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Free Study Guide-Animal Farm by George Orwell-Free Online Booknotes
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Chapter 2

Summary

The second chapter commences with the peaceful death of Old Major. Although he is no longer physically present, Major's inspiring speech has brought about a changed outlook on life among the animals. They are convinced that an animal rebellion will take place in the unknown future and prepare for it psychologically. The work of organizing and teaching naturally falls upon the most intelligent of the animals, the Pigs. Pre-eminent among them are two young boars called Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon, a fierce looking Berkshire, is not much of a talker but has a reputation for getting his own way. Snowball, a young boar, is high-spirited, quick in speech, very intelligent, and inventive. Squealer, a nimble, quick thinking pig, is also introduced as a brilliant, persuasive talker who can turn black into white. These three pigs advocate, expound, and propagate Major's teachings, which are called 'Animalism'.

The rebellion is achieved much earlier, more accidentally, and more easily than any of the animals expected. When Jones fails to feed them for a day, the animals break into the storage shed and eat heartily. The farmer and his men try to beat the animals away with whips, but they grow angry over this mistreatment and fight back. Jones is quickly expelled, and the gate is locked against him. Manor Farm now belongs to the animals. They caper in joy and burn everything that reminds them of Farmer Jones and his cruelty. They sing 'Beasts of England' seven times and then sleep better than they ever have before. The next day the animals can hardly believe they really control the farm.

The pigs begin to teach themselves to read and write. Snowball, the best at writing, paints over the name Manor Farm and clearly writes Animal Farm in its place, while the animals cheer him on. Snowball and Napoleon then reduce the principles of Animalism to 'Seven Commandments,' which are inscribed on the barn wall. They are the unalterable laws by which all animals of Animal Farm must live forever.

Snowball then asks the animals to gather the harvest more quickly than Jones demanded. Although the cows are uneasy over the request, the animals march to the hay field to gather the important harvest. When they return, they are surprised to find that the milk has disappeared.

Notes

The second Chapter further develops the farm animals as individuals. Mollie, who has been spoiled by human beings and asks the stupidest of questions; Moses, who claims to know the existence of a country called Sugarcandy Mountain to which all animals go after death; and Boxer and Clover, faithful disciples who lead the singing of the anthem, are all individualized. However, it is Snowball and Major who emerge as the leaders of the animals; but they are very different in personality. Snowball is devoted and sincere, working for the welfare of others; as the diligent organizer on the farm, he is much like Trotsky. On the other hand, Napoleon is power-hungry and leads with an iron fist. He becomes a totalitarian despot, much like Stalin or Hitler. Together they created the Seven Commandments of Animalism, based on Major's teachings, Marxism, and the Communist Manifesto.


The second Chapter also describes Manor Farm as the perfect setting for the utopian community that Old Major dreamed about. It is pleasant in appearance, pastoral in appeal, and isolated enough to prevent outside interference. Under the leadership of Napoleon and Snowball, the rebellion quickly takes place here almost by accident, and the farm is transformed into Animal Farm. Orwell skillfully brings out the feeling of neglect leading to rebellion in just two paragraphs.

There is some resistance to the new way of things on Animal Farm. Mollie symbolizes the 'don't care-type,' who has no interest for reform which interferes with personal pleasure or comfort. Moses, the raven, represents the class who resists any change and becomes a symbol of organized religion. In contrast, Boxer and Clover, the faithful work horses, represent the selfless, sincere party-workers who put the cause of the party above themselves. Although they do not have great intelligence, they are respected for their strength, open-heartedness, dedication, and steadfastness. Like most simple and gullible beings, they are easily persuaded and convinced.

It is important to notice the irony that begins to take shape in the second Chapter. Animal Farm should be the perfect place for a utopian society, but in the hands of the animals it becomes a terrible place ruled by a tyrant. At first the animals hate the farmhouse, where Jones lived with his horrible whips and whiskey; later the animals will move into the farmhouse, and Napoleon will walk on his hind legs and carry a whip. The animals believe that humans are the cause of all their problems; but over time, the animals become very human and do themselves in. The animals believe the pigs to be the best leaders, for they talk intelligently; in truth, their talk covers their motives. Old Major's ideals, expressed in his speech, are noble; but in the "hands" of Napoleon, they become evil. The Seven Commandments are supposedly unalterable, but they are later altered by the evil leaders for their own good. The commandments are also not really a philosophy, but mere propaganda.

It is also important to notice the style of the second Chapter. The quick pace involves the reader and creates a believable suspension of reason and logic, giving the story the feel of a fairy tale that teaches that selfishness, pride, and hypocrisy are hard to eliminate from society. Since these are timeless weaknesses of mankind, the story becomes a timeless tale of society's corruption throughout history, not just in the time of Marx, Stalin, or Lenin.

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