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The most obvious examples of symbolism in “Animal Farm” are Old Major, Napoleon, and Snowball, symbolizing Marx, Stalin, and Trotsky, respectively. Mr. Jones, of course, represents the last czar of Russia, Nicholas II, who was overthrown during the Russian Revolution.
The minor characters in the novel, however, symbolize more general groups of people or ideas. Squealer, for example, symbolizes the Russian newspaper “Pravda,” which propagandized about Russian leadership, glossing over the negative aspects of Russian’s leaders and embellishing the bit of positive that existed. Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington, the two human neighbors of Animal Farm, represent Germany and England (or other western countries), both non-communist countries who had various dealings with Russia after the Revolution. The pigs represent the higher class in Russia, and the nine dogs represent the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police. Boxer and Clover, of course, represent the working class – both the dedicated workers and the apathetic ones.
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There are several events in “Animal Farm” that act as symbols as well. For example:
- The animals drive Mr. Jones off the farm – This is a symbol of the Russian revolution. It began very suddenly and was due to famine (or not being fed on time).
- The Battle of the Cowshed – This symbolizes the Russian Civil War. Whereas Mr. Jones himself comes back during the Battle of the Cowshed, the Russian Civil War began when many anti-Bolsheviks (calling themselves the Red Army) gathered together to fight against the new Communist reign.
- The windmill – The debate about whether to build the windmill acts as symbolism for the debate as to whether Russia should try to spread communism to the rest of the world. Trotsky supported the spread of communism, whereas Stalin maintained that it was more important to work within Russia on strengthening the communist ideal.
These examples of symbolism in “Animal Farm” are a great place to start, but there are several more. Feel free to use the comments section to add your own thoughts on symbolism.
Symbolism in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”
This series of articles act as a study guide for "Animal Farm," by George Orwell. They include a summary of the novel, character analyses, symbolism and parallels with the Russian Revolution, and essay questions for the novel.