Animal Farm is an allegorical novel about the animals of Manor Farm that drive out the human farmers and assume control. As time progresses, the dynamic amongst the animals moves from unity and equality to tyranny.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In "Stalin: A Brutal Legacy Uncovered," this informational text provides insight into the historical rise of Joseph Stalin, one of the most brutal tyrants in Soviet and world history, detailing the purges and other such tragedies of his bloody regime.
Introduce this text before students begin the novel, in order to provide historical context on the events and circumstances that prompted Orwell to write his allegory. Pair Animal Farm and “Stalin: A Brutal Legacy Uncovered,” and explain to students that Animal Farm is an allegory for Stalin’s reign. Ask students to analyze Orwell’s use of allegory and satire in his representation of Stalin through the character Napoleon.
The Ten Commandments are a set of Biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, playing a central role in Christianity and Judaism.
Introduce this text after reading Chapter 2, when the animals create the Seven Commandments as a set of values for the animals to live by. Pair Chapter Two with “The Ten Commandments,” and ask students to compare these Biblical principles with the Seven Commandments of Animalism in Animal Farm. How are both sets of commandments used to dictate behavior? How do the people respond to God’s announcement of the Ten Commandments? How is their response similar to or different from the way the farm animals respond to the pigs’ announcement of the Seven Commandments?
The drive to conform to group norms is a powerful force in most people's lives. This informational text about conformity helps explain why people tend to match their beliefs and behaviors to those around them.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 2, when the pigs assume leadership and the farm animals begin to conform to “Animalism,” the practices and principles that the pigs have created. Pair Animal Farm with “Conformity,” and ask students to consider how the three major types of conformity apply to the way the animals on Manor Farm adapt to the rules created by the pigs. Why are the pigs allowed to dictate farm rules without objection from the other farm animals?
"Herd Behavior" describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd.
Have students read this text after reading Chapter 5, when Napoleon successfully overthrows Snowball and begins to manipulate the other animals and change history. Pair Chapter 5 with “Herd Behavior,” and ask students to discuss why the animals on Manor Farm are behaving like a herd. How do the pigs benefit from the herd behavior exhibited on Manor Farm? How is Orwell using the animals’ response to the pigs’ manipulation as a satirical critique of human behavior?
In "Learning to Read," a former slave describes what it was like to be prevented from obtaining an education and learning to read as an adult.
Introduce this poem after students have read Chapter 6 of the novel, when the pigs change the language of the commandments to mask how they’ve broken the commandments. Pair Chapter 6 with “Learning to Read,” and ask students to discuss the role of education in a repressed society. Compare the way the pigs in Animal Farm and the slave owners in American history tried to withhold reading to maintain power. How would the literacy of the powerless threaten the power of those in control?
The Third Wave was an experimental social movement created by high school history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 to explain how the German populace could accept the actions of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. While he taught his students about Nazi Germany during his "Contemporary World History" class, Jones found it difficult to explain how the German people could accept the actions of the Nazis, and decided to create a social movement as a demonstration of the appeal of fascism. As the movement grew outside his class and began to number in the hundreds, Jones began to feel that the movement had spiraled out of control.
Have students read this text after completing Chapter 8, in order to analyze how control and influence are exerted on others. Pair Chapter 8 and “The Third Wave,” and ask students to discuss how individuals and small groups are able to manipulate larger groups for their own gain. How are Napoleon and Ron Jones able to control large groups of people? What are the similarities and differences between their approaches? How are the pigs able to convince the animals to fight Mr. Frederick and his armed men? What practices do the pigs carry out in order to support their dominance? What practices does Ron Jones employ in order to exert control?
In "The Russian Revolution," this informational text explores the causes of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which led to the complete upheaval of Russian government and society.
Introduce this text after students have completed the novel. Pair Animal Farm with “The Russian Revolution,” and ask students to compare the events of the Russian Revolution with the central conflict on Manor Farm. How are the events in the Russian Revolution similar to the conflict between the animals on Manor Farm? What strategies do the pigs on Manor Farm and Vladimir Lenin use to attain power over the masses?