Character Analysis of Old Major in Animal Farm
Old Major is the white boar, the winner of prizes in exhibitions under the name ‘Willingdon Beauty’. We meet him in the opening scene of the novel three days before his death. He has been cogitating for long about the animal conditions and the possibilities of a fair deal for them. At last he comes to the conclusion that as long as they are under the control of Man, their life will be short and miserable. He is decidedly of the view that only when man is dislodged from the saddle and expelled and animals take full control of the farm can a new era of their well-being begin. He has dreams of a blissful and blessed land where all the beasts of England will be their own masters and be equal among them in all respects. Avoiding all the habits of the humans, they can lay the foundation of a civilization that will be self sustained and viable.
Old Major is anxious to communicate this, his dream, to the animals in the Manor Farm, so that even when he is dead and gone the animals may work their way up to a better and happier communal life. The opportunity comes one night when their master Jones, is too drunk to shut the pop holes. Quickly the word goes round that old major will address a meeting of all the animals at the barn. Since he is held in great esteem and respect by the animals, all of them gather on the barn immediately.
Old Major lies on a straw platform at the end of the bar. Above him is suspended a lighted lantern. The animals listen to him with rapt attention. He is an accomplished orator. He says that before he communicates his dream he will tell them the conclusion he has reached after a long and close scrutiny of life. He points out that animals are kept on meager ration. The produce of the land is plentiful and the animals are chiefly instrumental in that plentiful production. But man appropriates to himself all that. Animals have no right even on their own offsprings.
Once an animal ceases to be of useful service to him, he is ruthlessly disposed of. Hence animals should rise in rebellion, drive out the two legged creatures and run the farm on a co-operative basis. Old Major is so convincing and persuasive in his speech that the animals agree to regard even such creatures as rats and rabbits their comrade. He has awakened such noble sentiments in the hearts of his fellow animals.
Old Major sums up his speech by pathetically saying that whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy, and whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend. Unlike man, an animal should not live in a house, sleep in a bed, drink alcohol, dress himself in clothes, smoke tobacco or have trade with human beings. Above all, there should be no distinction between animal and animal.
Old Major now sings a song no longer in vogue at that time but he had learnt it from his mother earlier. His voice is hoarse but he sings tolerably well. The song, beginning with the phrase “Beasts of England,” contemplates a time when man will be overthrown and the beasts of England will assume authority and control. All the symbols of man’s tyranny like the bit and spur, the ring and the chain, will all disappear and a bright and golden age will ensue for all of them. The song appeals to the animals tremendously and animals sing it in chorus five times in succession. Unfortunately, however, the noise wakes up Mr Jones from his morbid slumber and he fires shots in the dark, sending the animals back to their stalls. It is curious that no one notes that the old Major did not tell them of his dream in detail.
Three days later, the Old Major dies and is buried at the foot of the card. The pigs evolve a philosophy of animalism out of his sayings, and when ‘Manor Farm’ becomes Animal Farm the principles of Animals enshrined in seven commandments which are written in bold white letters on the tarred wall on the barn. Old Major’s grave becomes a place of pilgrimage. For some times, everyday morning, the animals march past the skull of their dead preceptor and prophet nailed to a post in the garden But when Napoleon becomes a full-fledged dictator and initiates the policy of co-existence with human beings, Major’s skull is removed from the post and the march past discontinued.
Old Major symbolizes Karl Marx in as much as he inspires a revolution almost akin to the October Revolution in Russia. The animal revolution however, took a peculiar course and gradually repudiated its inspirer.