Even though the characters in this book are animals that can talk, don’t go thinking this is like the movie "Babe," with cute piglets and stuff. This is one of those books where the characters in the story "represent" some big political thing. Orwell was into political stuff. The novel has a lot in common with the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia when the poor people were fed up with the rich people and decided to kick their ass. The first leader of the poor people was Lenin. He wanted to make everyone equal, so that there would be no poor people and no rich people. Then Lenin died, and two guys battled to take his spot: Stalin and Trotsky. Eventually Stalin won and controlled the Communist Party: poor people. The rich people lost in the end. More than that particular historical event, Animal Farm is a warning about politics and society and greed.
Old Major: A wise pig whose ideas start the animal rebellion. He dies before it starts though.
Napoleon: A pig who fights to be the leader after Old Major dies.
Big Brother: He is not a person, and he’s not someone’s brother. He’s a mysterious person who is supposedly the leader of the party. His picture is all over the place on posters that say BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. Nobody has seen him in person, but everyone is scared of him and obeys him.
Snowball: A pig who fights to be the leader after Old Major dies.
Squealer: A pig who spreads propaganda; ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
Boxer and Clover: Two horses that are pretty dumb. All they do is work.
Mollie: A horse who leaves when the animals revolt.
Benjamin: A donkey who doesn’t believe in the animal revolution, but does his work anyway because he is devoted to his friend Boxer. He survives in the end.
Dogs: The animal police.
Sheep: They follow everyone.
Moses: A raven that tells stories.
The Pigeons: Messengers who travel beyond the farm to spread the word of the rebellion.
Farmer Jones: The guy who owns the farm.
Pilkington: A polite human.
Frederick: A jerky human.
Whymper: A human go-between for the animals and the humans.
Manor Farm is owned by this drunken guy named Farmer Jones. He has many animals on this farm. One night, the farmer goes to bed drunk, and the animals have a meeting. This old pig named Old Major tells the other animals that he had this dream about men making animals their slaves. They then talk about how men use animals then kill them, and how all men are evil. They form a revolutionary group and agree that animals rock and that man is the enemy. The animals also learn a song called "Beasts of England" which is like their rebel anthem. Old Major dies after this, but the animals want to continue with his plan.
One night, Farmer Jones goes to bed and forgets to feed the animals. So the animals go into the barn to feed themselves. Farmer Jones finds them and whips them but the animals fight back. The men lose and they are chased off the farm. The animals then change the name of the farm to "Animal Farm," and write up some rules to live by.
The animals run the farm and do all the chores. Every Sunday they celebrate their rebellion. Then Farmer Jones and his men try to take the farm back from the animals, but the men get their asses kicked again. There’s a lot of tension between Napoleon and Snowball. Snowball wants to build a windmill but Napoleon doesn’t. So Napoleon tells his dogs to attack Snowball. Snowball survives and escapes the mean dogs. After Napoleon takes over the farm, he changes his mind and wants to build a windmill. There is a problem with the pigs, because they start to sleep in beds which violates the 4th commandment. But the pigs keep adding on stuff to the rules, so the new version reads "No animal shall sleep in a bed WITH SHEETS". A storm destroys the windmill. Napoleon blames it on Snowball. He then feels that snowball is a dirty traitor, and has been destroying lots of stuff on Animal Farm. So Napoleon gathers all the animals in the yard, then brings out some animals who he believes are traitors with Snowball. After they admit their crime, Napoleon’s dogs rip out their throats. The farmer next door, Mr. Frederick, tries to kill the animals and take over the farm. He blows up the windmill (after it was repaired) and kills many animals. But, once again, the animals win the fight.
Then begins the decline of Animal Farm. They break all of the animal rules, or change the rules so they can do certain things like drink. As years go by, many new animals come on the farm, and they slowly run out of food. To survive, the animals start to act more like humans: they walk on two legs, and wear clothes.
By the end of the book, the animals have no rules anymore, and the pigs start to have business dealings with human farmers.