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Animal Farm - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz will see how well you understand the text in Animal Farm by George Orwell. Before you can analyse and write about a text, you need to understand it. This is not always as easy as it sounds. After all, if authors only had a simple message to convey, why would it take them hundreds of pages and thousands of words in which to do so? Reading a text written long ago, or one from another country, or maybe just written in a strong dialect, can make your task a little more difficult. Sometimes you need to get used to how a particular author writes before you begin to understand the text properly.

Authors have a variety of methods which they use to convey meaning. It is not often that they state what they mean directly.

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Instead, authors communicate with their readers through character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue. Think about each of these elements and try to understand the text as you read. Re-reading can often be a big help, especially if it becomes clear that you might not have understood everything the first time. If you do find that you need to read a text again, don’t worry! Most people have to re-read texts or parts of texts and realising that you need to do so just proves that you are paying attention!

In reading a text, comprehension operates on several levels simultaneously. Consider how context and setting relate to events and how events relate to each other. Creating a timeline of events is one very useful method for understanding a text. Don’t forget that events are not always revealed in the order in which they occur chronologically. One useful aid to revision is to create chapter summaries, which will help you to visualise the structure of the text, especially when that differs from the chronological timeline.

Consider how actions reveal the characters’ motivations. Do you need to examine the text for clues to explain their behaviour? Should you take their words at face value, or will you need to examine the subtext of those words more closely? Do characters’ actions match their words? Try to answer why or why not, justifying your views by referring in detail to the text.

One great method of revision is to analyse beginnings and endings. Why does the text begin as it does? Does the narrator tell you directly about the characters’ pasts or do you find out the information in another way? Is there any distance between the narrator and the time when the reported events took place? How is foreshadowed accomplished? Analyse individual chapters similarly, considering the significance of their individual beginnings and endings. Careful and detailed analysis of this sort will help you to dramatically improve your knowledge and understanding of the text!

Read the questions below on Animal Farm and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. Which song rouses the animals to such excitement that they awaken Mr Jones?
    "Beasts of England" speaks of a vision of a time when animals are free from heavy labour and all of the signs of servitude. The song is later replaced by "Animal Farm, Animal Farm"
  2. How might Benjamin best be described?
    Benjamin is not caught up in the excitement of the other animals and is suspicious of the motives of the leaders. He is not uncaring, but neither does he attempt to challenge the pigs
  3. What do the animals need that cannot be produced on the farm?
    The pigs begin trading for luxury items, such as lamp oil, candles and sugar, as well as the necessary materials for building the schoolroom for the piglets. These luxury items are added to the absolute essentials which the farm already required
  4. To which genre does Animal Farm belong?
    Orwell's novella is a moral fable which teaches a lesson through the use of animal characters; it is also a satire of specific political events as well as an allegory of revolutionary movements more generally
  5. Why do the pigs and neighbouring farmers dine together at the end of Animal Farm?
    The other farmers are impressed with the low rations received by the workers, the high number of hours worked and the tough conditions on the farm. They no longer feel threatened by the existence of an animal-run farm neighbouring their properties
  6. Which of the following is the first clue that Napoleon should not be trusted by the other animals?
    On the very first day of the revolution, while the animals are full of hope for a better future, Napoleon already seeks his own private gain
  7. How would the relationship between Snowball and Napoleon best be characterised?
    The two pigs are deadly rivals. They disagree in all of the public meetings and debates. It is only when Snowball has been banished by the secret army of dogs that Napoleon is able to set himself up as leader
  8. Where is Boxer taken?
    Boxer has been traded by Napoleon for a case of whisky. The writing on the side of the van which carts him away indicates that he will be used for glue, bone meal and dog food
  9. What does the Sugarcandy Mountain symbolise?
    The animals are promised that when they die after a lifetime of hard work, they will go to Sugarcandy Mountain, a land of freely-available plenty. Moses the raven represents a religious leader who unscrupulously promises heaven to the poor as a compensation for a lifetime of patient, uncomplaining labour
  10. Which of the following first prompts the animals' revolutionary spirit?
    Revolutionary fervour is sparked when Major gathers the animals to tell them of his dream and of his belief in the equality of all animals and the enmity of humans to animals

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