The Personification of Animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm

Categories: Animals

Animals are found everywhere in nature and are vital to the survival of man. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, animals serve as the driving force behind the storyline. The novel starts with Old Major, an old pig, foretelling a revolution in the near future of the farm. The animals begin constructing a new philosophy and soon enough, defeat the farmer, Mr. Jones, and take control of the farm. Snowball and Napoleon serve as the main pigs in charge, but often have conflicting interests in what they think is best for the farm.

Napoleon eventually takes full control with fellow pig, Squealer, as his second in command. As time progresses, Napoleon takes on more human-like traits, betraying the original philosophy. In the end, it’s difficult to distinguish the difference between the pigs in control and the human farmers. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee starts with the introduction of Scout, Jem, and their father Atticus in the small town of Maycomb during the Great Depression.

Atticus gets called upon to defend an African-American, Tom Robinson, in a high stakes sexual assault case. This causes there to be a divide in the town between those who support Atticus and those who don’t. Scout runs into many of these people and it often creates challenges for her. Atticus gifts an air rifle to both Jem and Scout, but warns them that they cannot shoot any mockingbirds because he believes that “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (Lee 93). Scout and Jem gain a lot of respect for Atticus after one particular incident where a rabid dog is found roaming the streets of Maycomb and Atticus takes the initiative and shoots the dog in front of all the neighbors.

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Eventually, Atticus represents Tom in court.

Then, despite presenting a strong case, Tom loses and is sent to prison where he tries to escape and gets killed. Steinberg’s Of Mice and Men begins with a serene description of nature and everything living peacefully within it. George and Lennie then come along and disrupt this peace, causing all of the animals to scatter. Lennie is introduced as very animalistic, emphasizing his childlike and thoughtless behavior such as “…snorting into the water like a horse.” (Orwell 2). George and Lennie’s dream is to own a farm where Lennie has mice.

However, a part of George knows that will never happen because Lennie is too rough with animals. This is proved several times when Lennie has the opportunity to hold animals such as a mouse and puppy but unfortunately kill them because he pets them too hard. These instances all lead to the ending of the novel, where Lennie gets overwhelmed by Curley’s wife and kills her. George then makes the ultimate sacrifice, killing Lennie along with their dream. George Orwell, Harper Lee, and John Steinbeck each include different types of animals in their novels but despite their differences, they all showcase climacteric character development.

The animals in Animal Farm serve as the main characters in the novel, rather than humans, which means that the role of animals is extremely crucial to the story. These animals don’t just serve as random characters, Orwell uses them for a deeper meaning to symbolize important figures of the Cold War. Old Major is the first animal introduced in Animal Farm and is undoubtedly pivotal to the entire plot of the novel. He is the first to bring up the idea that “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” (Orwell 5), which serves as the main ideology behind the animals’ revolution. Without Major’s grand speech, it’s extremely doubtful that the takeover of the farm would occur. It is his words that inspire the farm animals to take control of their lives.

Old Major represents Karl Marx who wrote The Communist Manifesto which planned out the ideologies of communism that the Soviet Union used (Quinn). Major, like Marx, provides the groundwork of animalism and begins a revolution that he will never live to see. The next important animals introduced are Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon and Snowball are the head pigs in charge and lead the rebellion. They are the ones making all of the decisions, though they often clash. Because of their differences in leadership, Napoleon uses dogs to chase Snowball off the farm so there is no longer conflict. Snowball doesn’t appear anymore in the novel after that scene; however, animals are accused of working with Snowball and betraying Napoleon which leads to a public killing. On top of that, all misfortunes that take place on the farm after Snowball’s absence are blamed on Snowball. Snowball represents Leon Trotsky (Quinn). Throughout the novel, Napoleon loses the original foundation of their philosophy. He hurts other animals, begins drinking alcohol, and even moves into Mr. Jones’s house. By the end, he is so unrecognizable that from looking “…from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again…it was impossible to say which was which.” (Orwell 79).

Napoleon betrays everything he once stood for and uses his power for his own good. Napoleon is seen less and less throughout the novel as Squealer serves as the primary messenger between Napoleon and the rest of the farm so he remains in power. Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin (Quinn). Squealer represents the Soviet propaganda because he serves as the link between Napoleon and the rest of the barn (Quinn). He is the reason the animals follow Napoleon. Moses, a raven, serves a small yet important role in Animal Farm. As the revolution begins to take shape, Moses spreads the word of Sugarcandy Mountain. This is a tale of an afterlife with no work as long as the animals served humans while they were living. Moses serves as a biblical allusion to Moses who preached the Ten Commandments (Becnel).

This allusion was chosen very deliberately to help symbolize the relationship between religion and totalitarianism (Becnel). A pivotal scene in To Kill a Mockingbird is when Atticus gifts Jem and Scout air-rifles. He was advising Jem to shoot tin cans rather than birds but warns him against shooting mockingbirds because it’s a sin. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (Lee 93).

Not long after Jem and Scout get air-rifles, a wild dog appears in their neighborhood. This wild dog poses a threat to the neighborhood although it’s not doing anything to direct harm anyone. No one is willing to confront the dog, the sheriff of the town asks Atticus to take care of the dog. While everyone is hiding in the comfort of their own home, Atticus single-handedly goes out to the middle of the street with a gun in hand. Standing in front of all eyes of the town, he shoots the dog dead-on.“The trees were still, the mockingbirds were silent, the carpenters at Miss Maudie’s house had vanished.” (Lee 98).

Before, Jem and Scout had little respect for their father, thinking he couldn’t do anything because he was so much older than the rest of the dads in town. However, this particular scene gains a lot of respect from the two kids. It serves as a crucial point in the novel and foreshadows what is to come with Tom Robinson (Bloom).

This scene comes up and is even mentioned during the trial. “The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning…” (Lee 214). The mockingbirds appear multiple times through the novel at crucial points. They symbolize those who are innocent or underrepresented. Atticus early on mentions that “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (Lee 93) because they’re so innocent and don’t do anything to harm anyone. This is just like Tom Robinson, who got wrongly accused and never did anyone actual harm, although he was in the middle of the town’s scrutiny. The rabid dog was also like Tom Robinson in the way that he was all by himself in the eyes of the town, yet no one had to courage to help him as Atticus would even though it was controversial (Bloom). The beginning of Of Mice and Men utilizes tranquil diction to describe the animals and nature in their natural state such as “…rabbits sat as quietly as little gray sculptured stones.” (Orwell 1).

These animals are undisturbed and living as they naturally would occur, “…then from the direction of the state highway came the sound of footsteps on crisp sycamore leaves. The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover.” (Orwell 1).

The footsteps are those from main characters George and Lennie. They disrupt this peace that had originally been occurring and cause nature to go into a slight state of chaos (Kordich). The animals hide and there’s no longer silence, their voices take up the void that once was. As Lennie comes into the scene, he is described as “…a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.” (Orwell 2) which heavily utilizes the stereotypical characteristics of a bear to give the reader a better sense of Lennie’s nature. One of Lennie’s biggest dreams is owning a plethora of rabbits to take care of because he enjoys the feeling of petting small animals. This is clear in the first chapter whenever a mouse is found in Lennie’s pocket that he accidentally killed by petting it too hard. He doesn’t understand his strength and can’t control his impulse to pet small animals.

Another character heavily influenced by animals is Candy, who is overall extremely lonely and has big aspirations. He owns an old dog that serves as his main companion. One of the fellow ranch hands, Carlson, complains a lot about Candy’s dog about how it’s no help and should be put out of its misery. Reluctantly, Candy allows Carlson to kill the dog out of his sight. This was a very important turn for Candy because his dog was his best friend and he gave that up rather than causing a disturbance between all of the ranch hands (Li and Schultz). Lennie is once more tempted with a small animal after a dog on the farm gives birth to puppies. Lennie adores the puppies but his strength takes over and he accidentally kills one of them. This occurs another time on a bigger scale, when Curley’s wife offers to let Lennie pet her hair. This ends poorly as Lennie can’t control his actions when doing something he enjoys and overpowers Curley’s wife, thus killing her.

While the use of animals is present in each of these three novels, the way the authors use them vary. Orwell wrote Animal Farm in the form of an animal fable which means that the animals are used as the main characters (Becnel). Animal fables tend to be light-hearted and funny so many people question the effectiveness of using the animal fable style to relay such a serious topic (Becnel). Oftentimes, the animals chosen for animal fables are chosen for their stereotypical traits such as pigs being portrayed as the greedy leaders and horses portraying the hard working class (Watts). To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men were not written as animal fables and their usage of animals consisted more of symbols and foreshadowing. Lee used the rabid dog that Atticus shot to foreshadow the upcoming trial of Tom Robinson (Bloom).

She also consistently uses the mockingbird in crucial scenes to represent Tom Robinson and all those who are truly innocent. Then Steinberg uses both a mouse and a puppy to portray nature as well as foreshadow Curley’s wife’s death. While all of these uses are different, they share a common underlying theme: characterization. The animals in all three novels are used to further develop and provide insight into the characters. Likewise, Orwell deliberately chooses pigs to represent those in power, it plays more into the characters being greedy and intelligent. Lee chose an innocent and defenseless animal, the mockingbird, to commonly represent Tom Robinson.

Finally, Steinberg utilized the comparison of Lennie to both a bear and a horse to give a more visual description of him as well as using small animals to foreshadow Curley’s wife. The usage of animals to foreshadow Curley’s wife gives more insight into what she’s like, as she’s not mentioned often in the novel. By comparing her to these small animals, it tells the reader that she’s vulnerable just like the defenseless animals. All in all, the three authors used different approaches in employing animals, however, they resulted in similar effects. Orwell, Lee, and Steinberg all utilize animals that are detrimental to the development of their characters in different ways. While Orwell uses the animal fable method, Lee and Steinberg take a different route and use the animals more as small characters that help progress the storyline. Using animals in Animal Farm was crucial because if Orwell hadn’t disguised the well-known Soviet leaders as animals, it could have caused major tension between countries. Instead, he took a more creative route and took the serious topic of the Cold War and turned it into something light-hearted and satirical.

Had Lee not introduced animals into To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout never would have gained the respect needed for Atticus. On top of that, there would have been no foreshadowing to the relationship between Atticus, Tom Robinson, and the rest of the town. This foreshadowing heavily enhanced the novel as a whole. The use of mockingbirds was also very important because had there been no mention of mockingbirds, there would not only be no title, but there wouldn’t be that second dimension of meaning and characterization of Tom Robinson that elevates the novel.

Without the use of animals in Of Mice and Men, the reader wouldn’t have truly gotten a good grasp on the physical characteristics of Lennie. With that in mind, there also wouldn’t have been much insight into his way of thinking either. By using his love of small animals, it shows how out of control of his own mind he truly is. Not only that, but the climax of the novel where Lennie kills Curley’s wife would have been completely out of character if he hadn’t had the pre-established poor history with animals. These three novels are just three examples of how important animals can be to a work of literature. They enrich the plot as well as the characters. When an author introduces an animal in their novel, it is definitely intentional and not without a deeper meaning.

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The Personification of Animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. (2022, May 02). Retrieved from

The Personification of Animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm
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