Animal Farm may deceptively be titled a "Fairy Tale," but if so it’s a fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm variety; the end is absolutely chilling.
As we have seen, the dream of the Rebellion has gradually become a farce. Pigs now walk on two legs (like humans), and the Seven Commandments have been reduced to one – the infamous “All Animals Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others” (10.17). The book ends with a meeting between the pigs and the neighboring humans. The animals look on through a farmhouse window as the pigs explain that there must have been some misunderstanding. They want to make it clear to the humans that they never meant to incite rebellion, that their entire goal has been “to live at peace and in normal business relations” (10.27). In short, the pigs have hung the other animals out to dry – the Rebellion is dead.
The meeting between the pigs and the humans is an allusion to the wartime alliance between the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the democratically elected Western leaders Winston Churchill (of Britain) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (of the United States). During World War II, the so-called "Big Three" Allied leaders met face-to-face at two major conferences to plot war strategy and make plans for the postwar world order. The first of these, the Tehran Conference of November 1943, may have inspired Orwell's fictional meeting of pigs and humans. The human Mr. Pilkington represents Churchill (or perhaps a composite of Churchill and Roosevelt). Napoleon, as always, represents Joseph Stalin.
At the Tehran Conference, the Big Three hammered out agreements on several matters of great significance to World War II and, later, the Cold War. Stalin, whose soldiers on the Eastern Front were bearing the brunt of the war against Germany, got Churchill and Roosevelt to promise to open up a Western Front in France by the spring of 1944 by finally launching Operation Overlord (now known as D-Day). (Stalin had been begging since 1941 for the British and Americans to open a Western front to take the pressure off his forces.) Churchill and Roosevelt also agreed, reluctantly, to allow Stalin to permanently change the borders of Poland, incorporating much of what had been eastern Poland into the Soviet Union. Many in the West (the Polish government-in-exile in London foremost among them) saw this as a craven sellout of democratic principles… which it may have been. But it was a sellout that Churchill and Roosevelt saw as necessary to win the war.
But it was also a sellout that drew the ire of George Orwell. What people often emphasize when they read the end of Animal Farm is that the pigs have become exactly like the humans. The final line goes, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which” (10.32).
In the Preface to the Ukrainian edition, Orwell emphasizes this note of discord at the end of the novel. Though the creatures cannot tell pig from man, as they observe them, the pigs and the men are caught in ferocious argument. The reason is that they’re both cheating one another: “Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously” (10.32).
The end of Animal Farm, the moment when that ace of spades hits the table, might be taken as the beginning of the Cold War. At the time the West decided to play cards with the Soviet Union; they’d do anything to defeat the Germans. But the wartime alliance of Roosevelt and Churchill and Stalin was a temporary marriage of convenience; as soon as the war ended, it fell apart in a mess of mutual distrust, leading directly to fifty years of stalemate, to fifty years of such incredible tension between Russia and the West that schoolchildren in both countries were drilled on what to do if a nuclear bomb landed nearby. Orwell, it seems, saw it coming a mile away.