GCSE Animal Farm – Character Profile: Old Major and Benjamin
Old Major is the equivalent of Karl Marx and Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin . Old Major dreams of a better future for the animals. He is committed to equality and all animals being treated fairly. Old Major is very much against humans and the way they treat animals. He feels that all humans are similar to Jones and thinks that it is important that the animals run the farm for themselves. He thinks that without Man, the animals would be happy.
Old Major is one of the oldest and wisest pigs on the farm. He is aware that he is near death and wants to pass on his wisdom and his vision of Animalism. He is very kind and caring but can be idealistic. He says that “let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship” and he really believes this. He doesn’t see that some of the animals are not interested in Animalism and more concerned about their own needs being met. His ideas about the future are very clear though. He feels that the animals lives are terrible because of the humans but if the animals took over they could run the farm and every animal would have an equal say in what happens. He doesn’t see that some of the animals may have the same negative traits that humans have and be unable or unwilling to share and compromise or work hard.
Before Old Major’s death, he sets out a number of clear rules for the animals to live by. Many of the rules are about the animals not adopting human vices and about equality. This is Old Major’s way of giving the animals clarity of his message and what his hopes for the future are.
Benjamin is very much the opposite of Old Major. He is a grumpy and bad tempered donkey who never laughs. He doesn’t believe in Animalism and is cynical about a rebellion. Although he is very intelligent, and is one of the few literate animals in the farm, he sees no point in using his skills.
Benjamin is more realistic than Old Major and sees the “hardship and disappointment” thatis all around him. He sees it is not just humans that are accountable for this. He doesn’t do anything to stop the pigs though. With his intellect and use of language he would be one of the animals that could have stood up for the other animals, much like Snowball. But Benjamin does nothing. This could suggest that Orwell is disappointed that many people seem unwilling or unable to challenge the tyrannical leader in Russia.
The only time that Benjamin tries to stand up for anyone is when he realises what is happening to Boxer. He raises the alarm but it is too late for Boxer as he is taken away to be sold. It is an important turning point for Benjamin but it is just too late to make any real difference at the farm.
Orwell uses Benjamin to represent the intellectual Russians who realise that communism will not solve the injustices of society. Benjamin realises that everyone is different and not all of their needs can be met through equality. Some people (and animals) crave power, are lazy, are cunning and manipulative and will do anything to gain control of others. Old Major does not see these flaws in the animals. He believes them all to be good and if they had the opportunity to share what they had, whether it be food or power, that they would happily share what they had and could live in his utopia vision of the future.