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George Orwell > Animal Farm > Chapter I

Animal Farm

Chapter I

Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but
was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light
from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard,
kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer
from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where
Mrs. Jones was already snoring.

As soon as the light in the bedroom went out there was a stirring and a
fluttering all through the farm buildings. Word had gone round during the
day that old Major, the prize Middle White boar, had had a strange dream
on the previous night and wished to communicate it to the other animals.
It had been agreed that they should all meet in the big barn as soon as
Mr. Jones was safely out of the way. Old Major (so he was always called,
though the name under which he had been exhibited was Willingdon Beauty)
was so highly regarded on the farm that everyone was quite ready to lose
an hour's sleep in order to hear what he had to say.

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. First came the three dogs, Bluebell, Jessie, and
Pincher, 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 and began to chew the cud. 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. Clover was a stout motherly mare approaching
middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal.
Boxer was an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as
any two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose gave
him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first-rate
intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of
character and tremendous powers of work. After the horses came Muriel,
the white goat, and Benjamin, the donkey. Benjamin was the oldest animal
on the farm, and the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did, it
was usually to make some cynical remark--for instance, he would say that
God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner
have had no tail and no flies. Alone among the animals on the farm he
never laughed. If asked why, he would say that he saw nothing to laugh at.
Nevertheless, without openly admitting it, he was devoted to Boxer; the
two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small paddock
beyond the orchard, grazing side by side and never speaking.

The two horses had just lain down when a brood of ducklings, which had
lost their mother, filed into the barn, cheeping feebly and wandering from
side to side to find some place where they would not be trodden on. Clover
made a sort of wall round them with her great foreleg, and the ducklings
nestled down inside it and promptly fell asleep. At the last moment
Mollie, the foolish, pretty white mare who drew Mr. Jones's trap, came
mincing daintily in, chewing at a lump of sugar. She took a place near the
front and began flirting her white mane, hoping to draw attention to the
red ribbons it was plaited with. Last of all came the cat, who looked
round, as usual, for the warmest place, and finally squeezed herself in
between Boxer and Clover; there she purred contentedly throughout Major's
speech without listening to a word of what he was saying.

All the animals were now present except Moses, the tame raven, who slept
on a perch behind the back door. When Major saw that they had all made
themselves comfortable and were waiting attentively, he cleared his throat
and began:

"Comrades, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last
night. But I will come to the dream later. I have something else to say
first. I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months
longer, and before I die, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom
as I have acquired. I have had a long life, I have had much time for
thought as I lay alone in my stall, and I think I may say that I
understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now
living. It is about this that I wish to speak to you.

"Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it:
our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given
just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us
who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength;
and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are
slaughtered with hideous cruelty. No animal in England knows the meaning
of happiness or leisure after he is a year old. No animal in England is
free. The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth.

"But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it because this land
of ours is so poor that it cannot afford a decent life to those who dwell
upon it? No, comrades, a thousand times no! The soil of England is
fertile, its climate is good, it is capable of affording food in abundance
to an enormously greater number of animals than now inhabit it. This
single farm of ours would support a dozen horses, twenty cows, hundreds of
sheep--and all of them living in a comfort and a dignity that are now
almost beyond our imagining. Why then do we continue in this miserable
condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen
from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our
problems. It is summed up in a single word--Man. Man is the only real
enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and
overwork is abolished for ever.

"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 plough, he
cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the
animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that
will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our
labour tills the soil, our dung fertilises it, and yet there is not one of
us that owns more than his bare skin. You cows that I see before me, how
many thousands of gallons of milk have you given during this last year?
And what has happened to that milk which should have been breeding up
sturdy calves? Every drop of it has gone down the throats of our enemies.
And you hens, how many eggs have you laid in this last year, and how many
of those eggs ever hatched into chickens? The rest have all gone to market
to bring in money for Jones and his men. And you, Clover, where are those
four foals you bore, who should have been the support and pleasure of your
old age? Each was sold at a year old--you will never see one of them
again. In return for your four confinements and all your labour in the
fields, what have you ever had except your bare rations and a stall?

"And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their
natural span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones.
I am twelve years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the
natural life of a pig. But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end.
You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will
scream your lives out at the block within a year. To that horror we all
must come--cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone. Even the horses and the dogs
have no better fate. You, Boxer, the very day that those great muscles of
yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut
your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds. As for the dogs, when
they grow old and toothless, Jones ties a brick round their necks and
drowns them in the nearest pond.

"Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life
of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and
the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could
become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body
and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you,
comrades: Rebellion! I do not know when that Rebellion will come, it might
be in a week or in a hundred years, but I know, as surely as I see this
straw beneath my feet, that sooner or later justice will be done. Fix your
eyes on that, comrades, throughout the short remainder of your lives! And
above all, pass on this message of mine to those who come after you, so
that future generations shall carry on the struggle until it is victorious.

"And remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument
must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the
animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the
prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no
creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity,
perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are

At this moment there was a tremendous uproar. While Major was speaking
four large rats had crept out of their holes and were sitting on their
hindquarters, listening to him. The dogs had suddenly caught sight of
them, and it was only by a swift dash for their holes that the rats saved
their lives. Major raised his trotter for silence.

"Comrades," he said, "here is a point that must be settled. The wild
creatures, such as rats and rabbits--are they our friends or our enemies?
Let us put it to the vote. I propose this question to the meeting: Are
rats comrades?"

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority
that rats were comrades. There were only four dissentients, the three dogs
and the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides.
Major continued:

"I have little more to say. I merely repeat, remember always your duty of
enmity towards Man and all his ways. Whatever goes upon two legs is an
enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And
remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble
him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal
must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink
alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade. All the
habits of Man are evil. And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannise over
his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No
animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.

"And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot
describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when
Man has vanished. But it reminded me of something that I had long
forgotten. Many years ago, when I was a little pig, my mother and the
other sows used to sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and
the first three words. I had known that tune in my infancy, but it had
long since passed out of my mind. Last night, however, it came back to me
in my dream. And what is more, the words of the song also came back-words,
I am certain, which were sung by the animals of long ago and have been
lost to memory for generations. I will sing you that song now, comrades.
I am old and my voice is hoarse, but when I have taught you the tune, you
can sing it better for yourselves. It is called 'Beasts of England'."

Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing. As he had said, his voice
was hoarse, but he sang well enough, and it was a stirring tune, something
between 'Clementine' and 'La Cucaracha'. The words ran:

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time.

Soon or late the day is coming,
Tyrant Man shall be o'erthrown,
And the fruitful fields of England
Shall be trod by beasts alone.

Rings shall vanish from our noses,
And the harness from our back,
Bit and spur shall rust forever,
Cruel whips no more shall crack.

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.

For that day we all must labour,
Though we die before it break;
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys,
All must toil for freedom's sake.

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken well and spread my tidings
Of the golden future time.

The singing of this song threw the animals into the wildest excitement.
Almost before Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it for
themselves. Even the stupidest of them had already picked up the tune and
a few of the words, and as for the clever ones, such as the pigs and dogs,
they had the entire song by heart within a few minutes. And then, after a
few preliminary tries, the whole farm burst out into 'Beasts of England' in
tremendous unison. The cows lowed it, the dogs whined it, the sheep
bleated it, the horses whinnied it, the ducks quacked it. They were so
delighted with the song that they sang it right through five times in
succession, and might have continued singing it all night if they had not
been interrupted.

Unfortunately, the uproar awoke Mr. Jones, who sprang out of bed, making
sure that there was a fox in the yard. He seized the gun which always
stood in a corner of his bedroom, and let fly a charge of number 6 shot
into the darkness. The pellets buried themselves in the wall of the barn
and the meeting broke up hurriedly. Everyone fled to his own
sleeping-place. The birds jumped on to their perches, the animals settled
down in the straw, and the whole farm was asleep in a moment.

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