Animal Farm - Language

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language in Animal Farm by George Orwell. Language choice is one of the most fascinating aspects of Animal Farm. Deceptively simple language conveys the bewildering means by which a new utopia develops into another terrifying and oppressive regime. Napoleon and his propagandist Squealer, as well as the other pig leaders, use language as a weapon by changing history and obscuring the truth. In this text, those who are less literate and therefore unable to use language with the same ease and for the same range of purposes are at a terrible disadvantage.

Analysing language in a text

Visual elements of a text, such as layout, font and illustration, are important, of course, but language is the primary medium through which a reader understands a text.

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Authors use language with precision. Beyond the literal meaning of each word you will find a wealth of symbolic meanings and other associations. Imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification, and other literary effects are all created through the careful selection and combination of words. Dialogue, setting and characterisation all rely on an author’s skilful use of language.

Greater understanding rewards close attention to language choices. Allow yourself time to linger over words rather than being content with the surface meaning. What does the specific use of language suggest? Are you invited to think about anything else? The author has chosen this language carefully, which means that you should devote similar time and care to your analysis, enabling you to decipher the text’s deeper meanings.

Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of a text.

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  1. "They listened in astonishment while Snowball conjured up pictures of fantastic machines which would do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation." What effect does the use of the word "conjure" have here?
    To the animals, machines which could accomplish all of their work for them belong in the realm of magic
  2. "Yes, it was theirs — everything that they could see was theirs! In the ecstasy of that thought they gambolled round and round, they hurled themselves into the air in great leaps of excitement. They rolled in the dew, they cropped mouthfuls of the sweet summer grass, they kicked up clods of the black earth and snuffed its rich scent." Which words convey the animals' sense of ecstasy and excitement here?
    The verbs are active and chosen to provide a vivid image of the animals' great joy. Most of the other words illustrate the natural wonders filling the animals with ecstasy
  3. "Napoleon ended his speech with his usual cry of 'Long live Animal Farm!' and after the singing of 'Beasts of England' the animals were dismissed." What is implied by the use of the word "dismissed"?
    After Napoleon becomes the leader, the animals are ordered around rather than encouraged
  4. "Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing?" Why is the number of chins significant here?
    The most striking similarity in looks between the men and the pigs is the multiple chins each one has, designating their greed. Greed brings them together, along with their negative actions, such as lying, which are also motivated by greed
  5. "On Sunday mornings Squealer, holding down a long strip of paper with his trotter, would read out to them lists of figures proving that the production of every class of foodstuff had increased by two hundred per cent, three hundred percent, or five hundred per cent, as the case might be. The animals saw no reason to disbelieve him, especially since they could no longer remember very clearly what conditions had been like before the Rebellion." Which phrase implies that the animals are suspicious of Squealer?
    By mentioning the possibility of disbelief, Orwell draws attention to the way that the animals are compelled to question Squealer and his figures (at least in the privacy of their thoughts), even if they subsequently decide to believe him
  6. "Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so. And Squealer, who happened to be passing at this moment, attended by two or three dogs, was able to put the whole matter in its proper perspective." Which of the following phrases does NOT appear as reassuring?
    The style of narration in these two sentences first creates unease, then the acceptance of the existence of words as proof that the commandment had not been remembered correctly. The association of reassuring phrases with the appearance of Squealer conveys his constant surveillance of the thoughts and beliefs of the other animals on the farm
  7. "The stupidest questions of all were asked by Mollie, the white mare." In using the word "stupidest", the narrator speaks from whose viewpoint?
    An unspecified consensus of animals agrees that Mollie's questions are stupid. Throughout the novella, the narrator voices the thoughts and perceptions of the pro-rebellion animals, but never those of the pigs or the sheep, who are only observed from the outside
  8. "Hitherto the animals had had little or no contact with Whymper on his weekly visits: now, however, a few selected animals, mostly sheep, were instructed to remark casually in his hearing that rations had been increased." The phrase "instructed to remark casually" is an example of which of the following?
    "Instructed" and "remark casually" contradict one another. The content of the instruction, its purpose and its method are all instances of deceit, a prevalent feature of the farm almost from the moment of its inception
  9. "Then Napoleon stood up to reply. He said very quietly that the windmill was nonsense and that he advised nobody to vote for it, and promptly sat down again; he had spoken for barely thirty seconds, and seemed almost indifferent to the effect he produced." Considering the imminent appearance of Napoleon's private security force, the dogs, what is the effect of the description of him speaking "very quietly"?
    Napoleon's disdain for reasoned argument and persuasion is chilling
  10. "If they went hungry, it was not from feeding tyrannical human beings; if they worked hard, at least they worked for themselves." How could the tone of this sentence best be described?
    By the end of the novella, the animals have resigned themselves to their dreary lives, hoping for better days. Their one consolation is that they do not work for human beings any longer and have no master

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