Manor Farm, a modest English farm, is operated by the impetuous drunkard, Mr. Jones. Late one evening, Old Major, a senior boar, summons all of the farms animals. Old Major knows that his life will soon end and feels it necessary to pass along a few words of wisdom. As the animals listen on intently, Old Major explains to them that all of the suffering and misery endured by animals is caused at the hands of Man. He later proclaims that “all animals are created equal” and compels them to band together and rebel against their tormentors. He shares with them a song to lead their revolution, “The Beast of England.” Sung to the tune of a mix of La Cucaracha and Oh, My Darling Clementine, it starts off,
Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Harken to my joyful tidings
Of the Golden future time.
Soon or late the day is coming,
Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown,
And the fruitful fields of England,
Shall be trod by beasts alone
Not much time passes before Old Major passes, however, two swine by the names of Snowball and Napoleon have taken a particular interest in his theories about Animalism and plan to carry out the ideas shared with them by Old Major. Three months after his passing, the animals rise up against Mr. Jones and take control of the farm – which is renamed “Animal Farm.”
The cleverness of the swine, the tremendous strength of Boxer, the horse, and the complete absence of mankind allows Animal Farm to flourish. The animals adorn the side of the barn with the Seven Commandments of Animalism and agree to abide by these rules at all time. They declare that every animal is create equal and must not ever act in a way that a human would, this incudes not sleeping in a bed, killing their fellow animal, walking on two legs, consuming alcohol, etc.
Lusting for power, Snowball and Napoleon soon become embattled in a struggle for leadership; a rivalry that spawns from Snowball’s suggestion to construct a windmill. After the final discussion, Napoleon enlists the aid of dogs, which he has secretly groomed to serve him, to turn on Snowball and chase him away from Animal Farm. With Snowball gone, Napoleon has no trouble convincing the others that he was a negative influence on them and strips them of their right to vote. He insists that he will assume the ‘burden’ of leadership and is aided by Squealer, an oaf of a pig who convinces the others that Napoleon acts in their best interest.
Three weeks into his rein, Napoleon decides to move forward with Snowball’s plan to build the windmill. He puts the animals to work on construction and has Boxer lead them. However, with everyone’s focus on the construction of the windmill, productivity on the farm decreases substantially – leaving the all of the animals, with the exception of the pigs, with less food to eat. Acting entirely against the commandments, the pigs start to barter with neighboring farms, move inside the farmhouse, and even begin to sleep in beds. Understandably, the other animals are confused. They’ve been taught that these types of behaviours were forbidden, yet, when they review the Commandments, they’ve been altered to read “No animals shall sleep in a bed with sheets.”
Over the course of the next few years, the inhabitants of Animal Farm compete against their human neighbors. The windmill, unable to stand up to a storm and an attack by the humans, eventually falls. Unable to accept culpability, Napoleon blames everything on Snowball, the traitor, and deploys fear tactics and even deadly force an all of those who might question him. Behind the scenes, the pigs rewrite each of the commandments in order to substantiate their deceitfulness. They start to ration less food for the other animals and insist that the animals must work harder and longer while they in turn work less. The rest of the farm animals, misled by the stories concocted by the pigs, believe that they are part of a great revolution. However, when Boxer, the most steadfast worker on the farm, grows old and tired and is no longer able to work, he is sent by the pigs to a glue factory and the money made is used to buy whiskey.
More years go by, and the original members of the animal revolution begin to pass. The ones that remain have difficulty remembering the original philosophies and objectives. The pigs have learned how to walk on their hind legs and have resorted to carrying whips. The Commandments have been altered to state, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.” The pigs have called a truce with their human counterparts and feast together. The rest of the animals gaze on in disbelief; they are no longer able to differentiate the humans from the pigs.