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Expository Example: Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Handout: Critical Essay Outline with explanations for each part
Handout: Blank outline which students can use as a guide
Critical Essay Guidelines includes essay question and examples
1. Teaching the critical essay
Theme: Education (or lack of it) in Animal Farm leads to exploitation of the lower animals. Totalitarianism thrives on an uneducated populace.
Begin with a series of quotes on a particular theme. Then ask yourself the following question: "So what does this quote have to do with my theme?" In this case the question would be "So what does this have to do with the importance of an education to avoid exploitation?" The answer to the question forms the basis of the explanation portion of a proof paragraph. From this basic outline, you can choose the examples that best support your thesis. Later, we will use this same method to develop theses of your own.
1. "this has been proved by Science, comrades" (42).
• first exploitation of animals’ lack of learning--Squealer explaining why pigs need apples and milk (see part 3 “Animal Farm Essay Guide” below for complete explanation of the quote)
2. "Animals listened first to Napoleon, then to Snowball, and could not make up their minds which was right; indeed, they always found themselves in agreement with the one who was speaking at the moment" (56).
• Ask, "So what does this have to do with the importance of an education?" If you can’t decide on your own, you’re doomed to follow.
3. "Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments. Even Boxer was vaguely troubled...but in the end could think of nothing to say" (59).
• after Snowball's expulsion and the abolition of Sunday meetings… How often does someone accept something because it’s too difficult to understand (e.g., how many of you read an internet agreement before you click “submit”?)?
4. "Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so" (69).
• changing of rules on wall--animals unable to prove anything without education. This is a staggering statement. It sounds unbelievable, yet how often do we go along with what our own government says even though we know somehow it’s wrong.
5. "'That was part of the arrangement!' cried Squealer. 'Jones's shot only grazed him. I could show you this in his own writing, if you were able to read it'" (80).
• total re-writing of history--without education, animals had to depend on what the pigs said--that's power.
6. "Such were her thoughts, though she lacked the words to express them" (86).
• Clover's reflection about the state of the farm following the massacre of the "traitors"--compared to pp. 30-31. She could see the change in the farm, yet didn't possess the ability to change it--no words.
7. "But when the animals saw the green flag flying, and heard the gun firing again...and heard the speech that Napoleon made... it did seem to them after all that they had won a great victory" (100).
• Boxer questions Squealer about the so-called "victory," but before his disbelief could be fully realized, the celebration convinced him otherwise. 78% of people in our region voted against public funding for stadiums, yet we have two new ones (and are still paying for the old one that was demolished). But aren’t they beautiful?
8. "None of the animals could form any idea as to what this meant, except old Benjamin who nodded his muzzle with a knowing air, and seemed to understand, but would say nothing" (102).
• Squealer falls from the ladder--painting the revised commandments. None of the animals knew what was happening--except Benjamin. Ask yourself, who is Benjamin?
Leads to Benjamin and Education:
Often a broad examination of a topic will expose a narrower path to explore. This is such an example.
1. "Benjamin could read as well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty... he said there was nothing worth reading" (40).
• avoidance of learning…is it an answer? How many of us say it doesn’t matter; it will never change?
2. "'Fools! Do you not see what is written on the side of that van?" (113).
• Benjamin's cry is falling upon ignorant ears. He said learning was useless, yet, as the pigs haul his best friend Boxer to the knackers, there is a certain poignancy to the animals' dumbfounded looks toward him.
3. "None of them proved able to learn the alphabet beyond the letter B. They accepted everything they were told about the Rebellion and the principles of Animalism..." (118).
• The future animals are less intelligent than the current ones. Benjamin's failure to pass on knowledge spells doom for the future of the farm. By his lack of involvement at the beginning, he has condemned the animals to slavery to a higher intelligence.
4. "They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they has nothing to go upon except Squealer's lists of figures" (119).
• without ability to read and write, history --the past-- is a shadow. It's what the pigs say it was. For advanced students, recommend 1984, which explores that theme to its destructive end.
5. "For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall...All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others" (123).
• finally Benjamin breaks his intellectual silence, but it is too late. The pigs have total control and will forever because of his inactivity.

2. Handout with outline
This is a handout you can print for your students that contains the basic essay outline. I’ve found it helpful to also give the students a gridded page (which is included after the outline) to help them compose their outlines. Section 3 is a specific question and guide for the students.

Critical essay outline

An essay is a literary composition on a certain subject. The following form will aid you in organizing and composing your essay.
An essay may be broken down into three parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. An understanding of each part will make writing an essay of five or five hundred paragraphs equally possible.
1. The INTRODUCTION of an essay has three functions:
a) Tell the reader what you're talking about (known as the thesis)
b) Tell how you will address the topic in your essay
c) Capture the interest of the reader
2. The BODY is the largest section of an essay. It is where you address what you said you would address (or do what you said, or prove what you said). The BODY uses the following form:
a) General Statement (Topic Sentence) tells when or what -- setting up the quote
b) Quoted Material (or specific detail) expands/ proves the general statement
c) Explanation relates quote to thesis (the "what" from the introduction) --
answers the question "so what?" Remember to ask, "so what does this have to do with my thesis?"
d) Transition ties paragraph to next paragraph
3. The CONCLUSION of an essay answers the question "so what?" If an essay is properly set up using a solid introduction, a conclusion flows naturally after the body.
a)Ask "SO WHAT?"– Don't leave your reader asking this question. You said you were going to show or prove something, now it's time to tell us that you did.
b) Solidify salient points– this sounds difficult, but actually you are merely touching on your EXPLANATION points from your BODY paragraphs.
c) Concluding statement –finish memorably... remember, leave your reader understanding that you proved your point.
Avoid the following:
a) DO NOT begin a concluding paragraph with "in conclusion."
b) DO NOT repeat the introduction verbatim

Essay answering tips

1. Understand what the essay is asking you to do. Are you to discuss, compare, contrast, analyze, describe, prove, or give an opinion on something?
2. A good rule is to restate the essay question, but do it using terminology you understand. This restatement becomes your "Part a)" the "what" of the INTRODUCTION.
3. Often, an essay question provides possible directions in which to take your answer. Use these avenues -- they are "Part b)" the "how" of the INTRODUCTION.
4. Finally, you have to draw on your own knowledge of the subject to finish the essay.


Blank handout give to students for a graphic representation of their essay.



What (thesis)
How discussed?

Body paragraph 1

General Statement
Explanation (ask “so what”)

Body paragraph 2

General Statement
Explanation (ask “so what”)


Body paragraph 3

General Statement
Explanation (ask “so what”)



Ask "So What?"
Highlight important points

3. Animal Farm Essay Guide
Often, an author writes a novel as a warning to the reader. In Animal Farm, George Orwell creates a frightening world where the more intelligent pigs dominate the lower animals on the farm.
Construct an essay documenting the intellectual takeover by the pigs, and show the warning Orwell gives mankind as a result.
An author often writes a novel as a warning to mankind. In Animal Farm, George Orwell creates a world of animals that allegorically represent man. The intelligent pigs take advantage of the uneducated lower animals and seize control of the farm. By showing the steady increase of the pigs' intellectual exploitation of the lower animals, [2] Orwell warns the reader of the dangers of totalitarianism and importance of an education in combating it. [1].
1. What is the paper talking about?
Line #1 (Orwell's warning of the importance of an education)
2. How will it be discussed?
Line #2 (through examples of pigs' growing exploitation)
Immediately after the revolution, [1] the pigs begin their intellectual exploitation of the lower farm animals by telling them that the cows' milk would be mixed with apples for the health of the pigs saying, [2, 3] " 'It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back!' " (42). [4] This statement dumbfounds the animals. The fear of the tyrant Jones returning dismisses the animals' memory of the stolen milk and apples. Their lack of intelligence keeps them from recognizing that the pigs exploit them, and they slowly begin to hand over their newly-won freedom to their new masters, the pigs. [5]
General statement: 1. tells when; [2., 3.] (combined) tells what and sets up quote
Quote: [4]. expands the general statement
Explanation [5]. relates quote to thesis (the "what" from the introduction) -- answers the question "so what?"
Complete the paper following this form.