Sample Analytical Paper Topics
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help get you started.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This statement by Lord Acton, sent in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton on April 5, 1887, provides the basis for understanding the effects of power on the heads of state, and it furnishes insight into one of the main themes in the novel Animal Farm. Write a paper that shows how power affects the characters, the events and the outcome of the book.
I. Thesis Statement: Animal Farm is a historical novel, set in England but dealing with the events leading up to and after the Russian Revolution of 1917. It illustrates the idea expressed by Lord Acton that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This abuse of power can be demonstrated by studying Napoleon’s actions in the book.
II. Power on Animal Farm before the Rebellion
A. Man has absolute power, taking without producing
B. Jones operates the Manor Farm with no regard for his animals
1. Animals aren’t fed
2. Animals are slaughtered
3. No animal lives its life to a natural end
4. Animal families are broken up by the sale of the young
A. Old Major holds the key to power: eliminate man
B. The pigs are the leaders even before the Rebellion
1. They are more clever than the others
2. They are assertive, sitting in the front at the meeting
3. They teach themselves to read
4. They are the organizers forming various animal committees.
IV. The Rebellion
A. Elimination of man creates a “power vacuum”
B. Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer become the new leaders that fill the vacuum
C. Pigs get special privileges—milk and apples
V. The Harvest
A. Pigs are the supervisors
B. They make the work schedules
C. They move into the harness room
D. Special privileges for the pigs are said to be necessary to keep Jones away
VI. The Windmill
A. Napoleon and Snowball vie for control of the farm
B. Napoleon eliminates the competition
1. He uses the dogs to expel Snowball
2. Squealer discredits Snowball
C. Napoleon assumes the power to run Animal Farm
VII. Changes on Animal Farm
A. Trade with the humans
1. The arrival of Mr. Whymper
2. The sale of a stack of hay
3. The sale of part of the wheat...
(The entire section is 1097 words.)
Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Animal Farm” by George Orwell that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Animal Farm” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Animal Farm” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Animal Farm” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
For background, here is a general plot summary of Animal Farm
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power of Words, Language, and Rhetoric in Animal Farm
From the rousing song, “Beasts of England" to the commandments and subsequent changing of them by Napoleon, the main source of power throughout the novel results from language and the use of rhetoric. Without language and the power of words in Animal Farm, the rebellion never would have taken place and certainly the end result of Napoleon’s complete takeover would never have happened. Through the impressive rhetorical and propaganda skills of Squealer and the skillful manipulation of meaning by other characters, reality is shaped by words—for better or for worse. By demonstrating how easily swayed the animals of the farm are by a powerful speech or strong words, Orwell is demonstrating something via a fable about the human vulnerability to carefully chosen words and out unfortunate ability to fall victim to the power of words without understanding the deeper meanings behind them. For this essay, go through the book and look for sections where Squealer is speaking or arranging words. This will provide you with a great group of quotes to eventually work in and build around.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Class Issues in Animal Farm
Throughout the novel the issue of class is an important theme, both in terms of what it means to the animals before the rebellion and even more significantly, what happens after. There is never a moment that the class distinctions in Animal Farm by George Orwell disappear. From the very beginning, all of the animals are ruled by the “human class" and then by Snowball, then by Napoleon. In this novel it seems that class stratification is an almost vital element. For this essay, use the phrase, “All animals are equal… but some are more equal than others" and trace the decline of equality in classes as Napoleon gains more power. If this is not complex enough and you would like a more challenging alternative, consider the ways in which the farm is a mini society and examine how the workers and ruling class interact with one another and how the one is subjected while the other maintains control. This might be most effective if you incorporate ideas from Essay Topic #1 and examine the way language is used to manipulate the “dumber" classes of workers.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Corrupting Influence of Power in Animal Farm
Animal Farm is a social and political fable / allegory about the influences and nature of power and how it can be used for ultimate good or absolute evil. At the beginning of Animal Farm power was used to achieve great things; it brought all members of Manor Farm together under a united cause and allowed them gain their freedom from oppression. After this initial positive influence of power, however, it began to destroy the community that had worked together to form a utopia in Animal Farm by George Orwell. After this point, power struggles emerged and served to divide rather than unite the animals of the farm. For this essay, look at how power was a corrupting and ultimately negative influence by the end of the book. For organizational purposes, choose three characters (and mention them in your thesis statement by stating “this can be seen by the development of characters such as ….) and trace the way power has negatively impacted them. It is suggested that Snowball, Mr. Jones, and Napoleon be used in this analysis but there are other great examples as well.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Animal Farm in Historical and Social Context
In many ways, Animal Farm is a complete allegorical / fable –like retelling of the founding of the Soviet Union, complete with a rebellion and eventual installation of a dictator. Like the ideological battle that was raged in Russia between the classes, the one that is played out in this novel have many of the same themes, including an initial push to strengthen the working class, a strong beginning movement of nationalism and unity, a series of successful efforts to topple the ruling authority (Mr. Jones), all followed by a complete totalitarian takeover by a dictator who is a hypocrite and goes back on many of the promises he made at the height of the revolutionary action. For an essay on this subject, it would be useful to spend a good two paragraphs detailing the events of the Russian Revolution and subsequent Communist rule before looking at how the history and the novel are alike. The thesis statement would be as simple as stating that there are many parallels between the Russian Revolution and ensuing Communist takeover and the events in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: From Utopia to Distopia
(You can argue either way in this thesis statement): The society represented in Animal Farm during the height of Napoleon’s presents an example of a dystopia. Although the society was founded after the rebellion with great ideals about the future of Manor Farm, the influences of power and greed finally gave way and the residents of Manor Farm were far worse then they were under Mr. Jones. For this essay, you could go multiple directions. On the one hand, you can claim that it was a utopia after Napoleon because a great deal of work was being done and it was an efficient society. On the other hand (and it might be one heck of a lot easier) you can claim that a quintessential dystopia was created. If you are allowed to make outside connections to other works, use 1984 as a reference and look at Orwell’s sense of utopias / dystopias as reflected in either work. This would make for an excellent argumentative or comparison (to 1984) essay; just make sure your thesis statement is strong and solid.
For background, here is a general plot summary of Animal Farm
(For an excellent example of an essay on Animal Farm, .)
(For a great essay on Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies in terms of their representations of utopias and dystopias, check this out)
This list of important quotations from “Animal Farm” by George Orwell will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Animal Farm” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
* All page numbers for the following quotes refer to the 1989 Penguin Edition. *
“Comrades! You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in selfishness and privilege? Milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brain workers; the organization of the farm totally depends on us" (42).
“Squealer could turn black into white" (11).
“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plow, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals" (19).
“Napoleon was a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only one of those on the farm. He was not much of a talker, but had a reputation for getting his own way" .. Snowball was a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive but did not have the character depth that Napoleon did" (25).
“Napoleon took no interest in Snowball’s committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up" (51).
“Every day Snowball and Napoleon sent out flights of pigeons whose instructions were to mingle with the animals on neighboring farms, tell them the story of the Rebellion, and teach them the tune Beasts of England" (54).
At the meetings, Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times" (63).
“For we know now, it is all written down in the secret documents that we have found—that in reality he [Snowball] was trying to lure us to our doom" (80).
“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others" (114).
“All men are enemies; all animals are comrades" (31).
“Now, when Squealer described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the animals that they did remember if. At any rate, they remembered that at the critical moment of the battle, Snowball had turned to flee" (91).
“the execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act" (96).
“The animals believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Hones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that they were usually working when they were not asleep but doubtless it has been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail not point out" (115).
“Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer—except, of course, the pigs and the dogs" (86).