Animal Farm - Preparing your answer

Before writing your answer, it is important that you plan it carefully. You must ensure that all the points you make are relevant to the question and that you are hitting the Assessment Objectives.

In your plan indicate how you are going to support your idea, what textual references you are going to use - preferably direct quotations.

Below is a structure you could use for your answer:

  1. Introduction - show you know where in the text the extract comes from.
  2. Who is Old Major?
  3. The inequality of the animals’ current situation.
  4. The hypocrisy of Old Major.
  5. How inequality returns after the rebellion.
  6. Conclusion - sum up your main ideas.

Sample answers

If we take the second point in detail - the inequality of the animals’ current situation - we should be able to find some answers.

Sample answer 1

In his speech, Old Major makes the animals question their lives, he says 'what is the nature of this life of ours?'. This makes the animals think about their position on the farm and wonder whether they are equal to the humans, I think it is clear that they are not happy with their lives. This is like Russia in the 1900s when Lenin inspired the peasant people to rise up against the Tsar because their living conditions were not equal. Old Major then mentions that 'we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies'. This makes the animals think about how they are not given enough food, again this is similar to the peasants in Russia who had very little food compared to the ruling classes. I think that the animals are resentful that the humans get more food than they do.

Feedback - good but could be improved.

  • The candidate has clearly understood the text and the character of Old Major. They have engaged with the theme of inequality. They have responded personally to the text - ‘I think’- and they use evidence from the text to support their answer.
  • Unfortunately, their analysis of the language is minimal, they need to consider the impact of individual words - how do they affect the reader? How does the language highlight the theme in question? There is also a lack of comment on structure and form.
  • The candidate mentions the historical context of the novel; their comments are relevant to the question. However, they are not always linked to the topic of the question.
  • Their expression is clear and spelling, punctuation and grammar is good.

Sample answer 2

Old Major’s speech in the opening of the novel helps to highlight a number of aspects of the theme of inequality, an important part of Orwell’s satire. He discusses how the animals are 'forced to work to the last atom of our strength'. From this it is clear to see that the animals are unhappy about the inequality that exists between their workload and that of the humans. The image of their 'last atom' of strength emphasises just how little is left of them once the humans have exploited them for labour. This was much the same in Russia during the early 1900s when peasant workers were taken advantage of by the Tsar of the time. Old Major then goes on to say that 'The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth'. The mention of 'slavery' especially highlights the inequality the animals experience, they are not merely workers, but slaves. This again highlights how many of the peasant workers felt in Russia before the revolution of 1917. Animal Farm is also a fable with a moral or lesson, Orwell wants the reader to learn from the speech of Old Major and question whether they are a victim of inequality.

Feedback - much better!

  • The candidate clearly understands not just this extract and the character but also the main themes of the novel. They are thoroughly engaged with the text.
  • They have a clear focus on the language - exploring the images and the impact of single words, considering how they relate to the question.
  • Historical context is mentioned and importantly is linked to the question. They understand that the novel reflects the inequality in Russia during the early 1900s.
  • The candidate has also reflected on the structure of the novel, mentioning that the speech is at the opening of the novel - they could say how this speech then forces the animals to rebel against inequality and starts the events of the novel in motion.
  • The answer is clear and well written. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are accurate.

Using the skills you’ve learnt and revised in this section, have a go at writing the Animal Farm essay. Time yourself and make sure you’re meeting the examiner’s Assessment Objectives.