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Headscratchers / Animal Farm

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  • What was the point of Molly's character? My English teacher insisted that Molly represents the middle-class skilled laborer. I don't agree with that, but that's not why I don't like Molly. I love the book not for its satire, but for its story. So, Molly is a useless character. She doesn't bring anything to the story and when she left, she is completely forgotten. I wanted to say "almost forgotten" but only once was her name mentioned, and it looked like only the story, not any of the characters, remembered. She could easily be taken out of the story and the only difference that would make is make Snowball the first resident to leave Animal Farm.
    • It makes much more sense when you apply the Russian Revolution allegory (I'm not entirely sure how you enjoy the story without it, actually). The entire point of Molly's character is that she is useless — she represents the White Russians, the remnants of the aristocracy, too decadent to do anything but mourn for past glories. I have never heard the 'middle-class skilled labourer' explanation, and it seems to break down entirely on the fact that Molly doesn't have any skills. Her one job was to look cute while pulling a light cart.
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    • I figured, story-wise, Molly was there as just another way to point out the slow deterioration of Animal Farm. She managed to "escape," one might say, unscathed. The animals' response? To blot any mention of her out from their lives. She was forgotten on purpose, so as to eliminate any options for the animals to think they might find happiness or hope (or sugar cubes) by being disloyal to Animal Farm. The animals didn't want to admit that they might have been wrong in following their dreams to run the farm themselves. (Nothing but my own interpretation, of course.)
    • I always thought Molly represented both the upper class and the Provisional Government who shared power with the Bolsheviks in 1917, until Lenin's takeover in October. I'm probably stretching it a little far, but the masses thought the Provisional Government (made up of richer, usually noble men) didn't do anything useful to help out Russia during the war or rebuilding. The leader of the PG, Alexander Kerensky left Russia after the Bolshevik takeover but snuck back in for a few months a little later. I thought that was why the animals mention Molly going to another farm, before choosing to forget her.
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    • According to some, Molly represents the people who only care about what benefits them. When the life on the Farm wasn't working for her, she ran off to live someplace where she would be pampered and given everything she needed without really having to work much.
    • I thought it was Boxer who represented the middle-class laborers.
      • Boxer represents the hardworking, loyal proletarians. Factory workers were not middle class in Russia in the early 20th century.
    • Mollie represents capitalism — she was content to work (pulling a cart) and get paid in exchange for it (in this case, in hair ribbons and sugar). Just like how in 1984, the government barely provides its people with the bare necessities for survival while only place to get real food, luxuries like chocolate, and commodities like razor blades was on the black market, under Animal Farm's new regime, the citizens receive only the bare minimum to survive, but no luxuries are available to the workers, only to the elite. Mollie leaves that for a world where she can earn luxury items by working for herself (she's working, pulling a carriage, the last time we see her). Laugh out loud, next theory...
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    • Without representing anything, Mollie as a character is obsessed with frivolities like ribbons, and communicating with humans, even though she's told these things are wrong. She's there because some people prefer luxuries to self-government. Later on, the pigs wear ribbons and communicate with humans. She was there to have an example character to get reprimanded for things, thereby demonstrating the contrast between the revolution and post-revolution better.
    • Well, other people before me already explained the symbolic. But even if you appreciate the book for its own story despite not caring about the symbolic, I think that her role can be a comical relief. I chuckled when I read the part when she asks if without humans there will still be sugar cubes.
    • I would say that Molly's function was to show the human-animal relationship as it was supposed to work, and to demonstrate that it is possible for animals and humans to live in harmony.
    • She also demonstrates the essential hypocrisy of the pigs and the revolution; according to their dogma, it is wrong and unpatriotic and counter-revolutionary for Molly to want nice things and little luxuries and to spend time with humans. And yet somehow it's okay for the pigs to acquire nice things and little luxuries and to spend time with humans. Just as in the real world, many socialists and communists loudly and piously decried the materialistic luxuries and affectations of the bourgeoisie, and when in power were quick to ban them... for everyone else except themselves. If nothing else, Molly isn't two-faced about what she wants from life.
    • I would also suggest that Molly represents people who, for better or worse, simply aren't interested in politics and dogma and just want to live their lives peacefully in a way that makes them happy. Molly's a bit silly and naive, and we're supposed to find her a bit ridiculous — but on the other hand, she never hurts anyone else, and ultimately, her simple desire to wear pretty ribbons, pull a nice little cart and let humans feed her sugar lumps isn't that much sillier than the increasingly quixotic and hapless attempts to build a windmill and run a society that brings ruin to Animal Farm. And unlike the other animals, she's smart enough to realise that the society of Animal Farm isn't for her to and to leave to seek happiness elsewhere, rather than staying and blinding herself to how horrible it's becoming. Orwell is using her in part to remind his fellow socialists, who tended to get caught up in ideology and theory to the extent that they forgot about people, that most people aren't as fanatically devoted to the cause of world revolution as they might have been, but despite that they also have the right to live their lives and make their choices as they see fit without being forced into living a life that someone else decrees is better for them.
    • It's also possible that she represents the high-class prostitute/mistress class that will exchange her freedom for treats- George Orwell was pretty puritanical when it came to sex.
    • A lot of these responses are arguing Molly's symbolic representation without addressing the fundamental headscratcher — what her ultimate purpose in the narrative is. To address that, there are several reasons why she's a significant character, despite her lack of presence:
      • One, as mentioned above, she exists to contrast the fundamental hypocrisy of what Animal Farm becomes from what its founding ideals were. She is looked down on by every other animal for everything she wants (sugar lumps, nice ribbons, contact with humans, etc.) because it's frivolous and bourgeois, but in some shape or form the pigs end up gradually grasping all of those things for themselves when they get in power; alcohol (essentially fermented sugar), nice decorative ribbons, and contact with humans. Orwell is, in essence, using her to pull a set of gradual Ironic Echoes. Without that, you lose a thread of irony that gives the narrative it's punch.
      • She also exists as a contrast to the revolutionary fervour and zeal of the other animals; also as noted elsewhere, not everyone who finds themselves within a society undergoing revolution is themselves a starry-eyed revolutionary passionately committed to the cause. Like Benjamin and the cat, Molly is simply a character who is not immediately and enthusiastically on-board with the revolution because it would be unrealistic if all the animals were; except where Benjamin is the cynic who suspects that the revolutionaries are just full of shit and it's all going to end up a Full-Circle Revolution and the cat is an ideologically neutral opportunist who goes with the flow for his own benefit, Molly is simply one of those people who actually preferred the olden days because she had a pretty good life then, and was never going to mesh well with the new way of doing things. Without her, you lose a thread of realism within the story.
      • She also works to foreshadow one of Napoleon's (and Stalin's) favourite tools of oppression — the Unpersoning. Note how, after she flees Animal Farm and gets a new job with the humans, the animals make a point of forgetting her. This is something that keeps happening throughout the novel as more and more animals start clashing with the rule of the pigs, until eventually the remaining animals have forgotten practically everything about how and why Animal Farm started and just keep going through the motions out of routine, ideological blindness, and fear. Molly foreshadows the ultimate fates of Old Major's ideals, Snowball's plans, Boxer's toil and so many more of the animals — to have their struggles and their true stories erased from history and forgotten once they are no longer of any use to Napoleon and the pigs.
    • Since Mollie's the one who got out while she could and wanted luxuries, I took it that she might have represented some of the upper or middle class citizens that emigrated Russia after the revolution (which was in 1917) but not immediately or citizens that fled as Stalin's regime began (which was in about 1928).


  • Completely unlike Molly, Snowball is one of the most important characters in the story. So my question is: where is he now? Is he still alive at the end? Did he get assassinated by Napoleon's followers, like Trotsky was by Stalin's? Did he just forget about Animal Farm while the rest of the animals were constantly on the lookout for Snowball so they can most likely murder him? Did he go to a different farm and try to start another resolution? Why are we never shown what happened to Snowball? The point of view is omniscient. The narrator knows what happens in and around Animal Farm, but gives zero focus on the whereabouts of Snowball. The narrator could have at least hinted what happened to Snowball. But, like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, it is never known.
    • I think the point was that Snowball was eventually erased from history. Think of it as though you were reading about Oceania, and that Snowball was erased, like many are, from history (now back on Animal Farm) by Squealer. At first he was turned into an enemy, then, after long, completely forgotten. The book, talking from a standpoint implying that what Squealer and Napoleon are both saying is true, says that at first he was just leading them in a bad direction, then that he was a secret agent of Jones' then he was on Jones' side the entire time, then finally he was forgotten altogether.
    • He disappears because the book is not about Snowball, or any individual character. It is about animal farm and the society the animals tried to create. He doesn't interact with the farm after he leaves, so he becomes irrelevant. I guess if you really want to know what happened to him, your best guess is to extrapolate directly from the analogy, in which case he was probably found and killed eventually just like the real Trotsky was.
    • The narrator doesn't know everything that happens on the farm, he just knows what the common animals (excluding the pigs) know.
    • If it helps, Trotsky spent the remainder of his life moving around the world before settling in Mexico (he even lived with Frida Kahlo for a while) and writing critiques of Stalin and the system that was in Russia, the system he'd helped set up. Perhaps Snowball was on the farm Napoleon said he'd gone to, telling all the animals not to rebel as he knew what would happen.
    • He becomes the Animal Farm equivalent of Goldstein in 1984.
    • It remains unclear in the book, but the 1955 animation movie heavily implies that Napoleon sent bloodhounds after him.


  • I didn't get the ending. Did the pigs literally turn into humans, or could the animals not tell the difference because of their behavior?
    • The animals couldn't tell, I'm pretty sure. The point is that the pigs are so like the humans (talking, walking on 2 feet) that they really might as well be. There's nothing to distinguish them from the humans. That's just what I got from the book.
    • It was more like this: at the beginning of the book, the animals were firmly resolved to keep their own culture and no longer associate with the culture of humans—doing things by themselves. Gradually, the pigs start to associate with the humans, sleep in beds, dress in clothes, walk on their hind legs—pretty much going against everything that they'd dictated that separated them from humans. And when they went against those laws, they had "become" humans—not in the literal sense. They were no longer "animals." They'd become everything that they originally rose up and rebelled against.
      • The 1999 film has Jessie the dog watching the card party through hazy glass, which blurs the faces of both men and pigs; that and their loud belches and comments leads her to find little difference between them.
    • Arguably, the idea is that it's not important; it could be taken as a criticism of the endless hair-splitting that the contemporary far-left did about whether Russia constituted "state capitalism" or a "degenerated worker's state", whether the Party constituted a "class" or a "caste", and so on and so forth. Orwell may be making the assertion that the exact nature of the new ruling class was secondary to the fact that they had become a ruling class, and technical pedantry detracted from the fact that they were, to the average Soviet citizen, effectively identical to the aristocrats and bourgeoisie they had replaced. He was consistently critical of ivory tower socialists, after all, and believed very strongly that socialism was a fundamentally working class movement, and so may have been suggesting that the experience that the relationship between the Soviet ruling and subservient classes created was more important than the exact nature of the relationship, and that, as it happened, the experience was essentially identical to that found before the revolution.
    • Hmm, basically imagine it as your average anthro-animal. Just a pig walking like a human wearing human clothes and talking to humans. Rude, nasty, obese humans.
    • Maybe the author's idea was that the pigs remained pigs on hind legs. But the _humans_, after getting quite drunk, resembled pigs on hind legs, too. (On top of that, drunk pigs on hind legs might resemble humans too in an interesting reversal)
    • I thought the point of that scene was that the pigs and the humans were now pretty much the same, only some of them were a lot shorter and fatter with different faces. The pigs were still pigs (think of Porky Pig without the stuttering and a hell of a lot of arrogance), but internally, their hearts changed so much that as far as the animals could see, the pigs had basically become the humans in all but appearance.
      • Not to mention the Full-Circle Revolution the farm goes under, with the pigs being just as bad in some areas when compared to the humans. It was seen as slightly better than the original farmer because the pigs still acted like animals, but as time went on, the pigs became so utterly corrupt with the power they wielded that they started to emulate humans. Pigs walking on their hind legs meant the pigs could no longer be seen as one of the animals, and they had just thrown off the last thing linking them to the animals they oppressed.


  • What does Benjamin the donkey represent?
    • The explanation I heard in high school was that Benjamin represents the Jews: a minority that has grown too shrewd and introverted from previous abuses to fall for deals that seem too good to be true. In a more general sense, he represents the folk who were intelligent enough to anticipate the difficulties of Communism but were too cynical to stretch their necks to protest.
      • Which is ironically enough not actually the case with Jews in the Russian revolution, Ethnic Jews made up a large portion of Lenin's most fervent supporters, and the Soviet government only turned on the Jews in any real way when it turned on Trotsky, and even then it took a long time for discrimination to come in vogue again.
    • He could represent those who saw what the revolution was and would become, that is, someone who had lived before one before. Hence why he never falls for what is promised. In previous years, Tsar Alexander III (I think...) promised the serfs freedom and even built a few universities around the place. However, the peasantry continued to be ignored, marginalised and starved to death. Benjamin could represent these elders of Russia, hence both his affection to Boxer and disbelief in the new Animal Farm.
    • Other theories include that he represents the intelligent but self-interested intellectuals: those clever enough to see what Animal Farm is and what it will become but not brave enough to risk their necks to speak out. In general, he represents all those who are cynical yet inactive: the non-Communist intellectuals, in other words.
    • Or he's simply just a cynic who doesn't drink the Kool-Aid but nevertheless tries to keep his head down and not get into trouble. I'm pretty sure that even in the early days of the Revolution there were plenty of Russians who listened to the grandiose promises and the flowery speeches coming from the Bolsheviks / Communists, looked at the reality of what was happening, and suspected that it was actually just a case of Meet the New Boss, but didn't fancy getting the shit kicked out of them or shot in the back of the head if they made trouble about it. Not everyone's a starry-eyed revolutionary committed to a cause or a representative of a particular political bloc.


  • I know you're tired of this question, but who does Moses represent? I have a few hunches, but I'd like other opinions.
    • The church. First, he was kicked out and demonised (the so called "militant atheist" stage of soviet communism), then Napoleon welcomes him back with open arms to keep the animals morally attached to his tyranny (Stalin eventually rewarded the orthodox churches, particularly the Georgian one, and built a faux-religious cult around his personality. Even today, many Russian Christians think of Stalin as a pious man aligned with God's command)
    • Alternatively, he represents the Grim Reaper. Every time he has an appearance, a character dies soon after.

Jessie replacing Clover in the 1999 adaptation.

  • Why was the live-action version of the movie revolving around Jessie, the dog? Originally, she died on early in the book, but here, she's alive. To add onto that, why was she a part of the scene where Boxer was taken away? Benjamin was a part of that because he was close to Boxer and he was desperate to save him.
    • To address the question, presumably Jesse was made the viewpoint character simply because the filmmakers thought that they needed to have one, and she fit the bill as much as anyone.
    • Jessie appropriates Clover's role as the point of view character from the novel. Most likely because it's easier to animate a dog than a full grown horse.
    • Jessie isn't confirmed dead till the last chapter; "Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher were dead". She sort of bows out of significance after the pups are born, but it's unclear when she dies. It's feasible that she'd be around a decent time. Watching her (and Bluebell's) kids being turned into loyal enforcers. Also waiters and guards. The dogs are also intelligent: they all learn to read, though as the book puts it "They weren't interested in reading anything but the Seven Commandments". Lots of potential in terms of drama. However, all this in itself leads to my question...


  • Where'd all the dogs come from? We start with nine pups from the three dogs already present. Later, dogs keep turning up everywhere as guards, killers and enforcers. The farm is fairly large(Enough that it has its own quarry). The pigs (or at least Squealer) are almost always attended by them, six guard Napoleon when he travels, he's served meals by them, four end up guarding his bed. They're not being bought except possibly in the last chapter, they're not being born. So where?
    • More pups probably were being born, it just wasn't discussed. Dogs reach sexual maturity as young as six months old, and continue their reproductive life for up to a decade (for females). Between the older generation of dogs (mature as of the start of the book), which includes Jessie, Bluebell, presumably the unnamed sire(s) of their litters, and possibly others, continuing to produce pups, and those first litters of pups once they matured (plus their offspring as time went on) having their own offspring... A recent re-reading of the book, in my opinion, by no means rules out more than three adult dogs at the start of the book anyway.
    • Plus, just simple rule of symbolism. If you're looking for an animal to represent enforcers, guards, soldiers and police officials, it's hard to go past dogs, which do the 'animal' equivalent of a lot of those jobs anyway.

The Revolution (and the aftermath)

  • Now, I know this isn't the point of the Novel, but you think that the Animals successfully staging a revolution and taking over the farm as an independent Country would get the attention of more people then just Farmers and near by Animals; like News Reporters who'd want to report on every little thing that happens on the Farm, and Scientists and Philosophers who'd want to study these Animals and try to find out where this sudden burst of Sapiency came from, and (I think) the British Government that wouldn't really tolerate anyone trying to secede from the UK...
    • The answer to this is simply It's An Allegorical Fairy Tale, Don't Overthink It.
    • Given enough time, it probably entered the realm of Urban Legend. The pigs likely fell out of power due to not being able to hold it all together much longer, were betrayed (and slaughtered) by their human partners, or were ousted when the younger, stronger animals grew restless and out for blood. These revolutionaries had certainly all died of age or starvation, or been gathered up by someone and sold as pets or meat by then. I'll bet the new owners of Manor Farm had a good laugh when they bought the run-down, abandoned property for a song years down the line and heard the tales— "Animals taking over a whole farm, harvesting and selling the crops, building windmills? Pigs talking and prancing about on two legs like men? What bosh!"
    • The story is implied to be set in an isolated rural community in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, out of the way and far from any serious communication hubs; basically, the kind of place where news didn't travel very fast or far. If word did happen to get further than, say, the nearest two towns over, it would have been dismissed as just drunken nonsense from some country yokels. As for succession, we're talking about an area the size of a small run-down farm taken over by farm animals. Okay, the animals managed to get one over on a bunch of local farmers, but if they'd really begun to cause trouble the British army probably wouldn't have had too much trouble with them.
    • Animals are already known to be sapient in this universe.

The Trial

  • Given that Napoleon's story about Snowball was all fabrication, why on earth did some of the animals step out and confess to being traitors when it couldn't have possibly been the case and all it earned them was a gruesome death?
    • This is a reference to the Moscow Show Trials. Basically, people who were arrested as being suspected enemies of the state were often "encouraged" by various means (usually torture, sleep deprivation, psychological warfare, threats to their families etc.) to confess that they were counter-revolutionaries. In several cases, this worked so well that you were given the sight of various people standing up in court literally begging the judge to impose the strongest possible penalty because it was no less than they deserved, even if they genuinely hadn't done anything like what they were being accused of or that the charges were nakedly ridiculous. Orwell's just putting a fairy-tale-world spin on it and leaving out some of the more unsavory details because detailing how, say, the hens only confessed because they were forced to go without sleep for a week and had the shit beaten out of them every four hours wouldn't really fit the tone of the story.
    • Plus which at the time a lot of people couldn't believe it was that simple; they thought the Old Bolsheviks must have really convinced themselves. Example is Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon.

The Windmill

  • What dose the windmill represent? Was there a project in Russia that would have helped there lives or was it the space program?
    • The windmill is supposed to present the Soviet Five Year Plan, designed to industrialize Russia and bring it up to speed with the technological level of capitalist countries.

The Animals' motives

  • One of the arguments Old Major uses to rile up the animals against the humans is that they steal their goods from them (milk, eggs, wool, ect.). It's fairly common knowledge that most common farm animals are domesticated and certain critters produce more than they naturally need. For example, cows are able to produce plenty of milk long after their calves are weaned and chickens are able to lay non-fertilized eggs. It's easy for us to understand, but these guys couldn't even read at that point, so how would that know the effects domestication has had on them? Going further, if they did somehow know and fully understand, who's to say they wouldn't go into denial because that's all the more power humans have over them.
    • Okay, there's a world of difference between an animal understanding the effects of domestication vs simple observation of a farmer taking products clearly created by the animals. I doubt Old Major's point went any further than 'they take our stuff' and find it extremely unlikely they had or gained any knowledge about the process of domestication. Third point, I haven't the slightest idea if I'm addressing your point as I can't see it in that meandering paragraph.
    • Rule of It's Just An Allegorical Fairy-Tale. The humans taking the eggs, milk etc. produced by the animals and selling them is supposed to simply represent the capitalist system of production wherein the owners unfairly profit from the labour of the workers simply because they control the means of production, not because they actually contributing any labour themselves. You're not supposed to quibble over the nature of animal domestication, you're just supposed to nod, go "Oh yeah, I see what he's trying to do there," and move on.

The Gander's suicide

  • Where would the gander who committed suicide in Chapter 8 have gotten those nightshade berries?
    • Nightshade is a common enough weed that it probably wouldn't be hard to find some.

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