When you’re reading for pleasure, you can take your time and enjoy it, much like watching a movie. You don’t have to think about deeper meanings, symbolism, or the characters unless you want to.
But then there’s reading for school. When your teacher gives you an essay question before you start reading, the reading can be a little easier—you have a focus.
But trying to come up with your own topic can be a little difficult. You have to read the book first, see what you get from it, and build your essay around it. And often, you have to read some parts again.
To help give you a focus, I have a few ideas you can keep in mind while reading Animal Farm. You can use them before you start reading to learn what to watch out for as you read (and what to take notes on).
If you’re already done with the book and just don’t know where to start with your essay, these ideas can help you too.
Go through the following list, and pick a topic that you think you know very well or that you relate to. This will help make your Animal Farm essay much easier and more enjoyable to write.
Ready to dive in?
First, a Brief Summary
To make sure we’re all on the same page before we get into topics for your Animal Farm essay, let’s establish a basic summary of events in the book.
Old Major, an old boar, calls a meeting with all the animals on Farmer Jones’s farm. He says that the animals are slaves to Jones and that he’s using them for his own gain without sharing the wealth with them.
He calls for a revolution. Three days later, Old Major kicks the bucket. The animals then run Jones off the land and rename it Animal Farm (real creative, these guys).
Snowball is idealistic. He puts his efforts into teaching the animals to read and establishing commandments, such as no animals sleeping in beds, no animals killing other animals, and all animals are equal.
Things are going pretty well, and all the animals are working together to produce a lot. Boxer is notable here because he’s the strongest of all of the animals and has a strong work ethic to match.
Snowball wants to build a windmill so that they can have electricity. It’s a big endeavor, and Napoleon opposes it. Napoleon brings out the dogs—literally.
The dogs attack Snowball and chase him away. Napoleon takes over and says that the pigs will make all of the decisions for the whole farm. (You can see where this is starting to take a turn for the worse.)
Napoleon decides to build the windmill anyway. Again, Boxer is there doing a lot of the work. Halfway through construction, the windmill falls over, and Napoleon blames a bitter Snowball.
Anyone opposed to Napoleon is seen as a conspirator with Snowball and is killed by Napoleon’s dogs.
The pigs start living in the lap of luxury. They sleep in Jones’s bed, drink whiskey, and start trading with other farmers. These were against Snowball’s rules—the original tenets of Animal Farm.
But Squealer always seems to have a way to explain the rule changes in ways the other animals accept.
A neighbor farmer, Mr. Frederick, blows up the windmill, and then the animals have a battle with the farmers. Boxer is badly injured but still goes to work trying to rebuild the windmill.
After he can’t take it any longer, he’s sold to the glue factory to pay for the pigs’ whiskey. The cover story is that he was taken to the hospital and died peacefully.
As time goes on, the pigs start acting even more like humans, even walking upright. They change the original “no killing, no sleeping in beds, etc.” rules into just one phrase: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Napoleon changes the name of the farm back to its original title, Manor Farm. He meets with some human farmers and talks to them about ruling over the working classes.
And the working animals at Manor Farm watch, unable to see the differences between the pigs and the humans.
Now that you have a basic feel for the story, let’s get into some themes, shall we?
Topics About Characters
Many authors know that the characters in a story are what sell it. They can be symbols or not, but they must serve a purpose. George Orwell knew this well, which is why there are so many ways to use his characters as the basis of your Animal Farm essay.
Consider the following topics for yours:
- Compare and contrast the ruling styles of Snowball and Napoleon.
- Discuss the ways in which Jones and Napoleon are similar.
- Are there any characters you view as protagonists?
- Discuss how the names of the characters illustrate their personalities. (e.g. Boxer is strong, Napoleon is power-hungry, etc.)
- In what ways does Boxer symbolize the working class?
- Why is Boxer (or any other character you relate to) important to the story?
- What does Squealer symbolize?
Need help with writing a character analysis? Read How to Write a Character Analysis That Works and 2 Character Analysis Essay Examples With Character.
I understand if it’s a little hard for you to relate to the characters in Animal Farm enough to write about them. So how about some non-character-related topics?
Topics About Themes
Orwell never wrote a story that didn’t have a very strong theme. In the case of Animal Farm, it had several.
Here are some topics for your Animal Farm essay centered around those themes:
- Describe what you believe is the main theme of Animal Farm.
- How does power corrupt the pigs?
- How were the socialist ideas of Old Major and Snowball corrupted by Napoleon?
- Discuss the correlation of the novel to the Russian Revolution.
- Although the novel is a commentary on the Russian Revolution, how are its themes still relevant today?
- Are people naturally inclined to split up by class?
- How does Orwell depict the naivety of the working class?
- How did the pigs use language to control the other farm animals?
Characters and themes are fairly concrete. If you want to dig a little deeper into literary devices, check out some topics about symbolism.
Topics About Symbolism
Animal Farm is packed to the brim with symbolism, mainly with the characters themselves, but also in the events that occur.
You can choose just one symbol and discuss it in a lot of depth or choose a few of the topics below to focus on Orwell’s use of symbolism in general.
- Discuss the symbolism of any of the major characters.
- How does Animal Farm symbolize human civilization in general?
- How can the windmill stand for the pigs’ power?
- Can the windmill be seen as a symbol for the spread of communism?
- Compare events in Animal Farm, such as the hens’ revolution, to the history of the Russian Revolution.
What Happens After You Write Your Animal Farm Essay?
Once you have selected your topic, it’s time to write your essay. We have a few other posts about writing literary analyses, analytical essays, and thesis statements if you need some direction with the writing process.
You can also look at these Animal Farm essay examples for inspiration if you need it:
Once you’re done, be sure to have the Kibin editors take a look. They’ll not only make sure that your grammar and spelling are in check, but also that the flow and content of your whole essay are on track.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
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).