Animal Farm Summary and Analysis
As winter approaches, Mollie’s behavior becomes increasingly perturbed. She is late for work and feigns injury in order to shirk her duties. More seriously, Clover has spotted Mollie at the border of Foxwood, allowing Mr. Pilkington to stroke her nose and talk to her. Mollie denies the accusation, but her embarrassment confirms that she is lying. On a hunch, Clover goes to Mollie’s stall and finds a hidden stash of sugar and ribbons. Mollie disappears soon after. She is seen in a painted cart, gussied up and taking sugar from a man who appears to be some kind of manager. The other animals never mention her again.
January brings bitterly cold weather. Since conditions are too harsh for farming, the animals hold many meetings. They have agreed that the pigs should make all policy decisions, which the other animals are to ratify. Snowball and Napoleon are in constant disagreement, and the other animals begin to take sides. The sheep support Napoleon and interrupt Snowball’s speeches by bleating, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Snowball is the more progressive politician, promoting innovations to make the farm run more efficiently. Napoleon makes sure to oppose all of Snowball’s ideas.
After some time, Snowball and Napoleon come into bitter conflict over a windmill. Snowball designates a piece of land for a windmill, which will provide electricity for the heretofore-primitive farm. He uses Mr. Jones’s books to draft a detailed chalk blueprint, which fascinates the other animals. One day, Napoleon urinates on the blueprint to show his disdain.
Snowball estimates that the animals can complete the windmill with a year of hard labor, after which the time saving machine will shorten their workweek to three days. Napoleon counters with the idea that they will all starve to death in that time, and that the farm’s primary concern should be increasing food production. The animals split into two groups, one called “Vote for Snowball and the three-day week,” the other called “Vote for Napoleon and the full manger” (65). The only animal not to take a side is Benjamin, who is pessimistic about both plans.
Snowball and Napoleon engage in another major debate about how best to prepare for another human attack. Napoleon advocates the procurement of firearms as well as firearms training. Snowball advocates sending pigeons to rally the other animals; if rebellions occur everywhere, then the humans will stay at bay. The other animals do not divide over this issue because they cannot decide who is right.
Finally, Snowball completes his blueprint for the windmill. The animals hold a meeting at which Snowball wins over the majority with his descriptions of the leisurely life that the windmill will allow. Suddenly, Napoleon signals “nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars,” which barge into the barn and chase Snowball out. Snowball manages to escape through a hedge. The frightened animals gather once more in the barn. As it turns out, the nine dogs are Jessie’s and Bluebell’s puppies. They seem to consider Napoleon their master. Napoleon takes the stage and announces that Sunday meetings with all their accompanying debates will cease, and he will lead a small committee of pigs in making decisions. This mandate disturbs the other animals, but most of them are too dull to argue and too afraid of the dogs to show their disapproval. Four pigs protest briefly.
After the meeting, Squealer explains the new arrangement to the other animals. Just as in the case of the milk and apples, Squealer claims that taking on leadership responsibilities is a burden for Napoleon and his committee; they do it only for the general welfare. If left to make their own decisions, he explains, the animals might make a wrong decision. He also calls Snowball a criminal; even if he was brave in the Battle of the Cowshed (an idea that Squealer also questions), “loyalty and obedience are more important.” Squealer tells the animals, “Discipline, comrades, iron discipline! That is the watchword for today.” Again as in the case of the milk and apples, Squealer ensures the animals’ compliance by threatening Mr. Jones’s return. Of all the animals, Boxer takes obedience to the pigs to heart most. He now has two personal maxims: “Napoleon is always right” and “I will work harder” (70).
Winter turns into spring. The pigs disinter Old Major’s skull and place it at the base of the flagpole beside the gun. When they meet to receive their orders for the week, the animals no longer sit all together. Rather, the dogs and other pigs gather around Napoleon, Squealer, and another pig named Minimus. Only three days after Snowball’s removal, Napoleon announces plans to build the windmill and make similar improvements to the farm. Squealer explains to the animals that Napoleon had never really opposed the windmill—in fact, it was “his own creation,” which Snowball had copied. With evident pride, Squealer explains that Napoleon’s feigned opposition to the windmill was simply a “maneuver” in his plan to expel Snowball for disobedience; it was a brilliant example of “tactics” (72).
In Chapter IV, we saw conflicting evidence concerning the relationship between the Battle of the Cowshed and the historical October Revolution. Mollie’s desertion in the beginning of Chapter V makes a case for the Battle of the Cowshed’s representing the October Revolution. Once both parts of the Russian Revolution were completed (insofar as these were two touchstones of the revolution), Lenin could begin making major social and economic changes. Again, many improvements have already been instated on Animal Farm by the time of the Battle of the Cowshed, which would be too early for consistency with history—but not necessarily out of order for Marxist theory. If the trend toward collectivization after the Rebellion ruffled Mollie, the second revolutionary struggle, the Battle of the Cowshed, incites her to action. Just as many of Russia’s former elite emigrated after the Russian Revolution because they refused to live under Communism, Mollie “emigrates” in order to avoid living under Animalism. The fact that Mollie leaves only after the Battle of the Cowshed supports its representing the October Revolution.
After the Battle of the Cowshed, the pigs award themselves the task or “burden” of making all policy decisions. This fact also supports the idea that the Battle of the Cowshed represents the October Revolution because, although the Seven Commandments are already in place, the pigs tighten their control over the populace just as the Bolsheviks did once the Revolution was complete. In general, Chapter V corresponds to the mid-to-late 1920s, when Trotsky and Stalin’s power struggle came to a head. Historically, Trotsky was a brilliant orator, so he was good at inspiring the public on a large scale. Orwell mirrors this in the faction called “Vote for Napoleon and the three-day week.” However, Stalin easily outdid Trotsky in his ability to garner not just a wash of support, but deep-seated and influential support. Snowball may dominate the stage at meetings, but Napoleon gets the sheep to heckle Snowball by interrupting his speeches by chanting, “Four legs good, two legs bad!” In their heckling, the sheep represent those of Stalin’s supporters who took to disrupting Trotsky’s speeches at Party meetings.
Orwell does not have a literary reason to follow the details of history and character because he is doing much more than retell a story in his own way; he chooses his details and his symbols in order to make his own points. The windmill is at the center of Snowball’s and Napoleon’s fiercest debate. Rather than representing a specific point of debate between Trotsky and Stalin, the windmill symbolizes Soviet industry, both agricultural and factory. The narrator tells us that, up until the building of the windmill, Manor Farm has been stuck in the past. It is not technologically advanced, though other farms are. This mirrors the fact that, coming into the Soviet Era, Russia’s agriculture and city industry lagged behind other civilized countries. All of the three original Soviet leaders, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, recognized the need for industrial progress and had varying ideas about how to pursue it. In his conception and promotion of the windmill, Snowball can be seen to take a turn as Lenin. Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) was an attempt to stimulate Russian productivity, one that Stalin ceased and replaced with his own “windmills,” the Five Year Plans. On a broader scale, the windmill represents the abstract Soviet cause toward the common good.
Over the years, the animals will work tirelessly to build the windmill, sacrificing everything from their rest days to their rations in order that it might be completed. In the same way, Soviet citizens labored for an abstract “common good,” the fruits of which they never saw. Each time the windmill is destroyed, Napoleon gives the animals new hope that, next time around, they will build it and reap its benefits. In the same way, Stalin kept the Soviet people trained on a good that, time after time, slipped from their grasp.
In Chapter V, Orwell also brings up the central difference between Trotskyism and Stalinism. As we have discussed previously, Trotsky advocated the extension of the Revolution on an international scale. In contrast, Stalin advanced the idea of Socialism in One Country, in which he stated that, considering the failure of communism in other nations, the Soviet Union should focus its energy internally. Stalin’s Socialism in One Country was a revision of Marxism-Leninism. Orwell mirrors these events in Snowball’s and Napoleon’s debate over how best to protect Animal Farm against another human attack. Snowball wants to send messengers to spread the message of the Rebellion. Napoleon wants to stockpile weapons and train the animals to use them. Just as Stalin revised Marxism-Leninism with Socialism in One Country, Napoleon has begun to hijack Animalism to serve his own ideals.
In 1929, Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Soviet Union. In a similar move, Napoleon ousts Snowball from Animal Farm. Snowball’s rabble-rousing cannot protect him against Napoleon’s dogs, just as Trotsky’s oration skills were no match for the power that Stalin was slowly and steadily cultivating. The revelation of the attack dogs is the first sign of the new violence between animals on Animal Farm. It is a kind of coup.
Under Napoleon, as under Stalin, propaganda takes on a much-expanded and more powerful role. Specifically, Squealer comes to represent Stalin’s revisionist propaganda machine. No sooner than Snowball is gone, Squealer is already questioning Snowball’s bravery in the Battle of the Cowshed. Notably, Squealer claims that the windmill was Napoleon’s idea all along. Whether this is true or not, it certainly seems like revisionist history.
With the exhumation of old Major’s skull, Orwell makes the point that propaganda is often effective not simply for its message but for the atmosphere of domination it creates. Napoleon is changing Major’s ideas in order to create his own personal regime in the same way that Stalin changed Marxism-Leninism. Still, he makes the animals march past Major’s skull as though they are still adhering to the old boar’s exhortations.
Animal Farm Essays and Related Content
- Animal Farm: Major Themes
- Animal Farm: Essays
- Animal Farm: Lesson Plan
- Animal Farm: Questions
- Animal Farm: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- George Orwell: Biography
- Animal Farm Summary
- About Animal Farm
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter I
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter II
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter III
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter IV
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter V
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter VI
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter VII
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter VIII
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter X
- A Brief History of the Soviet Union, 1917-1944
- Related Links on Animal Farm
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 5
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