Animal Farm: Summary: Chapter 1
In Orwell's first chapter, the reader is introduced to all of his wonderful animals— with two important exceptions: Snowball and Napoleon (two characters who will become the focus later). Obviously most of the chapter is intended to spark pity and a sense of sympathy for the poor, suffering farm animals, but the old Major's words are very telling. The "wise" old pig addresses the central conflict of the book, and of Orwell's intended meaning-- tyranny. The first (and seemingly only) dictatorship the animals must overcome is the rule of Mr. Jones and the other humans.
The boar asserts, "Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."
The speech, as intended, is very inspiring and encouraging to the tired, troubled farm animals. They even sing the words to old Major's dream five times in succession before Mr. Jones blasts the side of the barn with a shotgun. Unfortunately for the animals, the old Major's naivety is not revealed. The ideal society he proposes is of course only an ideal-- but the animals don't know this. Perhaps even the old sow himself is too caught up in emotion to understand the complexities of the solution he submits.
Old Major does know a few things though. He boldly warns all of them, "Your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest....we must not come to resemble him...No animal must ever live in a house or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade."
Ironically, Napoleon isn't present to hear the words of this prophet. The future only seems optimistic; even old Major seems content. Little does he know, the foreshadowing of his comments seem almost too obvious to the mindful reader.
Toward the end of the section the animals vote on whether wild animals, like rats and rabbits, are going to be considered their friends or foes. They overwhelmingly agree that the rats and rabbits are to be friends, although Orwell doesn't say why. Perhaps this is a mistake-- the first step to the overtaking of their revolution. Only time will tell for the animals.
One subtle point-- Orwell's use of the word "comrades" seems very interesting in a setting which supposedly takes place in England. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the influx of communist ideology or maybe it's just a...coincidence.