'Animal Farm' Quotes Explained

The following Animal Farm quotes are some of the most recognizable examples of political satire in English literature. The novel, which tells the story of farm animals who organize a revolution, is an allegory for the Russian Revolution and the regime of Joseph Stalin. Discover how Orwell creates this political allegory and conveys themes of corruption, totalitarianism, and propaganda with the following analysis of key quotes.

"Four legs good, two legs bad." (Chapter 3)

After Snowball establishes the Seven Commandments of Animalism, he composes this statement ("Four legs good, two legs bad") in order to simplify Animalism's concepts for the other animals. Simple, xenophobic statements such as this one are a trademark of dictators and fascist regimes throughout history. Initially, the expression gives the animals a common enemy and inspires unity among them. Over the course of the novel, the slogan is distorted and reinterpreted to suit the needs of the powerful leaders. "Four legs good, two legs bad" is general enough that Napoleon and the other pigs can apply it to any individual or situation. Eventually, the expression is changed to "four legs good, two legs better," demonstrating that the farm animal's revolution has led to the same oppressive social system they initially sought to overthrow.

"I will work harder!" (Chapter 3)

This statement—Boxer the workhorse’s personal mantra—demonstrates the sublimation of the self under the concept of the greater good. Boxer’s existence becomes wrapped up in his efforts to support the Farm. Any setback or failure is blamed on his own personal lack of effort. This quotation demonstrates how concept of communal effort, upon which Animalism was founded, gets perverted into a self-destructive commitment to endless toil. Under Napoleon's totalitarian reign, failure has nothing to do with the leadership; instead, it's always blamed on the common working animal’s lack of faith or energy.

“At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their snapping jaws.” (Chapter 5)

Napoleon enforces his rule through propaganda, misinformation, and a cult of personality, but he initially seizes power through violence, as depicted in this quotation. This scene takes place just as Snowball's eloquent, passionate ideas are winning the debate over the Windmill. In order to wrest power away from Snowball, Napoleon unleashes his specially-trained dogs to drive Snowball away from the Farm.

This violent episode mirrors the way power was seized from Leon Trotsky by Joseph Stalin. Trotsky was an effective speaker, and Stalin drove him into exile and relentlessly attempted to assassinate him decades before finally succeeding in 1940.

In addition, Napoleon's dogs demonstrate the way violence can be used as a means of oppression. Whereas Snowball works hard to educate the animals and improve the Farm, Napoleon trains his dogs in secret and then uses them to keep the animals in line. He focuses not on developing an informed and empowered populace, but rather on using violence to enforce his will.

"No animal shall drink alcohol to excess." (Chapter 8)

After Napoleon drinks whiskey for the first time, he suffers a hangover so terrible that he believes he is dying. As a result, he forbids the animals from drinking any alcohol at all, because he believed it to be poison. Later, he recovers and learns how to enjoy alcohol without making himself sick. The rule is quietly changed to this statement ("No animal shall drink alcohol to excess"), but the fact that the alteration has ever happened is denied. The transformation of this rule demonstrates how language is used to manipulate and control the animals according to even the most trivial whims of the leader, Napoleon.

In the Soviet Union, Stalin’s style of dictatorship was notable for the extreme cult of personality he created, linking himself personally to the success and health of the nation. With this quotation, Orwell shows how such an extreme cult of personality is developed. Napoleon takes credit for every good event that takes place on the Farm, and he makes loyalty to himself personally equivalent to support of the Farm. He encourages the animals to compete to be the most loyal, the most dedicated, and the most supportive of the Farm and Animalism—and, thus, of Napoleon.

“Do you not understand what that means? They are taking Boxer to the knacker’s!” (Chapter 9)

When Boxer becomes too sick to work, he is unceremoniously sold to a "knacker" to be killed and processed into glue and other materials. In return for Boxer's life, Napoleon gets a few barrels of whiskey. The brutal and unceremonious treatment loyal, hard-working Boxer shocks the other animals, even coming close to spurring rebellion.

This quotation, spoken by Benjamin the donkey, reflects the horror that the animals feel upon learning of Boxer's fate. It also clearly demonstrates the ruthlessness and violence at the heart of Napoleon's totalitarian regime, as well as the efforts made by the regime to keep that violence secret.

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." (Chapter 10)

This quotation, which is seen painted on the side of the barn, represents the ultimate betrayal of the animals by their leaders. At the start of the animals' revolution, the seventh commandment of Animalism was, "All animals are equal." Indeed, equality and unity among animals was the revolution's core principle.

However, as Napoleon consolidates power, his regime become increasingly corrupt. He and his fellow pig leaders seek to separate themselves out from the other animals. They walk on their hind legs, live in the farm house, and even negotiate with humans (once common enemy of Animalism) for personal gain. These behaviors directly oppose the principles of the original revolutionary movement.

When this statement, which itself directly opposes Animalism, appears on the barn, the animals are told they are wrong to remember it any other way—reinforcing Napoleon's willingness to brazenly alter historical record in order to manipulate and control the animals.