Theme: When Power Corrupts
Grades: Grades 9-10
After realizing their desire for freedom, the animals of Manor Farm
chase Mr. Jones off his property and take control. They learn many lessons
as they struggle to define and create an ideal community. The novel,
presented as a fable, uses animals to comment on human society and nature.
Animal Farm satirizes the events of the Russian Revolution and
the years following, from 1917 to 1943.
Have students discuss or role-play one of the situations that follow:
- Your school gets a new principal and she changes all the old
rules, some in ways that seem unfair. Some students organize a
protest and ask for a voice in setting rules. The principal rejects
this without explanation. What will you do? What guidelines will
you follow to determine how far your protest should go to gain
- You are reading two different newspapers one day, and you see
that they tell different versions of the same event. How do you
decide which to believe?
- Linking to Today: Changing Society.
Help students look into their views about how to change society. Begin
by having students name a wrong in society such as large companies
influencing politicians, or powerful people promoting racism. Have
them identify the reasons their example speaks to something that is
wrong, and how people should change it. During the discussion, have
students think about both the morality and the effectiveness of the
various ways to change societal wrongs. Who has the power to make
changes in a democratic society? How do people make those changes
happen? Have students consider past methodsprotests, violence,
lawsuits, elections, marches, and so on. Finally, the discussion should
address the question of long-range effects: What is the most effective
method for change?
To get firsthand experience with propaganda, have students write
a description of a school policy, real or imagined. First have them
use an informational, objective style that would be appropriate
for a newspaper. Then have them rewrite the article as propaganda,
changing language, emphasis, and altering content to reflect the
interests of an individual trying to manipulate student opinion.
Have students present the main points of their articles in a speech.
- Student Panel.
Organize a group of students into a panel. Divide them into two teams
and tell them to each take a position on the following comments by
One of the reasons why the book has such a wide appeal today is
that it possesses those timeless qualities which enable readers of
different generations and different cultures to apply its lessons
to their own circumstances. One commentator has shrewdly observed:
"There have been, are, and always will be pigs in every society, Orwell
states, and they will always grab power. Even more cruel is the conclusion
that everyone in the society, wittingly or unwittingly, contributes
to the pigs' tyranny." The book is then a profoundly pessimistic fable.
Encourage students to cite examples both from the book and from history
to defend their positions.
- Socialism vs. Communism.
Have students research the two political systems of socialism and
communism and write a comparison. Identify the principles the systems
have in common; then explain how the two systems differ. Instruct
them to mention at least one nation today which employs each system.
- Russian Revolution.
Have students pick one of the historical figures of the Russian RevolutionMarx,
Lenin, Stalin, or Trotskyand write a research essay describing
both his personal strengths and his role in the Russian Revolution.
Instruct them to include how well Orwell's allegorical portrayal in
Animal Farm supports their research.