George Orwell is not for the literate of heart. The author's myriad of subtle historical jabs and references can make teachers and students alike feel mired in a historical maze without relief (or worse, ELA content knowledge) in sight. Fortunately, Orwell has provided readers with a pantry full of crumbs as to the meaning behind his characters' names, the significance of his literary allusions, and the political background necessary to work through his deceptively fable-like prose. Teachers can leverage these historical entry points into language and literature to not only create accessible but complex, humorous, and truly profound analyses (when students have those aha-now-I-understand-why-pigs-can't-fly-but-they-can-certainly-run-a-farm-democratically moments).
Prior to delving into Animal Farm, teachers can give their students a brief crash course on the events of Stalin's rise to power and communist rule in Russia. Fortunately, one of the reasons why Orwell has cult classic status is because his critique of censorship, ruthlessness, greed, and hypocrisy ring true across time and space. This makes it likely and feasible for students to connect the themes of government oppression and media censoring to events in their own lives and even in other classes.
After working through the historical backdrop of the novel, teachers will find a plethora of figurative devices to keep students occupied until the following semester. Once Orwell's code of names, places, and political figures is cracked, his allegory just keeps on giving. The author and novel are generous with teachers and students alike with respect to allegory, allusions, figurative language, humor, irony, satire, metaphors, similes, and the like (pun intended).