Animal Farm Summary and Analysis
The animals work sixty-hour weeks all spring and summer in order to build the windmill, but none begrudges the extra labor. In August, Napoleon instates “strictly voluntary” labor on Sundays: animals may choose not to come, but they will have their rations reduced by half. There are plenty of building materials on the premises, and the animals discover that they can break limestone into pieces by using the force of gravity. However, the process of dragging boulders to the top of the quarry and throwing them down is very taxing. Boxer compensates by picking up the other animals’ slack, for which they admire him.
Shortages begin to occur. The animals require things, such as iron for horseshoes and machinery for the windmill, that they cannot produce on the farm. To provide a solution, Napoleon opens trade with the neighboring farms and says that the animals may need to sell some of the hens’ eggs in the nearby town of Willingdon. He makes sure to stress the fact that the windmill should be the animals’ first priority. The other animals are “conscious of a vague uneasiness” because the Seven Commandments forbid trade with humans and the use of money. Napoleon assures the animals that they, at least, will not have to make contact with human beings. He has already set up an agreement with a solicitor in town named Mr. Whymper, who will act as their intermediary to the human world.
After the meeting, Squealer assures the animals that trade and the use of money are allowed after all—that no resolution against those activities has ever been passed. He convinces them that their memory of such a resolution is mistaken. Mr. Whymper visits the farm every Monday to get his orders. Meanwhile, in the human world, humans are more opposed than ever to Animal Farm’s existence. They hope that the windmill will fail and the farm will go bankrupt. Still, they secretly admire Animal Farm’s efficiency, which they have begun to call by its new name. They even stop valorizing Mr. Jones, who has moved away.
One day, the pigs move into the farmhouse. The other animals again feel uneasy, remembering faintly a resolution that forbade such an action. Again, Squealer convinces them that they are mistaken. Napoleon, whom Squealer now calls “The Leader,” should be granted the honor of living in a house. Furthermore, the pigs need a quiet workplace. Squealer’s lies satisfy some of the animals. But Clover decides to investigate when she learns that the pigs have taken to sleeping in beds. She tries to read the Seven Commandments on the barn wall, but she cannot. Muriel is able to read it for her. One resolution has been changed to: “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets” (79). At this point, Squealer approaches and denies that there was ever a rule against beds—only sheets. As usual, he justifies the pigs’ actions by threatening Mr. Jones’s return. Soon after, the pigs award themselves the additional privilege of waking up an hour late.
By autumn, the windmill is half finished. One night in November, violent winds ravage the farm and destroy the windmill. Napoleon quickly blames the destruction on Snowball. He sentences Snowball to death and offers half a bushel of apples and the title of “Animal Hero, Second Class” to any animal that detains him. There is a track of pig footprints leading to the hedge, which Napoleon attributes to Snowball. Then Napoleon rouses the animals to action, saying, “Forward, comrades! Long live the windmill! Long live Animal Farm!” (83).
In Chapter VI, the animals begin working tirelessly to complete the windmill. In this case, we can see the windmill as the first of Stalin’s Five Year Plans. The Five Year Plans had the same aim as Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which was to stimulate Russian industry and help bring it into the 20th century. Unlike the NEP, which left some control of industry in the people’s hands, Stalin’s Five Year Plans brought Russian industry under complete government control. Orwell mirrors this pattern in Napoleon’s tightening of the reigns on the animal workforce. Napoleon’s supposedly “voluntary” but actually compulsory Sunday labor sets him even farther apart from Snowball, who advocated a shorter workweek.
This episode also reflects Stalin’s reliance on tactics of deception. Although Stalin was clear with industry leaders about the goals of the Five Year Plans, he continued manipulating the public to foster increased—albeit successful—labor. As in history, the animals of Animal Farm are able to achieve great productivity but do not benefit personally from their efforts. They suffer shortages because for all their work, the windmill (like the heavy industry on which Stalin focused Soviet efforts) cannot yet provide them with energy, much less the basic things they need.
Unlike Napoleon, who opens trade relations with neighboring farms, Stalin was conservative about foreign trade. Rather than representing a specific event in history, Napoleon’s decision to conduct business with other farms is another opportunity for Orwell to point out Stalin’s hypocrisy and revisionism by means of the pigs’ rejection of the original principles of the Rebellion. The very basis for Animalism is the idea that humans are the enemy and not to be trusted—“four legs good, two legs bad.” By negotiating with humans, Napoleon undermines Animalism completely at the same time he is reminding the animals that the windmill should be their first priority. By having Napoleon show such disregard for Animalism’s tenets, Orwell suggests that Stalin was more a proponent of his personal interests than he was of the cause of Communism. Like Napoleon, Stalin did not seem to believe in the greater good for which he forced his people to work so tirelessly.
Orwell mirrors Stalin’s caution in dealing with foreign nations in Napoleon’s procurement of an intermediary, Mr. Whymper. Additionally, Whymper represents those countries that traded with the Soviet Union while turning a blind eye to Stalin’s abuses. Whymper (whose name suggests whimpering or docility) works purely for profit and never interferes in Animal Farm’s affairs.
Orwell also expands his critique of Stalin’s revisionist propaganda. The pigs break another of the Seven Commandments when they begin living in the farmhouse and sleeping in beds. Clover and Muriel investigate, only to discover that the commandment has been changed to suit the pigs’ desires. Through his smooth talking, Squealer convinces Clover and Muriel that the commandment has always concerned the use of sheets and not beds. In this revision, the allegory serves Orwell particularly well. Stalin and his propagandists plastered the Soviet Union with propaganda in the form of posters, songs, art, and countless other media. Squealer’s version of this pattern is to continually re-paint the Seven Commandments to reflect Napoleon’s changes in policy. Orwell humorously suggests a Soviet agent going around the Soviet Union, personally scratching out and rewriting the slogans on posters. The point is that the propaganda changes to suit those in power and to keep a controlled acquiescence among the rest.
Chapter VI also continues Orwell’s critique of the tactic of intimidation. When Clover and Muriel question the Seven Commandments’ accuracy, Squealer threatens them (as usual) with Jones’s return. In this chapter, Napoleon’s fear tactics culminate with the windmill’s destruction. Though natural forces are to blame, Napoleon blames the disaster on Snowball in the same way Stalin considered Trotsky a threat even in exile. In the novel, Napoleon sentences Snowball to death, but we never find out whether his orders are carried out, or if Snowball is even still alive at the time of his sentencing. In history, Stalin eventually did have Trotsky assassinated by a Soviet agent in 1940. Whether Snowball is a true threat to Animal Farm or not, Napoleon makes sure the animals believe Snowball is. In this sense, Snowball represents the nebulous foreign threat of which Stalin kept his people wary. There are now two terrorist enemies to fear, Mr. Jones (even if he has left town, other men remain to be afraid of) and Snowball.
Orwell makes the connection between fear tactics and economic strategy very clear at the end of Chapter VI. Napoleon moves directly from accusing Snowball of destroying the windmill to urging the animals, “Forward, comrades! Long live the windmill! Long live Animal Farm” (83). Napoleon remains a leader the animals are willing to follow—they cannot see another choice, anyway, especially with Mr. Jones and Snowball cast as enemies—but the legitimacy of Napoleon’s authority is becoming more and more suspect to the reader.
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
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources