Animal Farm - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at character. Character in George Orwell’s novella, Animal Farm, is interesting. Many of the animals are unnamed, including the sheep, the dogs raised by Napoleon, the cat and the pigeons, to list a few. These animals represent specific groups or types of people: the dogs, for example, are an obedient private police force; the sheep are the sort of conformist people who believe everything they are told, challenging and questioning nothing; the cat stands for the kind of person who is always self-interested.

Some of the animals are named characters: for example, Boxer and Clover, Mollie, Benjamin, Muriel, Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer. Yet, these animals, too, stand for those other than themselves.

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Boxer’s fortitude and uncomplaining contribution to better the lives of all are not his alone, but the qualities of dependable working classes everywhere. Clover shares these traits, trusting the pigs despite her occasional doubtful thought. Some of the characters represent historic individuals in addition to groups. So Mr Jones symbolises all selfish landowners and bosses as well as Tsar Nicholas, and by extension, all traditional rulers overthrown in revolutions. Snowball specifically represents Leon Trotsky, but also all idealist revolutionaries. Napoleon is both Joseph Stalin, and dictators everywhere.

We see these characters through the voice of what would traditionally be known as an omniscient third-person narrator. If you pay close attention you will notice, however, that the narrator cannot tell us what everyone is thinking, only knowing the thoughts of some of the animals. The narrator also seems as misled as the others and appears to harbour some of the same suspicions as Clover, being also similarly reassured.

When thinking about these characters, remember to consider the different roles they play as representations of historic figures as well as types of people. As an allegory and a fable, Animal Farm presents figures which also symbolise abstract qualities such as greed, ambition, naivety and ruthlessness.

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in Animal Farm.

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  1. Snowball paints the commandments on the wall, organises the animals into committees and creates plans for the windmill. He exercises leadership through which of the following?
    Inspiration can easily give rise to empty promises and education can also become indoctrination, tactics which the other pigs put to use after the banishment of Snowball. Snowball does not fully believe in equality, since he accepts better conditions for those engaged in intellectual labour
  2. How do the humans show their enmity to Animal Farm?
    The human farmers wish for Animal Farm to fail at any cost and also punish their own animals if caught singing "Beasts of England". The stories about their protection of Snowball are invented by Napoleon to create a sense of fear on the farm
  3. Which of the sheep's characteristics are used against the possibility of dissent amongst the animals?
    The sheep are used as a weapon against the other animals. Their cry of "Four legs good, two legs bad" prevents the others from complaining, asking questions or disagreeing with the pigs
  4. Which of the following does NOT contribute to Napoleon's rise to leadership?
    Napoleon begins to cooperate with humans after he usurps leadership of the farm. The long germination of his plans is evident in his secret behaviour, especially in the training of the puppies into his own private security force
  5. "Here Squealer's demeanour suddenly changed. He fell silent for a moment, and his little eyes darted suspicious glances from side to side before he proceeded." What causes Squealer to feel suspicious while speaking to the other animals?
    Squealer is aware of the large gulf between his report of Boxer's death and the other animals' awareness of reality. He suspiciously guards the official report from alternative accounts
  6. What causes rebellion amongst the hens?
    The hens' rebellion is ruthlessly quashed, through starvation and the punishment of sympathisers. The rebellion also leads to a purge of ringleaders and a time of hysterical self-denouncement and general punishment of those perceived as internal enemies
  7. Which of the following is NOT true of Mollie?
    The other animals see the wearing of human clothes as humiliating, but Mollie does not agree. Mollie prefers luxuries and attentions to the life offered on the farm, even at the cost of wearing reins and a harness
  8. What does Boxer see as his responsibility to the animals' revolution?
    Boxer's two maxims are "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right". The second motto he adopts to cope with the anxiety produced by the terrifying expulsion of Snowball from the farm
  9. Clover occasionally asks Muriel to read out specific commandments that are written on the wall. Which of the following is true of her response to the altered commandments?
    Clover, like many of the animals, has a misplaced trust in authority, both that of the pigs and that expressed through writing
  10. Benjamin takes the long view, refusing to engage with debates or even to share his knowledge with the other animals. What finally prompts a change in his behaviour?
    Benjamin is so disturbed by the animals' misunderstanding of events when Boxer is taken away that he rouses them by reading the side of the van, explaining what is really happening to their faithful friend

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