The story of ‘Animal Farm’ follows a cyclical structure as the animals rebel against their human master but soon find themselves once again ruled by a different tyrant. The story follows the events of the Russian revolution in the early twentieth century; key events are indicated in the bold context boxes.
Old Major calls a meeting to tell the animals about his dream. First, he outlines in a passionate speech all that is wrong with the animals’ lives. He blames humans for abusing the animals and taking the products of their hard work.
He encourages the animals to rebel and overthrow their human masters, and sets out a series of rules or advice about how to organise society after the rebellion.
He ends with recounting his dream of a wonderful England where all of the animals enjoy happy lives of freedom.
Karl Marx was the founder of communism. His ideas were used by Lenin and other communists to inspire the Russian workers to riot against their rulers.
Even though Major dies soon after, his words have inspired the animals to become active in preparing for a rebellion. The pigs take the lead in organising the other animals, and turn Major’s words into a school of thought called Animalism.
Mr Jones is so drunk that he forgets to feed the animals. Hungry and angry, the animals launch an attack against their masters and chase Jones and the other humans off the farm.
The animals are now in charge of themselves and the farm. They agree to keep Jones’ farmhouse as a museum.
The pigs tell the animals that they have learnt to read and have condensed Major’s advice into seven commandments which they write on the barn’s wall.
The pigs milk the cows. Later, the animals find out that the milk has disappeared.
In 1917, the Russian people rioted against their ruler Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar abdicated and the people, led by the Bolsheviks, took charge of Russia.
The animals successfully bring in the harvest.
Weekly meetings are set up at which the pigs take a lead. Napoleon and Snowball are constantly at odds with one another.
Snowball organises many committees to improve the animals’ lives. The reading and writing classes are most successful.
Napoleon takes the puppies in order to educate them. It is discovered that the milk has been taken by the pigs. The pigs then take the apples for themselves.
Animal Farm becomes famous throughout the country, and animals in other farms show signs of rebellion against their masters.
The humans feel under threat and help Jones attack the farm.
Snowball leads the animals in driving the humans off the farm in what becomes known as the Battle of the Cowshed.
Between 1917 and 1922, armies loyal to the Tsar tried to take back control of Russia.
Mollie leaves the farm to live with humans.
Divisions deepen between Snowball and Napoleon, especially over the plans for the windmill.
At a meeting, Napoleon sets his dogs on Snowball. Snowball is chased off the farm.
Work starts on the windmill.
In 1928, Stalin forced Trotsky to leave the Soviet Union.
Work continues slowly on the windmill.
Napoleon announces the decision to trade with the local farmers. The pigs move into the farmhouse.
The windmill falls down in a storm. Snowball is blamed for this.
Stalin moved Russia away from an agrarian (farming) society to an industrialised one.
Conditions on the farm are hard.
The hens refuse to give their eggs to be sold at market but Napoleon starves them until they agree.
Stalin forced the farms in the Soviet Union to come under state control and hand over their crops, materials and animal produce. The peasants opposed this.
Snowball is accused of vandalising the farm.
There is a meeting at which various animals confess to being in partnership with Snowball and of committing different crimes. They are executed by the dogs.
Between 1936-1938, Stalin used Trotsky as a scapegoat, with show trials and executions of those accused of being in league with him.
The animals work ever harder.
Napoleon creates a ‘cult of personality’ which means the animals are expected to idolise him.
Stalin created a cult of personality which encouraged the Russian people to worship him.
Napoleon strikes a deal with the farmer Mr Frederick to sell him timber. However, the bank notes that Frederick uses are fakes.
Frederick and his men attack the farm and destroy the windmill. They are fought off but the animals have many casualties.
Stalin negotiated a treaty with Germany which Hitler betrayed when he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
Napoleon and the pigs start to drink alcohol.
Life on the farm becomes ever harder.
Boxer grows old and weak. He is taken away by the horse slaughterer to be killed.
The windmill is built but the animals do not see any of the benefits that they were promised.
Napoleon stands on two trotters and carries a whip.
The humans visit the pigs but the friendly atmosphere soon becomes aggressive.
They seem to be bonding but then there is an argument over cheating at cards.
Stalin became allies with Britain and the United States but this alliance fell apart with the start of the Cold War.