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Animal Farm

George Orwell

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.

  1. Role-Playing.
    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 equality?
    • 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?
  1. 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 methods—protests, 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?
  1. Writing Propaganda.
    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.

  1. 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 J.R. Hammond:

    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.
  1. 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.

  2. Russian Revolution.
    Have students pick one of the historical figures of the Russian Revolution—Marx, Lenin, Stalin, or Trotsky—and 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.