Napoleon is one of the two pigs who profess to carry on Old Major’s dream. When Napoleon’s dogs drive Snowball off the farm, Napoleon becomes the new “ruler" and proceeds to break every rule of Animalism.
Napoleon, named after a non-Communist dictator, is obviously looking out only for himself. He even sells his most loyal worker, Boxer, to the glue maker, in order to get more money for himself. Like most dictators, he focuses on the young, represented by the pack of dogs Napoleon raises into vicious beasts, ready to harm or kill anyone who speaks out against him. He takes others’ ideas and claims them as his own, which is why he has to rearrange history in order to claim that the windmill was his idea, not Snowball’s.
Snowball, in contrast to Napoleon, has some strong and logical ideas. He sticks to the principles of Animalism, other than the fact that he also agrees in the superiority of the pigs. Nevertheless, he teaches the rest of the animals to read, develops the idea of the windmill to make the farm more self sufficient, and avoids violence. Although Orwell depicts Snowball in a more positive light than Napoleon, Snowball obviously looks down on the other animals and is attempting to gain more power than Napoleon throughout most of the book.
Boxer, the loyal workhorse, is the most sympathetic character in Animal Farm. He follows whatever his superiors say, replacing his early motto of “I will work harder" with “Napoleon is always right." He does anything in his power to help Animal Farm.
Although Orwell portrays him as intellectually slow, his physical power and extreme dedication make up for his lack of mental ability. As a symbol of the working class, Boxer eventually meets his downfall when Napoleon sells him to a glue maker, which shows how the loyalty of the working class is only matched by the leadership’s betrayal of that loyalty.
When you’re reading for pleasure, you can take your time and enjoy it, much like watching a movie. You don’t have to think about deeper meanings, symbolism, or the characters unless you want to.
But then there’s reading for school. When your teacher gives you an essay question before you start reading, the reading can be a little easier—you have a focus.
But trying to come up with your own topic can be a little difficult. You have to read the book first, see what you get from it, and build your essay around it. And often, you have to read some parts again.
To help give you a focus, I have a few ideas you can keep in mind while reading Animal Farm. You can use them before you start reading to learn what to watch out for as you read (and what to take notes on).
If you’re already done with the book and just don’t know where to start with your essay, these ideas can help you too.
Go through the following list, and pick a topic that you think you know very well or that you relate to. This will help make your Animal Farm essay much easier and more enjoyable to write.
Ready to dive in?
First, a Brief Summary
To make sure we’re all on the same page before we get into topics for your Animal Farm essay, let’s establish a basic summary of events in the book.
Old Major, an old boar, calls a meeting with all the animals on Farmer Jones’s farm. He says that the animals are slaves to Jones and that he’s using them for his own gain without sharing the wealth with them.
He calls for a revolution. Three days later, Old Major kicks the bucket. The animals then run Jones off the land and rename it Animal Farm (real creative, these guys).
Snowball is idealistic. He puts his efforts into teaching the animals to read and establishing commandments, such as no animals sleeping in beds, no animals killing other animals, and all animals are equal.
Things are going pretty well, and all the animals are working together to produce a lot. Boxer is notable here because he’s the strongest of all of the animals and has a strong work ethic to match.
Snowball wants to build a windmill so that they can have electricity. It’s a big endeavor, and Napoleon opposes it. Napoleon brings out the dogs—literally.
The dogs attack Snowball and chase him away. Napoleon takes over and says that the pigs will make all of the decisions for the whole farm. (You can see where this is starting to take a turn for the worse.)
Napoleon decides to build the windmill anyway. Again, Boxer is there doing a lot of the work. Halfway through construction, the windmill falls over, and Napoleon blames a bitter Snowball.
Anyone opposed to Napoleon is seen as a conspirator with Snowball and is killed by Napoleon’s dogs.
The pigs start living in the lap of luxury. They sleep in Jones’s bed, drink whiskey, and start trading with other farmers. These were against Snowball’s rules—the original tenets of Animal Farm.
But Squealer always seems to have a way to explain the rule changes in ways the other animals accept.
A neighbor farmer, Mr. Frederick, blows up the windmill, and then the animals have a battle with the farmers. Boxer is badly injured but still goes to work trying to rebuild the windmill.
After he can’t take it any longer, he’s sold to the glue factory to pay for the pigs’ whiskey. The cover story is that he was taken to the hospital and died peacefully.
As time goes on, the pigs start acting even more like humans, even walking upright. They change the original “no killing, no sleeping in beds, etc.” rules into just one phrase: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Napoleon changes the name of the farm back to its original title, Manor Farm. He meets with some human farmers and talks to them about ruling over the working classes.
And the working animals at Manor Farm watch, unable to see the differences between the pigs and the humans.
Now that you have a basic feel for the story, let’s get into some themes, shall we?
Topics About Characters
Many authors know that the characters in a story are what sell it. They can be symbols or not, but they must serve a purpose. George Orwell knew this well, which is why there are so many ways to use his characters as the basis of your Animal Farm essay.
Consider the following topics for yours:
- Compare and contrast the ruling styles of Snowball and Napoleon.
- Discuss the ways in which Jones and Napoleon are similar.
- Are there any characters you view as protagonists?
- Discuss how the names of the characters illustrate their personalities. (e.g. Boxer is strong, Napoleon is power-hungry, etc.)
- In what ways does Boxer symbolize the working class?
- Why is Boxer (or any other character you relate to) important to the story?
- What does Squealer symbolize?
Need help with writing a character analysis? Read How to Write a Character Analysis That Works and 2 Character Analysis Essay Examples With Character.
I understand if it’s a little hard for you to relate to the characters in Animal Farm enough to write about them. So how about some non-character-related topics?
Topics About Themes
Orwell never wrote a story that didn’t have a very strong theme. In the case of Animal Farm, it had several.
Here are some topics for your Animal Farm essay centered around those themes:
- Describe what you believe is the main theme of Animal Farm.
- How does power corrupt the pigs?
- How were the socialist ideas of Old Major and Snowball corrupted by Napoleon?
- Discuss the correlation of the novel to the Russian Revolution.
- Although the novel is a commentary on the Russian Revolution, how are its themes still relevant today?
- Are people naturally inclined to split up by class?
- How does Orwell depict the naivety of the working class?
- How did the pigs use language to control the other farm animals?
Characters and themes are fairly concrete. If you want to dig a little deeper into literary devices, check out some topics about symbolism.
Topics About Symbolism
Animal Farm is packed to the brim with symbolism, mainly with the characters themselves, but also in the events that occur.
You can choose just one symbol and discuss it in a lot of depth or choose a few of the topics below to focus on Orwell’s use of symbolism in general.
- Discuss the symbolism of any of the major characters.
- How does Animal Farm symbolize human civilization in general?
- How can the windmill stand for the pigs’ power?
- Can the windmill be seen as a symbol for the spread of communism?
- Compare events in Animal Farm, such as the hens’ revolution, to the history of the Russian Revolution.
What Happens After You Write Your Animal Farm Essay?
Once you have selected your topic, it’s time to write your essay. We have a few other posts about writing literary analyses, analytical essays, and thesis statements if you need some direction with the writing process.
You can also look at these Animal Farm essay examples for inspiration if you need it:
Once you’re done, be sure to have the Kibin editors take a look. They’ll not only make sure that your grammar and spelling are in check, but also that the flow and content of your whole essay are on track.
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