Animal Farm opens with the line, “Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the popholes” (1.1). The image we get of Mr. Jones in the first line is maintained throughout the novel. He is a drunk and an awful leader of his farm. He is cruel to his animals, and when he is run off the farm, it seems as if it’s largely his own fault.
In the novel, the Joneses are stand-ins for the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife, Alexandra. Though Nicholas II was not a drunk, he was an extremely unpopular leader, and was noted for being out of touch with the people. There were many reasons for dislike of the tsar, but one of the most major was that he allowed Russia to get dragged into World War I and then grossly mismanaged the war.
In February 1917, what became the Russian Revolution began simply as a number of individual strikes in Moscow. Nicholas sent the military in to suppress the people, but the masses were gaining strength. Many military men took sympathy on the people and joined their protests. The rebellion quickly grew out of control, and Nicholas was forced to give up the throne.
In Animal Farm, the animals’ rebellion also arises more or less spontaneously. It is allowed to grow only because of Mr. Jones’s incompetence. First, he comes back drunk from the Red Lion pub and forgets to feed the animals. When the cows kick in the store-shed in protest, Mr. Jones and his men show up “with whips in their hands, lashing out in all directions” (2.11). Yet they underestimate the animals and before long they are chased off the farm.
As the pigs lead the way, the animals destroy many objects from the farmhouse in an effort “to wipe out the last traces of Jones’s hated reign” (2.13). The sentiment was similar in Russia after the February Revolution, although even more violent. Nicholas II and his entire family were executed in July of 1917 (learn more in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory").
After being kicked off his own farm, Jones spends most of his time in the Red Lion “complaining to anyone who would listen of the monstrous injustice he had suffered in being turned out of his property by a pack of good-for-nothing animals” (4.2). Though the other men take little sympathy on Jones, they are afraid of their own animals catching the rebellious spirit, and are especially infuriated by the song "Beasts of England," which encourages rebellion across England.
The fact that Jones re-appears to lead the Battle of Cowshed is a sign that he is not only a symbol for Nicholas II but for the Russian old guard at large. Nicholas II died before the Russian Civil War began, but many of those who fought against the Bolsheviks in the White Army would have been relatively sympathetic to the old tsar.
At the Battle of Cowshed, we realize that Jones is a symbol for everything that the Bolsheviks aimed to overthrow in 1917, not just an individual but an entire way of thinking. After he is defeated at the Battle of Cowshed, Jones disappears with his family. Yet he remains as a memory on Animal Farm, and becomes a tool of propaganda for the pigs. Whenever Squealer has to justify a hard decision, he asks the other animals, “Surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” (3.14).
Though the pigs maintain their power by invoking the cruel figure of Jones, it is clear, to anyone who is paying attention that the pigs begin to resemble Jones more and more.