Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Animal Farm” by George Orwell that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Animal Farm” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Animal Farm” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Animal Farm” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
For background, here is a general plot summary of Animal Farm
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power of Words, Language, and Rhetoric in Animal Farm
From the rousing song, “Beasts of England” to the commandments and subsequent changing of them by Napoleon, the main source of power throughout the novel results from language and the use of rhetoric. Without language and the power of words in Animal Farm, the rebellion never would have taken place and certainly the end result of Napoleon’s complete takeover would never have happened. Through the impressive rhetorical and propaganda skills of Squealer and the skillful manipulation of meaning by other characters, reality is shaped by words—for better or for worse. By demonstrating how easily swayed the animals of the farm are by a powerful speech or strong words, Orwell is demonstrating something via a fable about the human vulnerability to carefully chosen words and out unfortunate ability to fall victim to the power of words without understanding the deeper meanings behind them. For this essay, go through the book and look for sections where Squealer is speaking or arranging words. This will provide you with a great group of quotes to eventually work in and build around.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Class Issues in Animal Farm
Throughout the novel the issue of class is an important theme, both in terms of what it means to the animals before the rebellion and even more significantly, what happens after. There is never a moment that the class distinctions in Animal Farm by George Orwell disappear. From the very beginning, all of the animals are ruled by the “human class” and then by Snowball, then by Napoleon. In this novel it seems that class stratification is an almost vital element. For this essay, use the phrase, “All animals are equal… but some are more equal than others” and trace the decline of equality in classes as Napoleon gains more power. If this is not complex enough and you would like a more challenging alternative, consider the ways in which the farm is a mini society and examine how the workers and ruling class interact with one another and how the one is subjected while the other maintains control. This might be most effective if you incorporate ideas from Essay Topic #1 and examine the way language is used to manipulate the “dumber” classes of workers.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Corrupting Influence of Power in Animal Farm
Animal Farm is a social and political fable / allegory about the influences and nature of power and how it can be used for ultimate good or absolute evil. At the beginning of Animal Farm power was used to achieve great things; it brought all members of Manor Farm together under a united cause and allowed them gain their freedom from oppression. After this initial positive influence of power, however, it began to destroy the community that had worked together to form a utopia in Animal Farm by George Orwell. After this point, power struggles emerged and served to divide rather than unite the animals of the farm. For this essay, look at how power was a corrupting and ultimately negative influence by the end of the book. For organizational purposes, choose three characters (and mention them in your thesis statement by stating “this can be seen by the development of characters such as ….) and trace the way power has negatively impacted them. It is suggested that Snowball, Mr. Jones, and Napoleon be used in this analysis but there are other great examples as well.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Animal Farm in Historical and Social Context
In many ways, Animal Farm is a complete allegorical / fable –like retelling of the founding of the Soviet Union, complete with a rebellion and eventual installation of a dictator. Like the ideological battle that was raged in Russia between the classes, the one that is played out in this novel have many of the same themes, including an initial push to strengthen the working class, a strong beginning movement of nationalism and unity, a series of successful efforts to topple the ruling authority (Mr. Jones), all followed by a complete totalitarian takeover by a dictator who is a hypocrite and goes back on many of the promises he made at the height of the revolutionary action. For an essay on this subject, it would be useful to spend a good two paragraphs detailing the events of the Russian Revolution and subsequent Communist rule before looking at how the history and the novel are alike. The thesis statement would be as simple as stating that there are many parallels between the Russian Revolution and ensuing Communist takeover and the events in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: From Utopia to Distopia
(You can argue either way in this thesis statement): The society represented in Animal Farm during the height of Napoleon’s presents an example of a dystopia. Although the society was founded after the rebellion with great ideals about the future of Manor Farm, the influences of power and greed finally gave way and the residents of Manor Farm were far worse then they were under Mr. Jones. For this essay, you could go multiple directions. On the one hand, you can claim that it was a utopia after Napoleon because a great deal of work was being done and it was an efficient society. On the other hand (and it might be one heck of a lot easier) you can claim that a quintessential dystopia was created. If you are allowed to make outside connections to other works, use 1984 as a reference and look at Orwell’s sense of utopias / dystopias as reflected in either work. This would make for an excellent argumentative or comparison (to 1984) essay; just make sure your thesis statement is strong and solid.
For background, here is a general plot summary of Animal Farm
(For an excellent example of an essay on Animal Farm, .)
(For a great essay on Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies in terms of their representations of utopias and dystopias, check this out)
This list of important quotations from “Animal Farm” by George Orwell will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Animal Farm” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
* All page numbers for the following quotes refer to the 1989 Penguin Edition. *
“Comrades! You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in selfishness and privilege? Milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brain workers; the organization of the farm totally depends on us” (42).
“Squealer could turn black into white” (11).
“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plow, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals” (19).
“Napoleon was a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only one of those on the farm. He was not much of a talker, but had a reputation for getting his own way” .. Snowball was a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive but did not have the character depth that Napoleon did” (25).
“Napoleon took no interest in Snowball’s committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up” (51).
“Every day Snowball and Napoleon sent out flights of pigeons whose instructions were to mingle with the animals on neighboring farms, tell them the story of the Rebellion, and teach them the tune Beasts of England” (54).
At the meetings, Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times” (63).
“For we know now, it is all written down in the secret documents that we have found—that in reality he [Snowball] was trying to lure us to our doom” (80).
“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” (114).
“All men are enemies; all animals are comrades” (31).
“Now, when Squealer described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the animals that they did remember if. At any rate, they remembered that at the critical moment of the battle, Snowball had turned to flee” (91).
“the execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act” (96).
“The animals believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Hones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that they were usually working when they were not asleep but doubtless it has been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail not point out” (115).
“Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer—except, of course, the pigs and the dogs” (86).
How is Animal Farm a satire of Stalinism or generally of totalitarianism?
Answer: A good way to answer this question is to pick a specific example of totalitarianism in any country, historical or current, and explain how the ideas Orwell puts forth in Animal Farm apply to it. Go back and forth between the historical facts and the events of the novel. Note the actions of the leaders, the mechanisms of fear and power, and the reactions of the people over time.
Elucidate the symbolism inherent in the characters' names.
Answer: The symbolism ranges from the obvious to the more cryptic. Compare Napoleon with the historical Frenchman and Moses with the figure from the Bible. Take Snowball as representative of something that grows larger and more forceful. Squealer has something to do with the spoken word. Boxer suggests strength. Make sure to consider each character at various stages of the story and to use specific examples from the text.
What does the narrator do, or fail to do, that makes the story's message possible?
Answer: The narrator lets the story tell itself to a large degree by relating what is said and done without moralization and reflection. The narrator speaks from the perspective of the animals other than the pigs, a kind of observer who can point out the significant details without interfering. The reader then can draw his own conclusions about the symbolism, concordance with historical events, and the awfulness of the events themselves.
What does the windmill represent?
Answer: The windmill's symbolic meaning changes during the course of the novel and means different things to different characters. It is to be for electricity but ends up being for economic production. As it is built, it is a locus of work without benefit and a medium of the pigs' power. For the humans, it is a dangerous symbol of the growing power of the farm. Consider also the relationship between the windmill and the biblical Tower of Babel.
What role does the written word play in Animal Farm?
Answer: Literacy is a source of power and a vehicle for propaganda. Some examples to consider are the Seven Commandments, "Beasts of England," the child's book, the manuals, the magazines, and the horse-slaughterer's van.
Examine the Seven Commandments and the way they change during the course of the novel from Old Major's death to the banquet Napoleon holds with the farmers.
Answer: The commandments begin as democratic ideals of equality and fraternity in a common animal identity, but they end in inequality when some animals are "more equal" than others. As the pigs take more control and assume their own liberties, they unilaterally change the commandments to fit their own desires. Consider especially the interactions between Clover, Muriel, and Squealer surrounding the Seven Commandments, determining how easy it is to change the fundamental rules of society on the farm, where most of the animals can do no better than to remember that four legs are good and two legs are bad.
Would Animal Farm be more effective as a nonfiction political treatise about the same subject?
Answer: Given the success of the novel, it is hard to see why Orwell might have chosen a different genre for his message. A nonfiction account would have had to work more accurately with the history, while Orwell's fiction has the benefit of ordering and shaping events in order to make the points as clear as possible from a theoretical and symbolic point of view. A political treatise could be more effective in treating the details and theoretical understandings at greater length and with more nuances, but the readership and audience for such a work would therefore become quite different as well, so the general population would be less likely to hear Orwell's warnings.
Can we perceive much of Orwell himself in the novel?
Answer: Orwell seems to be most like the narrator, who tells the story from the perspective of experience with the events related. We know from Orwell's history that he was a champion of the working class and did not much like the idea of being in a role where he had to exercise power to control people under him. Orwell seems to be a realist about the prospects for the socialist ideals he otherwise would promote.
Compare Animal Farm with Orwell's other famous novel, 1984.
Answer: Consider the ways in which both novels are allegories with a political message against the evils of state control and totalitarianism. How does totalitarian control affect the illiterate versus those who are educated and wish to exercise their human rights? Compare the political regimes in the two novels. Does the relative anonymity of the leaders affect the reactions of the people?
Pick a classic fairy tale or fable and examine it in comparison with Animal Farm.
Answer: A good way to answer such a question is to consider the function of animals as characters. For instance, each of the Three Little Pigs expresses a different approach to planning for the future and managing risk, which can lead to an analysis of how each character represents a moral or physical quality. In terms of narration, note the degree to which the narrator lets the characters speak in their own voices and lets the plot play out without editorializing. In terms of structure, consider how critical events shatter the calm (such as getting lost in the woods or encountering an enemy) and lead to a moral once some kind of order (for better or for worse) is restored.