Take George Orwell at his word. As he reaffirmed in his book, “Why I Write” (see review of that book) he wrote that "Animal Farm was the first book that he wrote with full consciousness of what he was doing, to fuse political and artistic purpose into one whole". The political purpose was to speak out against Lenin, Stalin and those voices of communism that were being embraced in 1945 when this book was published. The farmyard and the animals were the allegorical means that Orwell used.
The story begins in the farmyard where the animals rebel. An old boar pig named Old Major and two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, call a meeting of the farm animals and they tell everyone that the humans are enemies. They adopt seven commandments of Animalism, the first of which is that “all animals are equal”. Then they drive off the farmer and all his help and take over the farm. Snowball distinguishes himself in the battle and ongoing efforts to protect the farm. Napoleon discredits Snowball and forces him out stealing his ideas and establishing himself as the clear leader.
Napoleon expands his power by using a committee of pigs who become the managers of the farm. A neighboring farmer attacks the farm, but he is defeated. A popular donkey , Benjamin, is hurt badly, and Napoleon has him taken away in a van. He is supposed to be going to a hospital but instead he is sold off to a glue factory and the money is used to buy whiskey for the pigs. The pigs are in full control and seem to be smart enough to run the farm, but they become corrupted with greed. The rest of the animals seem to have lost some of their initial concerns with the pigs with the loss of Benjamin they seem to resign themselves to the memory of one of the donkey sayings: “Life will go on as it has always gone on- that is, badly”.
Years pass and many who fought for their freedom and better way of life are dead. The pigs begin wearing clothes and walking upwards and, in their meeting, they abolish the original commandments and change the most important one to say: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
With clothes, and walking on two legs, the pigs start to resemble humans. They decide to reach out to their neighbors and invite the farmers in the area to a dinner to build an alliance. The other animals notice when they come that they all seem to look alike.
The book raises just as many, if not more, questions today as it did in 1945 and is an important book.
"Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer- except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs."
"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."
"Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball."
Orwell says in his book, "Why I write"
Write for a political purpose-"the desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after".
Thoughts on Napolean
"Napoleon’s name is no accident. Historically Napoleon ruled France and conquered much of Europe before being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1814. He too was originally a great liberator, overthrowing Europe’s kings and bringing freedom to its people. But he eventually crowned himself emperor of France, shattering the dreams of European liberalism"