantra: “Napoleon is always right.” Three weeks later, Napoleon announces that Snowball’s windmill was his idea from the beginning and will be built after all.

Animal Farm Chapter 6 Summary

The windmill scheme leads to a year of unceasing and difficult labor for the animals. They no longer rest on Sundays. Boxer bears the brunt of the load, performing the work of three horses. Napoleon announces his plan to trade with neighboring farms. Some animals who remember the tenets of Animalism object, citing the prohibition of commerce. Squealer convinces them that this prohibition never existed and was fabricated by Snowball. Similarly, Squealer justifies the pigs’ decision to move into the house. The original ideals of Animalism are steadily misremembered, discarded, or subtly altered. Then, a violent November storm devastates the farm, destroying the windmill. Napoleon quickly implicates Snowball in the destruction and signs a warrant for his death.

Animal Farm Book Summary: Chapter 7

The animals resolve to rebuild the windmill, warding off human rumors that its destruction was owing to its thin walls. An acute food shortage develops and becomes the locus of human gossip. To avert suspicions of mismanagement, Napoleon has Mr. Whymper tour the storehouse that has been staged to look bountiful. At the same time, he tells the hens they’ll need to surrender their eggs to address the shortage. They protest by absconding to the rafters, laying eggs that fall and break on the floor. In retaliation, Napoleon halts their rations, leading to the death of nine hens and capitulation of the rest. Snowball is spotted at night and Napoleon continues to blame him for the farm’s shortcomings. He announces that Snowball was allied with Jones from the start, puzzling some of the animals.

Orwell Continued

Four pigs who had protested the abolition of Sunday meetings are accused of supporting Snowball. They confess under duress that Snowball admitted to his alliance with Jones. Subsequently, they are mauled and killed by the dogs. Then, three disloyal hens are brought forward to confirm the rumors about Snowball and die the same way. The confused Boxer deals with the horror of these events by convincing himself to work harder. Clover begins to sing “Beasts of England” but is cut off by Squealer, who says the song is no longer allowed. Minimus, a bardic pig, pens a new patriotic song to replace the former revolutionary tune.

Animal Farm Book Summary: Chapter 8

Members of the group are troubled in recalling the Sixth Commandment of Animalism: “No animal shall kill any other animal.” They are reassured that the Commandment stipulates no killing of animals “without cause.” Napoleon increasingly avoids public appearances and is accompanied by his army of dogs whenever he does emerge. The animals continue their ceaseless toil with the windmill while pigs compose poems in Napoleon’s honor. Napoleon is incensed after discovering that Frederick purchased timber from Animal Farm with forged bank notes. The following day, Frederick and his party come to the farm to blow up the windmill. Another battle ensues, resulting in several casualties and Boxer’s injury. Following the victory, the animals overhear the pigs’ riotous celebration in the farmhouse. The next day, Squealer causes concern by suggesting Napoleon is dying. However, the leader is just hung over. The pigs then develop plans for brewing more alcohol.

Animal Farm Book Summary: Chapter 9

Clover and Benjamin urge the injured Boxer to retire. He refuses, citing his dream to see the completed construction of the windmill. Another winter brings more shortages, though rations are not cut for the dogs and pigs. Pigs have begun to receive rations of barley and wear matching green ribbons on Sundays. Napoleon urges Spontaneous Demonstration, where animals must suddenly abandon their work and ritualistically march around the farm. Moses reenters the action with more stories of Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs allow him to stay.

Orwell Continued

One day, Boxer falls during his work, complaining of his lung. Squealer announces that Boxer will be treated at a hospital. As he’s taken away, Benjamin alerts the others that the van carrying Boxer has “Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler” written on its side. Clover unsuccessfully tries to convince Boxer to escape. Days later, Squealer explains that Boxer has died peacefully. His supposed final words were “Long live Comrade Napoleon!” A grocery delivery arrives, including a large wooden crate for the farmhouse. Eventually, word gets out the pigs have somehow paid for whiskey.

Animal Farm Summary: Chapter 10

Many years pass, and soon very few animals remain who remember the original rebellion against Jones. The windmill has been completed and is used for milling corn. Squealer teaches the sheep a new song. When the animals are shocked by Squealer walking on two legs, the sheep start to sing “four legs good, two legs better.” Benjamin and Clover visit the wall where the tenets of Animalism were originally written. They discover that the main commandment now reads “All Animals are Equal, but Some Animals are More Equal than Others.”

Orwell Continued

The animals minimally react as the pigs begin to walk in unison and carry whips. One evening sees the pigs invite neighboring farmers to Animal Farm. Clover looks into the farmhouse and discovers the curious sight of pigs and humans sitting together at a table. Mr. Pilkington toasts to the success of Animal Farm, which Napoleon explains has been renamed “Manor Farm.” Mr. Pilkington draws parallels between the “lower animals” Napoleon must deal with and the “lower classes” of men. As Clover looks back and forth between the pigs and men, she is started by her inability to distinguish them.

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