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. He was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his tushes had never been cut. Before long the other animals began to arrive and make themselves comfortable after their different fashions.
At the beginning of the novel, Old Major gathers the farm animals in the barn so he can share the strange dream he had. From these first moments, the barn stands as the spot on the farm where all communal decisions are made and pivotal moments happen. As such, here it represents the meetinghouse, the bastion of government. All ensuing important events will stem out of discussions and pronouncements made in the barn. In this sense, the barn can be seen as the physical representation of the farm’s past as well as its future.
After the hoisting of the flag all the animals trooped into the big barn for a general assembly which was known as the Meeting. Here the work of the coming week was planned out and resolutions were put forward and debated. It was always the pigs who put forward the resolutions. The other animals understood how to vote, but could never think of any resolutions of their own.
The barn now has a formalized role as the seat of the new governing body of Animal Farm, but the meetings that take place within its walls already share a tenor that does not reflect the origins of the farm. While all animals are supposed to be “comrades,” the meetings revolve solely around the pigs’ ideas. As such, the barn comes to symbolize the hypocrisy that undergirds Animal Farm almost from its inception, and all the animals perpetuate this charade.
[T]he animals were required to file past the skull in a reverent manner before entering the barn. Nowadays they did not sit all together as they had done in the past. Napoleon, with Squealer and another pig named Minimus . . . sat on the front of the raised platform, with the nine young dogs forming a semicircle round them, and the other pigs sitting behind. The rest of the animals sat facing them in the main body of the barn.
The barn has served as a gathering place for the animals before and after the Rebellion, but since Snowball’s expulsion, a social and political hierarchy has been imposed on the farm. Napoleon, the pigs, and the dogs are physically separated from the rest of the animals, signifying the emergence of social classes on Animal Farm. The barn symbolizes the changing of the governmental order, with the animals accepting the pigs as their new masters, much in the vein of Mr. Jones. The barn no longer represents the promise of a free society, and with their initial expectations upended, the animals have come to accept a dim shadow of their previous vision.
The general feeling on the farm was well expressed in a poem entitled Comrade Napoleon, which was composed by Minimus . . .
Napoleon approved of this poem and caused it to be inscribed on the wall of the big barn, at the opposite end from the Seven Commandments. It was surmounted by a portrait of Napoleon, in profile, executed by Squealer in white paint.
As the pigs deify Napoleon, another pig—Minimus—writes a poem in his honor and copies it on the wall of the barn. This poem, along with the other writings on the barn’s walls, which include the Seven Commandments and the mantra “Four legs good, two legs bad,” indicate that the barn symbolizes the living history of Animal Farm from its founding to the present day. Animal Farm was built upon ambitious plans to create a fair society in which all animals are equal, but by the time this poem is memorialized on the walls of the barn, the farm had devolved into a class-dominated society.
One night at about twelve o'clock there was a loud crash in the yard, and the animals rushed out of their stalls. . . . At the foot of the end wall of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. Squealer, temporarily stunned, was sprawling beside it, and near at hand there lay a lantern, a paintbrush, and an overturned pot of white paint.
Here the animals find Squealer lying at the foot of a ladder with paint but fail to understand the true meaning of this scene: The pigs have been changing the Seven Commandments so they can enjoy the privileges of personhood that are forbidden by Animalism. At this pivotal moment, the barn symbolizes a lost opportunity. At last the animals can see for themselves the pigs’ misdeed, but the animals’ inability to use their critical faculties means they don’t question Squealer and the white paint’s presence in the barn. Thus, they miss their chance to organize and rebel against the pigs’ dictatorial regime.