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Animal Farm - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz challenges you on setting in Animal Farm by George Orwell. Setting in a text includes the location and the time in which the events take place. Texts can have several settings, of course, since events can occur in very different places and even times. Specific buildings and spaces are also settings within the primary setting. Events happening in the background, even when these are only alluded to by characters, also constitute part of a literary text’s setting, as do political and social issues. The wider fictional world is referred to as context (be careful not to confuse this with the author’s real-life context). Atmosphere, another key element of setting, will often change multiple times in a text.

How well can you visualise the setting or settings of your text?

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What effect does each setting have? Authors show their characters being affected by the world in which they live. The reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue of the characters will show the effect political or social events have on them.

Animal Farm has some highly-specific details about its setting, although it is vague in many ways, befitting its original designation as a fairy tale. It is relatively easy to envisage the farmhouse and the landscape, but somewhat more difficult to determine the time, or the number of years over which the events occur. This adds to the impression that the allegory applies to repeated events over the past as well as those which might take place in future.

Geographical elements, including region, country, environment, landscapes and buildings also constitute the setting of a text. Weather, too, plays a role (think about the change of seasons in Animal Farm, for example). How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?

Comparing the time a text is set with when it was written is a useful exercise. Do these times differ? What might be a reason for an author to choose to set a text in the past, present or future? How does our understanding of the story depend on such decisions? In the case of Animal Farm, you might also like to consider why the text is set in a country different from the one whose political turmoil it satirises.

Answer the questions below on setting in Animal Farm.

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  1. "Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs Jones was already snoring." Which one of the following is NOT achieved by this opening?
    The very next line introduces a surprising turn to focus on the animals: "As soon as the light in the bedroom went out there was a stirring and a fluttering all through the farm buildings"
  2. When do the events take place?
    The text includes a few details which would tie it to a specific time. One relevant detail is that Mr Jones reads the News of the World, which was published throughout the second half of the 19th century and all of the 20th. Horses draw carts and even the knacker's van, so the farm would fit almost any time in the century preceding its date of publication. Finally, the farmhouse has a lithograph of Queen Victoria on display. Taken together, these details still leave a wide time frame possible and the relatively-unspecified time suits the novella's original designation as a fairy tale
  3. Where do the animals first meet?
    The location is chosen because it offers a space large enough for the meeting while also being hidden away from Mr Jones
  4. The novel presents a rural setting that is not always a pastoral utopia, instead acknowledging the harsh annual cycle of farming life. Which of the following lines does NOT present this harsher side of farming life?
    The building of the windmill represents a focus on industrial production and its needs
  5. Which one of the following is NOT a significant site for the animals' Sunday ritual?
    After Snowball's banishment, the animals are made to walk reverently past Old Major's skull in its new position on the stump near the flagstaff
  6. Pinchfield, one of the farms neighbouring Animal Farm, is described as small and well-kept. Which of the following matches the description of Foxwood, the other neighbouring farm?
    The text describes Foxwood thus: "a large, neglected, old-fashioned farm, much overgrown by woodland, with all its pastures worn out and its hedges in a disgraceful condition"
  7. "The grass and the bursting hedges were gilded by the level rays of the sun." Which words create an image of a rich and fruitful farm?
    The hedge is "bursting" with life and the gilding effect of the sun's rays makes everything in view appear golden
  8. Animal Farm is set in which country?
    The setting of the novella is an ordinary English farm, although it satirises events in the Soviet Union
  9. Which of the following best describes the farmhouse?
    The animals are astounded at the luxury in which Mr and Mrs Jones had been living
  10. Which of the following best describes the mood of the final chapter when the pigs hold a banquet for their neighbours?
    The moment when the pigs and the people blend into one another is one of horror and despair

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