'Animal Farm' Characters: Descriptions and Analysis

In George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm, the characters on the farm represent various elements of the Russian Revolution. From the brutal totalitarian Napoleon (a stand-in for Joseph Stalin) to the principled, inspiring Old Major (who combines qualities of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin), each character can be understood through a historical lens.

Napoleon

Napoleon is a large pig (a Berkshire Boar) who lives on Manor Farm. He is an early leader of the animal revolution. Alongside Snowball, Napoleon leads the animals in chasing Mr. Jones and the other men off the farm; then, they establish the principles of Animalism. As he acquires more power, Napoleon becomes more cutthroat. He raises a group of puppies and secretly trains them to serve as his personal security force. He eventually chases Snowball away and frames him for crimes against the animals.

Napoleon becomes a totalitarian leader. He uses violence, intimidation, and outright deceit to seize and hold onto power on the farm. He is cruel and uncaring when it comes to the plight of his fellow animals, taking food and other supplies for himself without regard for others. He quickly begins to adopt the ways of men, despite the fact that opposition to humans is the driving force of Animalism. He is also incompetent and not especially smart. He does a bad job overseeing the windmill construction project and gets cheated by a neighboring farmer. When gets a hangover after drinking too much whiskey, he believes he is dying and orders that alcohol be banned as poison.

Napoleon is a stand-in for Joseph Stalin. His actions during and after the animals' revolution align with much of Stalin’s own history. Like Stalin, Napoleon often attempts to erase or change history, as when he insists untruthfully that he was the hero of the Battle of Cowshed. Napoleon's incompetence also matches what Orwell saw in Stalin’s disastrous attempts to run the Russian economy. When Animal Farm was published, Stalin enjoyed a relatively positive reputation in much of the Western world, including England. As an ally of the United States and England during World War II, Stalin was perceived as a reasonable leader; the brutality and incompetence of his dictatorship was often obscured. Through the character of Napoleon, Orwell sought to shine a light on the true nature of Stalin's leadership.

Snowball

Snowball is a pig who lives on Manor Farm. He is original driving force behind the revolution. In fact, in the early part of the story, Snowball is preeminent over Napoleon. Snowball is also the chief architect of Animalism.

Snowball is an intelligent, thoughtful pig who truly believes in Animalism and wants to make the farm into a paradise for free animals. He designs the seven original principles of Animalism and serves heroically at the forefront of battles. Snowball also puts his time and energy into improving the lives of his fellow animals—for example, by trying to teach them to read and write, and by conceiving of the windmill project in order to generate electricity for the farm and to earn income to support them. Many of the ideas the animals believe they are working towards—heated stalls; a special area for older, retired animals—are Snowball’s ideas.

Snowball represents a combination of Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, the early leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Romanov dynasty. Both Trotsky and Lenin were both eventually sidelined by Stalin, who was initially a relatively minor player. Stalin forced Trotsky to flee Russia and often accused Trotsky of plotting against him from afar. Much in the same way, Napoleon forces Snowball to flee the farm, then turns him into the scapegoat, blaming him for all of the farm's problems.

Boxer

Boxer, a powerfully-built workhorse, is kind and determined, but not very bright. Boxer commits to Animalism and works as hard as he can for the betterment of the farm. His incredible strength is a huge asset to the farm as a whole. Boxer believes that the leadership of the pigs, especially Napoleon, is always correct; he throws his efforts wholeheartedly into every project, believing that if he simply works harder everything will work out.

Orwell draws parallels between Boxer's experience and the experiences of workers in the early Soviet Union. Napoleon and the other pig leaders barely value Boxer beyond his work. When Boxer is injured while defending the farm, he continues to work until he collapses. Once Boxer is no longer able to work, Napoleon sells him to the glue factory and uses the money to purchase whiskey.

Squealer

Squealer is a pig who emerges as Napoleon’s chief enforcer and propagandist. He is an eloquent speaker who pacifies the other animals with grandiose speeches that bend or ignore the truth. For example, he describes Boxer’s death in emotional, heroic terms—a far cry from the truth, which is that Boxer was sold to the glue factory and slaughtered.

Usually considered a stand-in for Vyacheslav Molotov, Squealer represents the disinformation and propaganda efforts of Stalin’s government. Such efforts regularly altered history, fabricated data, and leveraged racism and nationalism in order to quash dissenters and maintain Stalin’s hold on power.

Moses

Moses is the pet raven owned by Mr. Jones. He is a wonderful speaker and story-teller. Moses initially flees the farm with Mr. Jones, but he later returns. He regales the animals with stories of Sugarcandy Mountain; according to Moses, that's where animals go in the afterlife to enjoy a glorious, leisure-filled eternity.

Moses represents the potential of organized religion to maintain the status quo by stupefying citizenry with promises of future rewards. At first, Moses serves Mr. Jones with his tales; later, he serves Napoleon. Stalin suppressed religion for decades, but during World War II, he revived the Russian Orthodox Church in an attempt to inspire the Russian people to resist the Nazi invasion and fight for their country. In the same way, Moses and the farm leaders use organized religion as a tool to exploit the animals.

Old Major

Old Major is the prize-winning boar who initially inspires the revolution. He represents a combination of Karl Marx (who established the original precepts of communism) and Vladimir Lenin (the intellectual force behind the Bolshevik Revolution). When Old Major dies, his skull is preserved and put on display; much in the same way, Lenin’s body was embalmed and turned into an unofficial national monument.

Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones is the farmer in charge of Manor Farm at the start of the novel. He is a cruel, incompetent, and often drunk leader. His neglect of the animals is what first inspires the animals' violent revolt. Mr. Jones represents Tsar Nicholas II, the incompetent ruler of Imperial Russia who abdicated in 1917 and was killed along with his entirely family. His return in an attempt to re-take the farm symbolizes the unsuccessful efforts of the White forces in post-revolutionary Russia to reassert the old order.