At one end of the big barn, on a sort of raised platform, Major was already ensconced on his bed of straw, under a lantern which hung from a beam. . . . Before long the other animals began to arrive and make themselves comfortable after their different fashions. First came the three dogs . . . and then the pigs, who settled down in the straw immediately in front of the platform. The hens perched themselves on the window-sills, the pigeons fluttered up to the rafters, the sheep and cows lay down behind the pigs . . . The two cart-horses, Boxer and Clover, came in together, walking very slowly and setting down their vast hairy hoofs with great care lest there should be some small animal concealed in the straw. . . . After the horses came Muriel, the white goat, and Benjamin, the donkey. . . . A brood of ducklings . . . filed into the barn . . . Clover made a sort of wall around them with her great foreleg, and the ducklings nestled down inside it and promptly fell asleep.
Near the beginning of the novel, the narrator describes the barn as a place where all of the animals know their place and feel comfortable in the farm’s social hierarchy. In this passage, Old Major, the respected prize boar, has called a meeting of the animals. Old Major’s position on the raised platform, with a lantern acting as a spotlight on him, shows his importance as a leader. The animals enter and take their places in the barn according to the farm’s social hierarchy. The pigs and dogs come in first and move to the front, showing they are the most important animals after Old Major; the workhorses, goats, and other animals come in later. Despite their differences, the animals all seem content and show genuine care for each other.
Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day.
Bright will shine the fields of England,
Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free.
These lines from “Beasts of England,” the song that Old Major teaches the animals to sing, offer a lofty, utopian vision of England after the liberation of animals from Man. Old Major praises the abundant natural resources of England and anticipates the day when all of England belongs to the animals instead of the humans. The animals quickly adopt the song as their anthem, but Old Major’s idealistic vision of the liberated farm soon proves to be a naïve dream
For whole days at a time [Mr. Jones] would lounge in his Windsor chair in the kitchen, reading the newspapers, drinking, and occasionally feeding Moses on crusts of bread soaked in beer. His men were idle and dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted roofing, the hedges were neglected, and the animals were underfed.
This passage describes the deteriorating conditions at Manor Farm under Mr. Jones’s care, mainly due to human weakness and vice. Mr. Jones’s disappointment after losing a lawsuit has led to brooding and drinking, which have left the farm in a state of neglect. Mr. Jones shirks his duties and allows his hired farmhands to become lazy and corrupt. He gives beer to his pet raven Moses, underfeeds the farm animals, and fails to maintain their buildings and fields. This derelict state hastens the Rebellion as the animals grow desperate for food.
There was a good quarry of limestone on the farm, and plenty of sand and cement had been found in one of the outhouses, so that all the materials for building [the windmill] were at hand. But the problem the animals could not at first solve was how to break up the stone into pieces of suitable size. . . . Only after weeks of vain effort did the right idea occur to somebody. . . . The animals lashed ropes around these [boulders], and then all together . . . dragged them with desperate slowness up the slope to the top of the quarry, where they were toppled over the edge, to shatter to pieces below. . . . Frequently it took a whole day of exhausting effort to drag a single boulder to the top of the quarry, and sometimes when it was pushed over the edge it failed to break.
After the animals overthrow Mr. Jones, they discover that life on Animal Farm is not as easy and carefree as they thought it would be. Although the farm has plentiful resources, the animals lack the ability to use tools designed for humans. As a result, they must invent new ways to provide for themselves, which often requires work that is strenuous, exhausting, and unsuccessful. The animals’ hapless attempts to break up rocks in the quarry closely resemble the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was cursed to eternally roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down when he reached the top.
They tiptoed up to the house, and such animals as were tall enough peered in at the dining-room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the seat of honour at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in their chairs. The company had been enjoying a game of cards, but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the animals that gazed in at the window.
Early in the novel, Old Major had warned that no animal should ever live in a house. By the end of the novel, the pigs have moved into the farmhouse and adopted all of the human vices that Old Major condemned. As the other animals peer through the window, they witness the pigs carousing and playing cards with humans. “At ease in their chairs,” it is apparent that the pigs have been using the human furniture for some time. Meanwhile, the other animals remain shut out of the house, where they live in oppressive conditions even worse than what they had endured under Mr. Jones.