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.
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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