Chapter II

Animal Farm Chapter 2

In Animal Farm Chapter 2, after the death of Old Major, the animals start to organise themselves under the leadership of the pigs, principally two young boars named Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon is a “rather fierce-looking” boar who has a “reputation for getting his own way”. Snowball, on the other hand, is “quicker in speech and more inventive” than Napoleon. Another pig who plays a key role in the revolution and the society that follows is Squealer, a “brilliant talker” who could “turn black into white”. He plays an important role in the society that the pigs establish, persuading the other animals to accept what the pigs do without question. While planning the revolution, the pigs struggle to counteract the lies of the raven Moses who claims to know about a place called Sugarcandy Mountain that the animals will go to when they die.

Farmer Jones lets Manor Farm fall into disrepair: “His men were idle and dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted roofing, the hedges were neglected, and the animals were underfed.” As a result, the revolution occurs much earlier than the animals expected, when they rise up, scaring Farmer Jones and his men away. In the aftermath of the revolution, they change the name of ‘Manor Farm’ to ‘Animal Farm’. The farmhouse is declared a museum and it is agreed that no animal will ever live there. They decree that no animal will ever wear clothes, burning the ribbons that had decorated the horses on market days and the hat that Boxer wore during summer.

In this chapter, the pigs formalise the principles of Animalism to seven commandments that are written on the side of a barn.

  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.

At the end of the chapter, the animals consider what they will do with the cow’s milk when Napoleon steps in front of the buckets and tells them not to worry. When they return from the field, the milk is gone. 

Animal Farm Chapter 2: Commentary

In Chapter II, the animals rebel and take over the farm in a series of events that mirror the revolutions that occurred in Russia during 1917. At the time, Russia was ruled by Tsar Nicholas II. He was a brutal and ruthless leader nicknamed Bloody Nicholas. During this period, there were food shortages in cities where peasants had flocked to start working in factories. Working conditions and wages were poor and many of these people lived in crowded and unsanitary conditions. This combination of factors led directly to the Russian Revolution. There are many parallels between the conditions that Russians endured before the revolution and the way the animals are treated by Farmer Jones in Animal Farm. The animals are treated brutally, underfed and worked within an inch of their lives which leads them to rise up and take over the farm. In the novel, the teachings of Old Major become known as Animalism. This is a clear reference to the idea of Communism, developed by writer Karl Marx in his 1848 book The Communist Manifesto, which explained that the working class would eventually overthrow capitalists and wealth would be shared equally.

There are some other historical figures in the novel. Snowball is a representation of Leon Trotsky who was a leader of the revolution. Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin who, after brief leadership struggle with Trotsky, went on to become the brutal and despotic leader of Russia.

While planning the revolution, the pigs struggle to counteract the lies of the raven Moses: “He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds.” Throughout the novel, Moses represents the Russian Orthodox Church. After the revolution, the many church leaders found themselves on the losing side, living under a government that was opposed to religion. Many priests and believers were imprisoned, tortured and executed. Early in World War II, when Nazi Germany attacked the USSR, Stalin used the Russian Orthodox Church to rally support for the war. In the novel, religion is ultimately used by the pigs as a tool to control the other animals, convincing them that although life is arduous, something better waits for them in the afterlife. Here’s how Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto, described religion: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Essentially, Marx argued that religion can provide people with comfort and the strength to carry on. Marx, however, ultimately saw religion as harmful. With the promise of idyllic afterlife, people would be less likely to rise up against the injustices of class structure and oppression. In the novel, the pigs ultimately use this to their advantage, inviting Moses back to the farm to spread stories of Sugarcandy Mountain. While he certainly participated in religious ceremonies, Orwell has been described as either an agnostic and atheist. In Animal Fam, what he’s really trying to illustrate is the way religion can be used by totalitarian regimes to maintain their control over people. 

In Animal Farm, George Orwell explores how power can corrupt. Like the USSR, the government established by the pigs in Animal Farm eventually becomes a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship where there is little freedom. The end of the chapter, when the milk is taken by the pigs, foreshadows the greed and corruption to come.

Comprehension questions

  1. Write a short paragraph describing Napoleon that uses quotations from this chapter.
  2. Write a short paragraph describing Snowball that uses quotations from this chapter.
  3. Who is Moses? What do you think Sugarcandy Mountain represents? What can you find out about the Russian Orthodox Church and how it was treated under communist rule and Joseph Stalin?
  4. Why does this chapter end on an ominous note?

Writing activity

To show your understanding of Animal Farm Chapter 2, respond to the following topic:

In Chapter 2 foreshadows how the pigs will manipulate and control the other animals. Discuss. 

Use TEEL structure when responding to this question:

  • Topic sentence. Explain your stance on the topic. How does this chapter foreshadow how the pigs will manipulate and control the animals? Does it foreshadow why they are susceptible to this?
  • Explanation. Explain what which aspects of control and manipulation are foreshadowed in this chapter.
  • Evidence. Use short quotations from the novel in sentences of your own to support the discussion. 
  • Link sentence. Close off the paragraph with a sentence that links back to the topic.

Continue exploring Animal Farm with this article on Chapter 3 of the novel.

Photograph: stephane.pouyllau