Chapter II

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 approaching revolution and the society that subsequently develops 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 whatever the pigs do. 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.

The revolution occurs much earlier than the animals had expected. Farmer Jones had let the 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.” One day, when the animals are neglected, they rise up and scare Farmer Jones and his men off the farm. 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.

The pigs summarise 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 wonder what to do with the cow’s milk. Napoleon steps in front of the buckets and tells them not to worry. When they return, the milk is gone.

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 who was 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. Many of these people lived in crowded and unsanitary conditions. This combination of factors led directly to the revolution. There are many parallels between the conditions that ordinary 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. Finally, they rise up and take the farm for themselves. 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.

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 against 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 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 that is to come.

ACTIVITIES

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?

Photograph: stephane.pouyllau