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Animal Farm - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the first of two extract questions for George Orwell's Animal Farm. It takes place in Chapter III and describes the education programme introduced on the farm. Snowball has created several committees, such as the Wild Comrades’ Re-education Committee and the Whiter Wool Movement, for the betterment of the animals. In this passage, the divergence in views between Snowball and Napoleon becomes apparent. Other issues which will later prove contentious on the farm also begin to arise at this early stage.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Always aim to read the passage through carefully more than once before you begin to answer an extract question for an exam.

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Each read-through will allow you to notice different aspects and particular details from the passage, so re-reading is never a waste of time. On the first read-through, aim for a general understanding of the extract, considering how it relates to the question you have chosen to answer. During a second reading, make detailed notes and annotations as you carefully plan how you will answer the question.

Think about any reason why the specific passage might have been chosen. What is its relationship to the rest of the text? Which significant characters or themes does it include? What happens after the extract comes to a close? Are any later events foreshadowed, or earlier events referenced? Does the passage present a turning point? Consider the ending of the extract: why does it ends where it does instead of somewhere else? What significance does the final line hold?

Note the wording of the question you have chosen to answer. Does it require you to write about mood and atmosphere? A particular character? A theme? The question might ask for your personal response to the passage or to a character. Perhaps instead the question focusses on dialogue, behaviour or feelings. Each of these will require a different sort of answer. You should always explain the passage’s immediate context: mention the events which precede the extract, considering their relevance. Detail, setting and characterisation should be mentioned insofar as they relate to the question. You should also analyse and discuss the relationship between the passage and the wider themes of the text. Structure your writing by grouping related ideas together. Ensure that you leave enough time to discuss the entire passage. It would be disappointing to treat one section so thoroughly that you run out of time to do justice to the rest of the extract!

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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The reading and writing classes, however, were a great success. By the autumn almost every animal on the farm was literate in some degree.

As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly. The dogs learned to read fairly well, but were not interested in reading anything except the Seven Commandments. Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than the dogs, and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings from scraps of newspaper which she found on the rubbish heap. Benjamin could read as well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty. So far as he knew, he said, there was nothing worth reading. Clover learnt the whole alphabet, but could not put words together. Boxer could not get beyond the letter D. He would trace out A, B, C, D in the dust with his great hoof, and then would stand staring at the letters with his ears back, sometimes shaking his forelock, trying with all his might to remember what came next and never succeeding. On several occasions, indeed, he did learn E, F, G, H, but by the time he knew them it was always discovered that he had forgotten A, B, C and D. Finally he decided to be content with the first four letters, and used to write them out once or twice every day to refresh his memory. Mollie refused to learn any but the five letters which spelt her own name. She would form these very neatly out of pieces of twig, and would then decorate them with a flower or two and walk round them admiring them.

None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A. It was also found that the stupider animals such as the sheep, hens and ducks, were unable to learn the Seven Commandments by heart. After much thought Snowball declared that the Seven Commandments could in effect be reduced to a single maxim, namely: “Four legs good, two legs bad”. This, he said contained the essential principle of Animalism. Whoever had thoroughly grasped it would be safe from human influences. The birds at first objected, since it seemed to them that they also had two legs, but Snowball proved to them that this was not so.

“A bird’s wing, comrades,” he said, “is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The distinguishing mark of Man is the hand, the instrument with which he does all his mischief.”

The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD, was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters. When they had once got it by heart the sheep developed a great liking for this maxim, and often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!” and keep it up for hours on end, never growing tired of it.

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. It happened that Jessie and Bluebell had both whelped soon after the hay harvest, giving birth between them to nine sturdy puppies. As soon as they were weaned Napoleon took them away from their mothers, saying that he would make himself responsible for their education. He took them up into a loft which could only be reached by a ladder from the harness-room, and there kept them in such seclusion that the rest of the farm soon forgot their existence.

The mystery of where the milk went to was soon cleared up. It was mixed every day into the pigs’ mash.

George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin Books, 1989)
  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    The period after successfully ousting Mr Jones is occupied with organisation as the animals set up the systems which will allow them to work together productively and enjoy their leisure time
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Squealer explains that the pigs need milk and apples because science has proven them necessary for their diet. His argument depends on the notion that pigs are more important to the running of the farm than any of the other animals and he also draws upon the animals' fear of the return of Mr Jones
  3. Napoleon's idea of education can best be described as which of the following?
    Napoleon's belief in educating the young, rather than the older animals, is revealed as sinister in light of later events. The dogs are trained as his private security force or army in a process known as "brainwashing". The dogs are not educated in the traditional sense, or for their own benefit, but are intended instead to serve Napoleon's needs
  4. Snowball is selflessly dedicated to the education of the other animals. Which of the following lines introduces some doubt about his character?
    The birds know that they have two legs, but Snowball is so persuasive that he can make them doubt even this most basic self knowledge
  5. "The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart." What problem does this passage reveal?
    Although the aim in developing a maxim derives from the wish to include all animals by simplifying the commandments, the oversimplified phrase eventually becomes almost meaningless and is later revised with ease. Snowball's explanation that the human ability to manipulate with the hand is at the heart of the matter is much too complex a meaning to be held by the simple maxim
  6. Which animal acts on the belief that literacy is a skill to use to the benefit of others?
    Although Muriel and Benjamin are similar in their level of literacy, Benjamin's cynicism means that he does not use his abilities for the sake of others, saying that "there was nothing worth reading". Muriel, on the other hand, reads whatever she can find to the other animals, even if it is only old news. With which animal do you agree?
  7. Sheep are known for behaving as a group, rather than as individuals, making them ideal as Napoleon's unthinking followers in Animal Farm. Their portrayal here also shows signs of which of the following?
    You can imagine: "Four legs good, two legs baaaaaaaad!" Animal Farm, while extraordinarily serious in its intentions, is also often very funny
  8. Mollie's educational focus reveals which characteristic?
    Mollie is frivolous and self-interested. She does not make an effort to become educated beyond the minimum required in order to increase her self-admiration
  9. Why does Napoleon choose the loft for raising the puppies?
    It is much easier for Napoleon to train the animals to kill if they have no other loyalties than to him
  10. Many of the animals' natural traits are shown to act against their ability to preserve their own welfare. Which of the following traits is NOT apparent in this passage?
    Many of the animals prove incapable of grasping more than the alphabet, and the birds trust Snowball, even without understanding him. Forgetfulness is highlighted in this passage: Boxer forgets the letters he has learned and all of the animals forget the existence of the puppies. Their forgetfulness later makes them mistrust the discrepancy between their memory of the commandments and the evidence written on the wall

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