Old Major in Animal Farm

The pig, Old Major, sat ona box with the words: well respected, good leader and intelligent around him.

Old Major is Mr Jones' prize boar. He gathers all the animals together in the big barn to make a speech. He tells the animals that mankind and Mr Jones are the 'enemy', it is their fault that the animals' lives are miserable. He points out how cruel the men are to the animals - consuming without producing. He says that one day a rebellion will come - the animals will overthrow mankind and live in harmony.

Old Major is very intelligent, well-respected, an excellent speaker and an inspiration to the animals. He ends his speech by teaching the animals a song called Beasts of England. It is about a time when animals are free and humans are overthrown. He dies shortly after giving his speech and the other pigs take what they learnt from him and create 'Animalism', a set of rules for animals to live by.

How is Old Major like this?Evidence from the textAnalysis
Well-respectedEvery other animal is willing to go out of their way to hear Old Major's speech.[Old Major] was so highly regarded on the farm that everyone was quite ready to lose an hour's sleep in order to hear what he had to say.It is clear that the others respect Old Major. So much so that they will even lose some sleep to hear his thoughts. Rest time must have been very precious during Mr Jones' rule.
Good speakerDuring his speech, Old Major uses a range linguistic techniques such as part of rhetoric to persuade and inspire the other animals."Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems."Old Major persuades the animals that he is right by using emotive words like 'miserable' to pull on the animals' heartstrings. He also uses questions and inclusive pronouns like 'comrades' and 'our' to involve them in his ideas.
IntelligentOld Major has lived a long time and learned many lessons from his experiences."I have had a long life, I have had much time for thought as I lay alone in my stall, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living."Old Major has had a long time to consider the 'nature of life'. During this time he has learned so much that he is confident that he understands it 'as well as any animal now living.'

Social and historical context

Two portrait photos, one of Karl Marx and the other Vladimir Lenin
Old Major is partly based on Karl Marx (left) and Vladimir Lenin (right)

Old Major is partly based on Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Karl Marx was a German philosopher who lived during the 19th-century. His ideas formed the basis of communism - his ideas are collectively known as 'Marxism', like 'Animalism' in the novel. He developed theories on how power structures in society keep people under control. Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary who established a form of Marxism in Russia in the early 20th-century.

Analysing the evidence

quote
Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work day and night, body and soul for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you comrade: Rebellion!Old Major
Question

Looking at this extract from the book, how does Old Major use rhetorical devices to persuade the other animals to join him?

How to analyse the quote:

"Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work day and night, body and soul for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you comrade: Rebellion!"

  • "is it not crystal clear...that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?" - rhetorical devices are used to convincing effect.
  • "comrades" / "our" / "we" - inclusive pronouns directly address his audience.
  • "rich and free" / "day and night" - conveys his points in a clear and memorable way.

How to use this in an essay:

Old Major uses a wide range of rhetorical devices to persuade the animals to join him. First he uses the rhetorical question 'is it not crystal clear...that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?' - it does not require an answer, in fact it is more of a statement. By presenting a statement as a question he can engage his audience more effectively. He also uses inclusive pronouns throughout his speech, such as 'comrades' and 'our' and 'we', again this helps involve the animals in the speech, he is directly addressing them, uniting them as comrades, friends and allies. He is giving the impression that their struggle is his struggle and that they are all in this together. The use of easily memorable phrases "rich and free" and "day and night" help get across his point in a clear way, the animals can remember these phrases and pass them on to others.