Curriculum Vital

    The Education Umbrella Guide to Animal Farm
    Character profiles

    Every character in Animal Farm represents a real person or group of people. Discover the facts behind the fiction.

    Old Major

    The prize Middle White boar... He was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his tushes had never been cut.

    Old Major represents Karl Marx, the German philosopher, economist, historian and journalist who in 1848, with his friend Friederich Engels, wrote The Communist Manifesto. Marx's theories about society, economic systems and politics are known as Marxism. This theory gave birth to communism and socialism.

    Just as the great enemy of the animals is Man, so Marx hated the exploitative potential of capitalism, calling it, 'the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.' However, Marx would likely have been horrified that his theories helped give rise to Joseph Stalin and his repressive Soviet regime.

    Marx believed in a free press — as a journalist and writer he was frequently censored by his native government and eventually exiled to London. He was opposed to slavery and campaigned hard for the Union (the North) and against the Confederates (the pro-slavery South) in the American Civil War (1860-1865); and he wrote about the positive effects British rule had on India, though while also criticising the use of torture and violence. He regarded the United States much more positively than he regarded Tsarist Russia, and even wrote for an American newspaper, The New York Tribune.

    As we shall see, Marx's theories formed the basis of the revolution, but once in power the revolutionaries, like the pigs of Animal Farm, betrayed Marx's principles.


    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.

    Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin. Born Joseph Dzhugashvili in 1878, Joseph Stalin became one of history's most notorious tyrants. As effective dictator of the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the mid 1920s until his death in 1953, Stalin was responsible for the death, torture and imprisonment of tens of millions of people throughout his own country and beyond. He also oversaw the USSR's rise from an underdeveloped nation at war with itself to an industrial juggernaut that defeated Germany in World War II and became a global nuclear superpower to rival the USA.

    Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire. As a young man he excelled in theology, but around the age of 15 he became enthralled by the works of Marx and Engels and joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Between 1906 and 1912 he was arrested and exiled to Siberia numerous times, though always managed to escape. In 1906 he met the future leader of the Bolsheviks and Premier of the new USSR, Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was very impressed by Stalin and appointed him to the Bolshevik Central Committee in 1912. Around this time, Stalin dropped his Georgian surname and adopted the name Stalin, Russian for 'man of steel.'

    Stalin was, like Napoleon, 'rather fierce-looking' and 'not much of a talker', in part because Russian was his second language, after Georgian. He was 5'4" tall and had one leg shorter than the other, but he managed to appear very imposing. He also had a knack for remembering names and facts. In 1922, with the Communist Party (having changed its name from the Bolshevik Party) in control of the country, Lenin made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party's Central Committee, a position Stalin would hold until a year before his death.

    The name Napoleon comes from Napoleon Bonaparte, better known as Napoleon I, Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814. Napoleon was a brilliant politician and military commander. During the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century he masterminded a number of impressive victories and greatly expanded the French Empire in Europe. In the end, though, he stretched his army too far. Ironically, it was his invasion of Russia in 1812 that most contributed to his eventual defeat and exile.

    As well as a caricature of Stalin's character, the name Napoleon also reflects the importance that Stalin, Trotsky, Lenin and the other Bolsheviks attached to the French Revolution. This tumultuous period in French history began in 1789 and ended in 1799, when Napoleon launched a coup and established himself as dictator. In their speeches, writings and debates, the Bolsheviks frequently compared their own October Revolution to that of the French. Trotsky in particular often likened Stalin to Napoleon. In The Prophet Unarmed, part two of his three-part biography of Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher writes:

    With the French precedent in mind, Trotsky [in 1928] spoke about the closeness of the 'Bonapartist danger', implying that the Russian Revolution might skip Thermidor [who was overthrown by Napoleon] and pass directly from the Bolshevik to the Bonapartist phase.

    The Bonapartist danger, he went on, could assume two different forms: it could either materialize as a classical military coup d'état, a Russian 18th Brumaire; or it could take the shape of Stalin's personal rule.

    Unlike the Napoleon of Animal Farm, Stalin drank very little alcohol. He also dressed in proletarian clothes, even when meeting foreign dignitaries for important meetings (see photo above). However, like Napoleon, Stalin, though frugal and modest in appearance, secretly enjoyed huge material luxury. In The History of Modern Russia, Robert Service writes:

    Ordinary people were given no hint about the tables creaking under the weight of caviar, sturgeon and roast lamb served at Kremlin [government] banquets. Stalin himself lived fairly simply by the standards of several Politburo [inner circle] members; but even he had a governess for his daughter, a cook and several maids, a large dacha [country house] at Kuntsevo, an endless supply of Georgian wine and so few worries about money that most of his pay-packets lay unopened at the time of his death. Armed guards secured the privacy of the apartment blocks of the central political élite. Only the domestic servants, nannies and chauffeurs knew the truth about the lifestyle of the nomenklatura [ministers].


    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.

    Snowball represents Leon Trotsky. Founder and first leader of the Bolshevik's Red Army, Trotsky played a pivotal role in the Bolsheviks' victory in the Russian Civil War that followed the Revolution of October 1917. Though clever, articulate and dynamic, Trotsky was unable to halt the rise of his great political rival, Joseph Stalin. His opposition to Stalin would eventually cost Trotsky his life.

    Born Lev Bronshtein to wealthy Jewish farmers in Ukraine in 1879, Leon Trotsky became a Marxist around the age of 17. After the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 Lenin made Trotsky People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Russia was still at war with Germany as part of World War I, and it was Trotsky's responsibility to negotiate an end to the fighting. In the treaty of Brest-Litovsk Germany imposed very harsh conditions, to which Trotsky and the new government ultimately had no choice but to agree.

    In 1918 Trotsky was appointed People's Commissar of Army and Naval Affairs. He created a new army, the Red Army, and over the next two years led a brutal though successful campaign against the Whites (the anti-Bolshevik forces) in the Russian Civil War.

    With the rise of Stalin Trotsky's days were numbered. After exiling Trotsky in 1927, Stalin spent the next decade pursuing his great nemesis around the world, while making belief in 'Trotskyism' a heinous crime.

    In Animal Farm Orwell attempts to counter Stalin's lies and propaganda about Trotsky; and to challenge the tendency to 'nationalism' that was so prevalent at the time. When in 1945 Animal Farm was published, the official position of the Soviet Union — and thus of communism worldwide — was that Trotsky was a traitor to the Russian Revolution and a Fascist. As discussed in the introduction, in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War Orwell was nearly arrested for being a 'Trotskyist'. Back in England, he had to read and listen to numerous newspapers, politicians, 'intellectuals' and socialist groups repeat Stalin's falsities about Trotsky.

    Orwell was a socialist, but not a 'Trotskyist,' neither in the correct sense of the term (that is, someone who believed Trotsky's interpretation of Marxism to be the best), nor in the meaning fabricated by the Stalinists. Animal Farm is not a defence of Trotsky but a rebuke of the myopic tendency to tag people with absurd labels, and to believe an 'official' position in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In May 1945, as WWII was ending, Orwell published an essay called 'Notes on Nationalism', in which he wrote of 'Trotskyism',

    The word is used so loosely as to include Anarchists, democratic Socialists and even Liberals. I use it here to mean a doctrinaire Marxist whose main motive is hostility to the Stalin régime. Trotskyism can be better studied in obscure pamphlets or in papers like the Socialist Appeal than in the works of Trotsky himself, who was by no means a man of one idea. Although in some places, for instance in the United States, Trotskyism is able to attract a fairly large number of adherents and develop into an organized movement with a petty fuehrer of its own, its inspiration is essentially negative. The Trotskyist is against Stalin just as the Communist is for him, and, like the majority of Communists, he wants not so much to alter the external world as to feel that the battle for prestige is going in his own favour. In each case there is the same obsessive fixation on a single subject, the same inability to form a genuinely rational opinion based on probabilities. The fact that Trotskyists are everywhere a persecuted minority, and that the accusation usually made against them, i.e. of collaborating with the Fascists, is absolutely false, creates an impression that Trotskyism is intellectually and morally superior to communism; but it is doubtful whether there is much difference. The most typical Trotskyists, in any case, are ex-Communists, and no one arrives at Trotskyism except via one of the left-wing movements. No Communist, unless tethered to his party by years of habit, is secure against a sudden lapse into Trotskyism. The opposite process does not seem to happen equally often, though there is no clear reason why it should not.

    Orwell died in 1950, four years before Isaac Deutscher's three-part biography of Trotsky, The Prophet, publicly exposed for the first time the extent of Stalin's deception and vilification of Trotsky. Writing in the preface to part two of the trilogy, Deutscher writes:

    I do indeed consider Trotsky as one of the most outstanding revolutionary leaders of all times, outstanding as fighter, thinker, and martyr. But I am not seeking to present here the glorifying image of a man without blemish or blur... I have tried to show the extraordinary power, fertility, and originality of his mind, but also his fallibility... I have done my best to do justice to Trotsky's heroic character, to which I find only very few equals in history. But I have also shown him in his many moments of irresolution and indecision.


    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.

    Squealer represents the Communist Party's propagandists in general, and Vyacheslav Molotov in particular.

    Once in power, the Communist Party was able to greatly influence people's thoughts and opinions by using propaganda, conducting show trials of dissenters, crushing opposition, banning newspapers and publications that criticised it and creating a media monopoly. Just as most of the animals on Animal Farm are illiterate and uneducated, so the Communist Party was helped by the fact that at the time of the Revolution many Russians could not read or write.

    For those Russians who were literate, one of the main sources of news and information was the party newspaper, Pravda, which means, ironically, 'truth'. Molotov (whose surname is a pseudonym meaning 'hammer') joined Pravda in 1911 and soon became editor. In March 1917 he was succeeded in the role by Joseph Stalin.

    Pravda became a mouthpiece for Communist lies and misinformation, occasionally featuring pieces written by Stalin himself when he became Party leader. All state-run companies and the army were obliged to have a subscription.

    Despite some early disagreements, Molotov and Stalin formed a close political relationship. Molotov was one of the few people close to Stalin to survive not only Stalin's purges but Stalin himself. In 1928 he became First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party. A year later he became the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, in effect Stalin's second in command. Indeed a 'brilliant talker,' he became a kind of press secretary to announce Stalin's policies.

    The name Squealer has a double meaning. Pigs squeal when excited or scared, but humans can also 'squeal' on, inform against, people doing wrong. As we shall see, many people in Soviet Russia were encouraged to denounce their friends and neighbours by 'squealing' to the secret police.

    Squealer is a porker pig, which is also symbolic: 'porky-pie' is British rhyming slang for 'lie'.

    The missing character – who represents Vladimir Lenin?

    A curious aspect of Animal Farm is the absence of a character representing Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was the supreme Marxist revolutionary in Russia. In terms of the creation of the USSR he was far more significant than either Stalin or Trotsky:

    • Lenin was the driving force of the October Revolution;
    • in 1917 Lenin became the first Chairman of the new Russian state, and when this nascent country morphed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Lenin remained as Chairman until his death in 1924;
    • it was Lenin who on 17 July, 1918 ordered the murder of the deposed Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family;
    • it was Lenin's decision to make Stalin the new Chairman of the Communist Party and thus leader of the country, a decision he later regretted.

    Lenin died at the relatively young age of 53 after suffering a series of strokes. Such was his popularity that over four days almost a million people visited his body as it lay in state in Moscow. On the third day of this official mourning period the Russian capital Petrograd – previously St Petersburg, but changed by Nicholas II during WWI to make it sound less German – was renamed Leningrad. Following the mourning period, a group of scientists, hoping to understand Lenin's supposedly stupendous intelligence, sliced his brain into 30,963 slices and spent years examining them. His body was embalmed and eventually placed in a special case in Red Square, where it remains today.

    Given the incomparable significance of Lenin, why did Orwell not include him in Animal Farm? Some people think that Napoleon represents both Stalin and Lenin, while others think he is partly represented in Snowball. One could also argue that Old Major represents both Marx and Lenin — the ideas and principles of the former and the influence of the latter. Orwell himself didn't offer an explanation. It could be that he simply wanted to keep the story as short and simple as possible. Though Lenin was instrumental in the founding and creation of the USSR, his time as leader was brief. Stalin, by contrast, ruled for 30 years, while Trotsky was the commander of the new Red Army and remained a potent force in Russian politics even after his assassination in 1940. After falling out with Stalin, Trotsky became the focal point of the anti-Stalinists, as well as a major cause of Stalin's paranoia and a convenient excuse for the violent purges of the 1930s. The relationship between Lenin and Stalin was more nuanced, whereas the fallout between Trotsky and Stalin was clearer and had a greater influence on the new Soviet state and, thus, makes for a more interesting story.


    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.

    Moses represents the Russian Orthodox Church and Christianity.

    Elimination of religion was a stated aim of the Bolsheviks. Lenin, Stalin and Trotksy regarded the Orthodox Church in particular as a tool of the bourgeoisie and the Tsar, hence the depiction of Moses as a pet of Mr Jones. During the Russian Civil War the Red Army killed 28 bishops and thousands of priests, committed numerous acts of violence against religious figures, stole Church land and destroyed churches. Belief amongst the Russian proletariat was widespread and deep, though, and try as they might, the Communists did not come close to eliminating the Church, much less belief in the supernatural ('Sugarcandy Mountain'). As Robert Service writes in The History of Modern Russia: 'The results were negligible: 'the idiocy of religion' was nowhere near as easy to eradicate as the communists had imagined.' On the contrary; their vicious purges often galvanised religious communities and turned people against the Bolsheviks.

    The name 'Moses' comes from the Hebrew prophet Moses who, according to the Bible, led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and towards the Promised Land of Israel, and received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh (God). The first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are known as the Books of Moses.

    Ravens figure prominently in ancient mythology and the Bible, often negatively: due to their fondness for carrion they are thought to be a sign of bad luck.

    The Dogs

    [N]ine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn... At first no one had been able to imagine where these creatures came from, but the problem was soon solved: they were the puppies whom Napoleon had taken away from their mothers and reared privately. Though not yet full-grown they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as wolves. They kept close to Napoleon. It was noticed that they wagged their tails to him in the same way as the other dogs had been used to do to Mr Jones.

    The nine dogs represent the NKVD, the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the supreme law-enforcement agency of Stalin's USSR and the forerunner to the modern-day KGB.

    Although founded early after the Revolution, the NKVD (which transliterates as Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del) only achieved its full power and notoriety in 1934 after a steady and unseen expansion that is mirrored by Napoleon's secret raising of the nine puppies. During the 1930s and 1940s the NKVD carried out countless arrests, detentions, deportations and executions of people it deemed 'enemies of the state,' both in the Soviet Union and around the world.


    Nowadays they did not sit all together as they had done in the past. Napoleon, with Squealer and another pig named Minimus, who had a remarkable gift for composing songs and poems, sat on the front of the raised platform, with the nine young dogs forming a semicircle round them, and the other pigs sitting behind.

    Minimus represents art and literature under Stalin's dictatorship. The Bolsheviks repressed writers and artists who were critical of the regime, and gave money and prestige to those who praised it. As Stalin tightened his grip on the party, writers went to greater lengths to praise him.

    Boxer and Clover

    Boxer was an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as any two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first rate intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of character and tremendous powers of work.

    Boxer represents the proletariat, or working class of Russia. This huge mass of people, many hundreds of million strong, was mostly illiterate and uneducated, but made up for a lack of intelligence with hard work and productivity.

    Though honest and hard-working, Boxer is illiterate and naive. He interprets every setback on the farm as the fault of himself and the other working animals, not the pigs. This gullibility is summed up in his two maxims, 'I will work harder' and 'Napoleon is always right'.

    Clover is, 'a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal.' She represents the female peasantry of pre-revolutionary Russia. These millions of women could expect little more than to toil in the fields and give birth to baby after baby.

    The pigs ultimately treat the horses, especially Boxer, very badly. During Napoleon's violent purge Boxer is attacked by three of the dogs, which shows that in Stalin's Russia even the most loyal and ignorant worker was not safe. When Boxer points out to Squealer that Snowball, suddenly deemed a traitor, fought bravely at the Battle of the Cowshed, Squealer throws him a suspicious glance.

    Boxer works tirelessly to build and then rebuild the windmill, motivated by the promise of a field to himself and a generous pension of food when he retires. Of course, though, no animal is allowed to retire, and the promises of a pension are never honoured. Instead, Boxer works himself to death, and is then sold to a glue manufacturer, or 'knacker'. Squealer lies about this, and then uses the death for propaganda purposes, claiming that Boxer's last words were 'Napoleon is always right'.


    Benjamin the donkey... was the oldest animal on the farm, and the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did it was usually to make some cynical remark — for instance he would say that God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have had no tail and no flies. Alone among the animals on the farm he never laughed. If asked why, he would say that he saw nothing to laugh at. Nevertheless, without openly admitting it, he was devoted to Boxer; the two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small paddock beyond the orchard, grazing side by side and never speaking.

    Benjamin represents the elderly members of the proletariat. They are men who have seen rulers and governments change but life stay the same. They do an honest day's work, but do not believe that there will be any positive changes and are cynical about everything, whether it's Animalism or Sugarcandy Mountain.


    At the last moment Mollie, the foolish, pretty white mare who drew Mr Jones' trap, came mincing daintily in, chewing at a lump of sugar. She took a place near the front and began flirting with her white mane, hoping to draw attention to the red ribbons it was plaited with.

    Mollie represents the 'petite bourgeoisie', female members of the working-class who have slightly more money and stature than the peasants and other members of the proletariat. The petite bourgeoisie — literally 'little townsfolk' — like to think that they are part of the upper classes, and certainly aspire to reach them. They are viewed by the working class as shallow and superficial — represented in Mollie by her obsession with sugar lumps and ribbons.

    Mollie eventually flees Animal Farm so that she can continue to enjoy sugar lumps and ribbons, just as many 'petite bourgeoisie' fled Russia in the years after the revolution.


    Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than the dogs, and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings from old scraps of newspaper which she found on the rubbish heap.

    Muriel is a semi-literate white goat who is one of the few animals able to notice that the Seven Commandments have been altered, though she never makes the connection to the corrupt ruling pigs.

    Given that she is white and has a mildly subversive role, Muriel may be a nod to the White Movement, a loose and diverse group whose army (the White Army) was defeated by the Bolsheviks (the Red Army) in the Russian Civil War that followed the revolution of October 1917. Though she is ultimately loyal to Animal Farm and fights in the initial rebellion, the Battle of the Cowshed and the Battle of the Windmill, she senses, but cannot articulate, that the Seven Commandments have been changed. She is also aghast when Squealer announces that they are no longer to sing 'Beasts of England'. She is a mature animal at the beginning of the story, and dies long before the full hypocrisy of the pigs becomes apparent. In this she may represent, if not the White Movement itself, then those who were ideologically closer to it than the Bolsheviks (the pigs), but who wisely went along with the new order after the rebellion.

    The Cat

    Last of all came the cat, who looked around as usual for the warmest place, and finally squeezed herself in between Boxer and Clover; there she purred contentedly throughout Major's speech without listening to a word of what he was saying.

    The Cat represents the subversive elements within the proletariat. That is, people regarded by the working class as being unfaithful to the revolution and only interested in themselves. This could be anyone from non-white and non-native Russians (the country of Russia at that time was vast and included many different ethnic groups, such as Armenians, Kazakhs and Germans) to Jews and Muslims. When there is a vote to decide whether rats are 'Comrades' the cat is afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides.

    Mr Jones

    Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs Jones was already snoring.

    Mr Jones represents both Tsar Nicholas II and the bourgeoisie – the capitalist ruling class.

    An aggressive drunkard, Mr Jones treats his animals (workers) very badly and is ready to use violence to maintain order and discipline. When one day his violence becomes too insufferable, Mr Jones' animals rebel and chase him off the farm, an action that mirrors the February Revolution of 1917, when angry and frustrated workers in the Russian capital, Petrograd (today named St Petersburg), rebelled against the Tsar and forced him out of power.

    Nicholas II was not quite as drunk and disordered as Mr Jones, but he certainly had little regard or respect for the proletariat (the workers). The contrast between Mr Jones' warm home and the animals' barn is similar to the great difference between Tsar Nicholas' Winter Palace and the simple, often squalid dwellings of Russian workers.

    Mr Frederick (Pinchfield farm) and Mr Pilkington (Foxwood farm)

    It was lucky that the owners of the two farms which adjoined Animal Farm were on permanently bad terms. One of them, which was named Foxwood, was a large, neglected, old-fashioned farm, much overgrown by woodland, with all its pastures worn out and its hedges in a disgraceful condition. Its owner, Mr Pilkington, was an easy-going gentleman-farmer who spent most of his time in fishing or hunting according to the season. The other farm, which was called Pinchfield, was smaller and better kept. Its owner was a Mr Frederick, a tough, shrewd man, perpetually involved in lawsuits and with a name for driving hard bargains. These two disliked each other so much that it was difficult for them to come to any agreement, even in defence of their own interests.

    Foxwood farm represents western capitalism, and in particular the British Empire. Pinchfield represents Germany. In 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, Britain and Germany were at war, but they were united in their fear of the Bolsheviks, and worried that workers in their own countries might rebel.

    The description of Foxwood as a 'large, neglected, old-fashioned farm' is Orwell's take on the state of Britain itself in 1917-18, while the description of the farm's hedges as being 'in a disgraceful condition' is a reference to Britain's colonies around the world. (Orwell served the British Empire in Burma and saw for himself how badly some colonial masters treated their foreign subjects.) The owner of Foxwood, Mr Pilkington, represents the British aristocracy, or ruling class.

    Pinchfield is 'smaller and better kept'; Germany, unlike Britain, did not have a large overseas empire to maintain. The name Mr Frederick is taken from Friedrich der Große, Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia (what is now Germany) from 1740 to 1786. He represents a tyrant even more notorious than Stalin, Adolf Hitler.

    Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler became leader of the Nazis (National Socialists) in 1921, and was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He played a central role in World War II and the Holocaust, the attempted destruction of Jews and Judaism. At the time Orwell wrote Animal Farm, Hitler did indeed appear 'a tough, shrewd man', but we now know that he made many colossal tactical and military blunders that ultimately cost his country the war.

    Mr Whymper

    Every Monday Mr Whymper visited the farm as had been arranged. He was a sly-looking little man with side whiskers, a solicitor in a very small way of business, but sharp enough to have realised earlier than anyone else that Animal Farm would need a broker and that the commissions would be worth having.

    Mr Whymper represents the first westerners to have contact with the Soviet Union, and those among them who were taken in by the Bolsheviks' lies and propaganda.

    The name comes from the word 'whimper,' which means to make low, feeble sounds that express fear or pain, and, as a noun, a weak or anticlimactic ending. The reference is to the ending T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Hollow Men': 'This is how the world ends / Not with a bang but with a whimper.' Through Mr Whymper, one of the most obvious signs of the pigs' hypocrisy, Orwell suggests that free society will disappear not through something powerful, such as a war, but by the slow strangulation of democracy and freedom by a small group and, eventually, a single dictator.

    Glossary of important terms


    Noun [countable]
    Somebody who supports anarchism - a political philosophy that opposes all forms of state control and advocates stateless societies.

    Bolsheviks, The

    Noun [countable]
    The majority faction of the Russian Social Democrat Party (RSDP). 'Bolshevik' means 'majority' in Russian.

    The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin seized power in the October Revolution of 1917. They would later change their name to the Communist Party.


    Noun [singular or plural]
    (In Marxist contexts) The capitalists who own most of the wealth and control the means of production.


    Noun [uncountable]
    An economic and political system in which private owners and not the state control a country's trade and industry with the goal of making a profit in a market economy.


    Noun [uncountable]
    The theory of social organisation in which the state or community owns all property, individuals contribute and receive according to their ability and needs and the means of production are held "in common" for the benefit of everyone in society.

    Communist Manifesto, The

    A short book by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, published in 1848. In it, Marx and Engels explain their view of history, the problems of capitalism and why communism is the only system that can bring equality to the citizens of Europe. The Manifesto explains that the bourgeoisie's main goal in exploiting the proletariat is maintaining private property. In the second chapter Marx and Engels include a list of demands, one of which is the abolition of private property.

    The Communist Manifesto inspired, amongst many others, the men who launched the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, leading to the creation of the USSR, which in turn led to communist revolutions elsewhere in the world throughout the 20th century, notably in China, Cuba and Vietnam.

    Communist Party, The

    Noun [countable]
    The name adopted by the Bolsheviks after they seized power in 1917.


    A fellow socialist or communist, used as a form of address —
    "Forgive me, Comrade."
    A title — "Comrade Romanov, how are you?"


    Noun [uncountable]
    An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government, in which one national or ethnic group is considered superior. Fascism was first used to describe the regime of Benito Mussolini (1922-43).


    Noun [uncountable]
    The political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which were developed by their followers into communism. The central theories of Marxism are that economic factors bring about social change and all human history is a history of class struggles.

    Marx defined every era of human history in terms of control of the means of production. In a capitalist society, he argued, the bourgeois class controls the means of production and workers sell their labour without any control over what they produce. Marxism predicts that the working classes will overthrow the capitalist system and establish a communist society.

    Nazis, The

    Noun [countable]
    The National Socialist Party of Germany, founded in Munich after World War I. The Nazi Party was believed in right-wing, authoritarian government built on anti-Semitism and a belief in Aryan German racial superiority. Its leader, Adolf Hitler, became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and in 1939 launched the invasion of Poland that started World War II.

    New Style

    Noun [uncountable noun]
    The method of calculating the dates using the Gregorian Calendar. It has been used by western countries since 1752.


    Noun [countable]
    A Russian-language newspaper founded by Russian revolutionaries in 1912 and linked to the Communist Party of the USSR. 'Pravda' means truth in Russian. Molotov and Stalin served as editor in the paper's early days. The Communist Party used
    Pravda to promote its message after seizing power in 1917.


    Noun [uncountable]
    Working-class people regarded collectively, often used in reference to Marxism.

    Proletariat comes from the Latin word 'proles', meaning offspring. In Ancient Rome, this term was used to describe people who had no wealth and only served the state by having babies.

    Red Army, The

    The army of the USSR, formed after the 1917 Revolution.

    Romanov Dynasty, The

    Also known as the House of Romanov, the family that ruled Russia from 1613 until 1917. The head of the family was the Emperor of Russia under the title of Tsar. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated in 1917 following the February Revolution.


    Noun [uncountable]
    A political and economic theory of social organisation in which the community owns and regulates the means of production, distribution and exchange. In Marxist theory, the socialist state is a kind of transition state between capitalism and communism.

    Socialism is a broad term and concept, and often a controversial one. Following World War II, socialist states emerged in Europe, North America and elsewhere. In Britain, for example, the Labour party is, in theory, a socialist party. That is, its priority is the working class. The National Health Service (NHS) is one of the most famous socialist initiatives in British and European history.


    Noun [singular]
    An elected local, district or national council in the former Soviet Union (USSR)

    Of or concerning the Soviet Union

    Origin: from the Russian word sovet, meaning 'council.'


    Noun [uncountable]
    The political or economic theories of Leon Trotsky, the Ukrainian-born Bolshevik who organised the October Revolution and founded and commanded the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. He was expelled from the Communist party by Stalin in 1927, exiled in 1929, and eventually assassinated by one of Stalin's agents in Mexico in 1940.

    USSR, The

    Noun [singular, proper]
    The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, often shortened to 'the Soviet Union', the USSR was formed in the aftermath of the 1917 Revolution and disintegrated in 1991. This huge country was the world's first communist state. It was comprised of 15 republics: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    Read all the character profiles, along with an introduction, chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, and classroom activities, in our guide.