Animal Farm Summary and Analysis
Once the terror abates, some of the animals recall the Sixth Commandment, “No animal shall kill any other animal.” Clover again asks Muriel to read to her from the wall, only to find that the Sixth Commandment has been changed to: “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause” (98). Clover and Muriel convince themselves that the commandment has always been that way and decide that treachery justifies murder after all. The animals work even harder than in the previous year. On Sundays Squealer assures them, by reading statistics from a sheet of paper, that their efforts are increasing production many times over. The animals can do nothing but believe Squealer. They can scarcely remember life before the Rebellion.
Napoleon restricts his public appearances further to about once a month. He is said to eat separately from the other pigs, using the fine china. He also decrees that the gun be fired every year on his birthday. The animals now call Napoleon “our Leader, Comrade Napoleon.” Just as the animals attribute all misfortunes to Snowball, they now attribute all success and luck to Napoleon. Minimus composes a poem called “Comrade Napoleon,” which Napoleon has inscribed on the wall across from the Seven Commandments, where Squealer also paints his portrait.
Napoleon continues to negotiate with Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington, though the timber remains unsold. Rumors of Mr. Frederick’s plans to overthrow the farm continue. In the summer, three hens confess to plotting against Napoleon’s life and are executed instantly. After that, Napoleon increases his security even more and enlists a pig named Pinkeye to be his taster, lest someone attempt to poison him. Napoleon finally agrees to sell the timber to Pilkington, as well as to engage in regular trade with Foxwood. Meanwhile, rumors about Frederick’s coming invasion, as well as his cruel practices at Pinchfield, begin to circulate. One day, Napoleon announces that he never planned to do business with Frederick at all. He makes the messenger pigeons change their slogan from “Death to Humanity” to “Death to Frederick” (103). He also, strangely, forbids them from going to Foxwood.
The wheat fields turn out to be filled with weeds, a misfortune that the animals blame promptly on Snowball. A gander confesses to knowing about the plot to mix weed seeds with the wheat seeds and commits suicide. To bring further ignominy upon Snowball’s memory, Squealer disseminates a rumor that Snowball never received the title of “Animal Hero, First Class” at all. As usual, he is able to quell any questions that arise from his rewriting of history.
At last the windmill is finished, with walls twice as thick as before. The animals are very proud of their achievement. Napoleon names the windmill “Napoleon Mill.” Two days later, Napoleon calls a meeting to announce that he has sold the timber to Frederick, not Pilkington. He denounces Foxwood and makes the pigeons change their slogan to “Death to Pilkington.” Napoleon claims that Frederick had never planned to invade Animal Farm and that he was not as cruel as rumored. Moreover, Snowball has never been at Foxwood or been Frederick’s collaborator; in reality, he has been Pilkington’s longtime collaborator. The pigs are proud of Napoleon’s shrewdness. They believe Napoleon’s claim that his relationship with Pilkington was just a pretense to get Frederick to raise his bid. Even cleverer, Napoleon refused to let Frederick pay for the timber with a check, instead demanding cash that he will use to buy the windmill machinery. Napoleon goes so far as to hold a special meeting where the animals can inspect the banknotes.
Three days later, Whymper informs Napoleon that the banknotes are forgeries. Napoleon sentences Frederick to death by boiling alive and tries to reconcile with Pilkington. The next morning, Frederick and his armed men overtake the farm. Napoleon considers calling Pilkington for help, but Pilkington sends a note that says, “Serves you right.” As the animals watch helplessly, Frederick and his men blow up the windmill. After that, the animals put up a fight and manage to chase the men off. Squealer, who was not in the battle, has the gun fired as a sign of victory. For the first time, Boxer’s faith in the value of hard work begins to flag. However, Napoleon devotes two days to celebrating the victory at the newly named Battle of the Windmill and burying the slain. He also gives himself the title, “Order of the Green Banner.”
A few days later, the pigs discover a store of whisky, which they begin consuming. The morning after, the pigs do not show up for work. Squealer finally emerges to inform the animals that Napoleon is dying, a fact that the animals blame on Snowball. He announces Napoleon’s final declaration: drinking alcohol should be punishable by death. However, Napoleon recovers and, soon after, asks Whymper to procure information on how to brew alcohol. He also designates a field for the propagation of barley. Soon after, a strange episode occurs. One midnight, a crash in the barn awakens the animals. They rush there only to discover Squealer with a broken ladder and a can of paint. Benjamin seems to understand what is happening but declines to share his insight with the others. However, a few days later, Muriel notices that the Fifth Commandment has been changed from “No animal shall drink alcohol” to “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess” (113).
Napoleon’s revisionism continues with the alterations of the commandments. Worst of all is the reversal from “No animal shall kill any other animal” to “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” This particular revision may strike a particularly deep chord with readers on the parallel between the original Commandment and the Biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” On that note, we should notice that by this point, Moses is absent from Animal Farm along with the morality he represents and his vision of Sugarcandy Mountain, which could help the animals through their terror. Napoleon adds to his array of propaganda the reading of optimistic statistics. Stalin’s Five Year Plans were successful, especially considering how much catching up Russia had to do, but they did not meet up to his exceptionally high projections. Maintaining appearances was deemed vital to the regime’s international reputation.
At this point, Napoleon can trust that his terrorist tactics have made the animals submissive. They cannot believe in their own safety, so they embrace any good news they can get, and good news arrives to them almost exclusively in the form of propaganda. They have lost the ability to judge their success or their quality of life because they cannot remember what life was like before or just after the Rebellion. The animals have also become immune to the type of outrage that their leaders’ deceit might arouse in someone with a democratic education and mindset. Even when they catch Squealer in the act of revising the Seven Commandments, they are too subdued to protest. The animals have taken on Benjamin’s quality of apathy, not because they are naturally apathetic like him, but because Napoleon has molded and terrorized them to be that way. In the same way, the Soviet populace adjusted to Stalin’s tactics of fear and manipulation. Powerless to change anything, they grew to accept it. In psychology this might be called a denial, a defense mechanism, or a coping mechanism. Again, the nobles, who tended to have better educations than the working class, had fled.
As the animals are forced to live an increasingly restricted lifestyle, Napoleon and the pigs are continually awarding themselves privileges and taking an unfair share of the rations. Historically, this corresponds to Stalin’s privileging of the Communist elite. While the typical Soviet citizen worked hard and gained little, the typical member of the Communist elite had access to everything from fancy consumer goods to summer houses in the country. During the 1930s, it became increasingly difficult for people to join the ranks of the Communist elite. Orwell reflects this in Animal Farm, where there is absolutely no social mobility. Pigs alone have access to privileges such as sleeping in beds and drinking alcohol. We should recall that the seeds of this extreme class stratification, contrary to the tenets of Animalism and to Marxism-Leninism, began very early on when the pigs appropriated the milk supply. Orwell introduces the pigs’ privileges early and increases them gradually to show how insidious and therefore successful Stalin’s policies could be. People can be subjugated severely when the subjugation is enacted by degrees.
The events of Chapter VIII cover the historical events of: Hiter’s ascension to power in Germany, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, and Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Napoleon continues to be suspicious of Frederick just as Stalin kept one eye open as Hitler ascended to power in Germany. The stories of animal torture on Frederick’s farm are meant to symbolize the reports of atrocities coming out of Nazi Germany. The rumors are not substantiated in Animal Farm, presumably because the truth about the scale and severity of Hitler’s atrocities did not emerge fully until after World War II. Napoleon’s tightening leash on Animal Farm’s consciousness is reflected in his interactions with the messenger pigeons. The pigeons, which were formerly his mouthpieces, are now forbidden from flying over the neighboring farms. Presumably, Napoleon does not want them to undermine his ever-changing opinions about Frederick and Pilkington.
In 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact that promised neutrality and cooperation between the two nations. In Animal Farm, Napoleon’s trade agreement with Frederick symbolizes this pact. Napoleon does not trust Frederick completely, as shown in his unwillingness to accept a check. In the same way Stalin was wary of Hitler and his goals, perhaps seeing some of his own ruthlessness and ambition in Hitler’s eyes. Napoleon’s distrust of Frederick soon turns out to be true, just as Stalin was right not to trust Hitler completely. Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, an event that Orwell mirrors in Frederick’s attack on Animal Farm. He summarizes the incredible damage that the Nazis did before their defeat in the destruction of the windmill.
Pilkington’s neutrality during the conflict and his not-so-neutral message, “Serves you right,” satirize the Allies’ initial hesitance to respond during World War II. World War II devastated the Soviet population, which lost over twenty million people. Orwell reflects the magnitude of the Soviet Union’s loss in Boxer’s flagging enthusiasm. Even he, the bastion of positive thinking, finds it difficult to recoup after the Battle of the Windmill. With Animal Farm so isolationist and duplicitous toward the human world (compare modern-day North Korea), it is no wonder that it faces withering shortages, demoralization, and tyranny within and hostility everywhere without.
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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