Blog

‘The Spirit of Animalism’ – EXTRACT FROM GEORGE’S ORWELL’S ANIMAL FARM

  14 Jan '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

First published in 1945, Animal Farm – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power. In this extract from our new edition, the pigs Snowball and Napoleon set out to prepare for the revolution predicted by Major before his death…


Major’s speech had given to the more intelligent animals on the farm a completely new outlook on life. They did not know when the Rebellion predicted by Major would take place, they had no reason for thinking that it would be within their own lifetime, but they saw clearly that it was their duty to prepare for it. The work of teaching and organising the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals. Pre-eminent among the pigs were two young boars named Snowball and Napoleon, whom Mr Jones was breeding up for sale. Napoleon was a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way. Snowball was a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character. All the other male pigs on the farm were porkers. The best known among them was a small fat pig named Squealer, with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, and a shrill voice. He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white.

These three had elaborated old Major’s teachings into a complete system of thought, to which they gave the name of Animalism. Several nights a week, after Mr Jones was asleep, they held secret meetings in the barn and expounded the principles of Animalism to the others. At the beginning they met with much stupidity and apathy. Some of the animals talked of the duty of loyalty to Mr Jones, whom they referred to as ‘Master’, or made elementary remarks such as ‘Mr Jones feeds us. If he were gone, we should starve to death.’ Others asked such questions as ‘Why should we care what happens after we are dead?’ or ‘If this Rebellion is to happen anyway, what difference does it make whether we work for it or not?’, and the pigs had great difficulty in making them see that this was contrary to the spirit of Animalism. The stupidest questions of all were asked by Mollie, the white mare. The very first question she asked Snowball was: ‘Will there still be sugar after the Rebellion?’

‘No,’ said Snowball firmly. ‘We have no means of making sugar on this farm. Besides, you do not need sugar. You will have all the oats and hay you want.’

‘And shall I still be allowed to wear ribbons in my mane?’ asked Mollie.

‘Comrade,’ said Snowball, ‘those ribbons that you are so devoted to are the badge of slavery. Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than ribbons?’

Mollie agreed, but she did not sound very convinced.

The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. 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, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work, but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place.

Their most faithful disciples were the two cart-horses, Boxer and Clover. These two had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments. They were unfailing in their attendance at the secret meetings in the barn, and led the singing of ‘Beasts of England’, with which the meetings always ended.

Now, as it turned out, the Rebellion was achieved much earlier and more easily than anyone had expected. In past years Mr Jones, although a hard master, had been a capable farmer, but of late he had fallen on evil days. He had become much disheartened after losing money in a lawsuit, and had taken to drinking more than was good for him. For whole days at a time he would lounge in his Windsor chair in the kitchen, reading the newspapers, drinking, and occasionally feeding Moses on crusts of bread soaked in beer. His menwere idle and dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted roofing, the hedges were neglected, and the animals were underfed.

June came and the hay was almost ready for cutting. On Midsummer’s Eve, which was a Saturday, Mr Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday. The men had milked the cows in the early morning and then had gone out rabbiting, without bothering to feed the animals. When Mr Jones got back he immediately went to sleep on the drawing-room sofa with the News of the World over his face, so that when evening came, the animals were still unfed. At last they could stand it no longer. One of the cows broke in the door of the store-shed with her horn and all the animals began to help themselves from the bins. It was just then that Mr Jones woke up. The next moment he and his four men were in the store-shed with whips in their hands, lashing out in all directions. This was more than the hungry animals could bear. With one accord, though nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their tormentors. Jones and his men suddenly found themselves being butted and kicked from all sides. The situation was quite out of their control.

They had never seen animals behave like this before, and this sudden uprising of creatures whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, frightened them almost out of their wits. After only a moment or two they gave up trying to defend themselves and took to their heels. A minute later all five of them were in full flight down the cart-track that led to the main road, with the animals pursuing them in triumph.


George Orwell (1903–1950) is one of England’s most famous writers and social commentators. He is the author of the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is also well known for his essays and journalism, particularly his works covering his travels and his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War. His writing is celebrated for its piercing clarity, purpose and wit and his books continue to be bestsellers all over the world.


  • Paperback | Pub: 14 Jan 2021
    £7.99

    THE JURA EDITION with new introduction by Alex Massie ‘For him Jura was home’ – Richard Blair on his father George Orwell ‘The book of the twentieth century . . . haunts us with an ever-darker relevance’ – Ben…

  • Paperback | Pub: 06 Jan 2022
    £6.99

    Introduced by Alan Johnson. ‘All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.’ Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs…

  • Share:

Related