Animal Farm Summary and Analysis
Boxer’s split hoof, an injury from the battle, taxes him; still he will not let it deter him from rebuilding the windmill before he reaches retirement age. When they first formed Animal Farm, the animals had agreed on fixed retirement ages and pensions. The winter is bitter again. Rations, save the pigs’ and dogs’, are reduced--“readjusted,” as Squealer says. To appease the animals, Squealer reads the animals more statistics to make them believe that their lives are better than in the days of Mr. Jones’s rule. The animals are overworked, underfed, and cold, but they are happy to believe Squealer.
Thirty-one young pigs now live on the farm, all of them parented by Napoleon. He makes plans to build them a schoolhouse and discourages them from interacting with other types of animals. He also instates two rules of pig superiority: other animals must stand aside on the path to let pigs pass, and pigs are allowed to wear green ribbons on their tails on Sundays. Napoleon also awards himself the privilege of eating sugar. Still, times are hard on the farm, and the animals struggle to make ends meet. The chickens are forced to lay six hundred eggs per week to sell in town and can barely keep any for hatching. Rations are reduced again, and the animals are not allowed lanterns in their stalls anymore in order to save oil. Meanwhile, the pigs seem to be flourishing.
Towards the end of winter, the animals smell a new scent in the wind, which they discover is from the barley Napoleon has begun to cook. Soon after, the pigs announce that all barley is reserved for them. Each pig gets a pint of beer added to his rations, with Napoleon getting half a gallon. To distract the animals from their hardship, Napoleon increases the amount of propaganda on the farm. This includes songs, speeches, poems, statistics, marches, and his newly created Spontaneous Demonstrations, in which the animals celebrate their victories. The animals enjoy the Spontaneous Demonstrations, which remind them of their freedom and self-sufficiency.
In April, Napoleon declares Animal Farm a Republic, and the animals elect Napoleon unanimously as president. His new propaganda claims Snowball was not a covert human collaborator, but an open one who charged into battle on the human side yelling, “Long Live Humanity!” (119). In mid-summer, Moses returns from a long absence. His stories of Sugarcandy Mountain return with him. The other animals enjoy the stories, with the exception of the pigs. Boxer and the other animals work feverishly to complete their tasks, which now include building the schoolhouse for the young pigs. One day, Boxer overworks himself so much that he collapses, unable to get up. In his sickly state, he expresses a wish to retire early along with Benjamin. The animals fetch Squealer, who relays Napoleon’s decision to send Boxer to the veterinary hospital in Willingdon.
Over the next two days, Boxer lies in his stall and takes doses from “a large bottle of pink medicine” that the pigs send from the farmhouse. He expresses his wish to spend his final years learning the rest of the alphabet. One afternoon, a van comes to take Boxer away. It has “lettering on its side and a sly-looking man in a low-crowned bowler hat sitting on the driver’s seat.” The hopeful animals wish Boxer goodbye, but Benjamin breaks their revelry by reading the lettering on the side of the van: “Alfred Simmons, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler, Willingdon. Dealer in Hides and Bone-Meal. Kennels Supplied” (123). The animals panic and try to get Boxer to escape. He tries to get out of the van, but he has grown too weak to break the door. The animals try to appeal to the horses drawing the van, but they do not understand the situation.
Boxer never returns, but three days later the pigs announce that he died in the hospital despite receiving the best care. Squealer claims to have been present at Boxer’s death, a tale he relates emotionally to the other animals. He claims that Boxer’s last words were, “Forward, Comrades! … Forward in the name of the Rebellion” and “Long live Animal Farm! Long live Comrade Napoleon! Napoleon is always right” (125). Squealer also claims that the van belongs to the veterinarian, who had recently bought it from the horse slaughterer and had not yet managed to paint over the lettering. These stories satisfy the animals. The next Sunday, Napoleon promises to honor Boxer with a special wreath and a memorial banquet. On the day the banquet is to be held, a large crate arrives at Animal Farm. That night, the pigs are rowdy inside the farmhouse and do not wake up until noon the next day. The animals hear a rumor that the pigs had bought a case of whisky.
World War II devastated not only the Soviet Union’s populace but also its economy. Agriculture and factory production, which the people had worked so tirelessly to fortify in previous decades, were left in shambles. In Animal Farm, the windmill represents the Soviet people’s economic progress. Frederick and his men ruin the windmill in one fell swoop just as the Nazis destroyed the Soviet Union’s hard-earned progress. In the Five Year Plans after World War II, Stalin had no choice but to focus on recouping the Soviet Union’s losses. In the same vein, Napoleon rededicates the animals to the windmill’s construction. Boxer’s attitude after the war represents the toll that the war took on the Soviet people’s morale. Still, they managed to rally just as Boxer does, despite even harsher shortages than ever.
Despite harsh conditions for the rest of the animals, the pigs are flourishing. Napoleon has managed to parent thirty-one new pigs, which he plans to make disciples of his theories by building a schoolhouse. (This may be a reference to the Thirty Tyrants of ancient Greece, only a little worse.) As usual, Napoleon makes the animals complicit in their own oppression, this time by forcing them to build the schoolhouse on top of their reconstructive and regular workload. Napoleon’s abuses become even more blatant and more reminiscent of Jones’s behavior when he awards pigs the right of way on the path. The other animals must stand aside in deference to the pigs, which is the sort of behavior a peasant under the feudal system would have to display in his master’s presence. The pigs even assume Mollie’s two favorite habits: eating sugar and wearing ribbons in their tails. If we recall that Mollie represents the imperial elite, we can see how far Animal Farm has regressed.
By making Napoleon’s abuses so blatant, Orwell exposes the fact that stratification is inevitable in the hands of corrupt leaders and that power and greed are cyclical. The pigs begin the book by carrying out Old Major’s ideals of a working-class rebellion just as the Bolsheviks overthrew the czar with Marxism-Leninism in mind. Then, just as Stalin and the Soviet elite came to resemble the imperialists they so despised, Napoleon and the pigs take on human characteristics. This—emulating humans—is the very thing against which Major warned the animals in his meeting. Readers are progressively horrified by the new outrages and betrayals committed by the pigs.
Orwell focuses on propaganda again in Chapter IX. This time he focuses less on the manipulative nature of propaganda and more on its grandeur. Napoleon’s Spontaneous Demonstrations are especially pompous and gay, with a cockerel marching in front of the procession. The Spontaneous Demonstrations also involve the animals directly in the propaganda machine. More than singing songs or chanting maxims, they are now marching around the farm to celebrate Animal Farm’s glory. The gun, originally intended to solemnly mark the anniversaries of battles, is now used liberally to stir the animals’ loyalties. (See the Related Links for a clip from a Soviet propaganda film, keeping the Spontaneous Demonstrations in mind.) Further proving their submission, the animals find the increase in propaganda uplifting: “But if there were hardships to be borne, they were partly offset by the fact that life nowadays had a greater dignity than it had had before. There were more songs, more speeches, more processions … They found it comforting to be reminded that all the work they did was for their own benefit. … They were able to forget that their bellies were empty, at least part of the time” (117-118). Orwell comes close to sympathy for the animals in this passage, where he seems to suggest that in addition to the animals’ gullibility, they have a desperate need to be uplifted, even by means as false and ridiculous as the Spontaneous Demonstrations. Moses’ return also supplies them with much-needed inspiration, although the pigs are wary of his competing influence.
Orwell breaks such reverie with the story of Boxer’s illness and murder. By this point, Orwell has repeated the pigs’ abuses so many times that the reader may be as desperate as the animals for some relief. But Orwell wastes no time in reminding us that propaganda is just the totalitarian government’s machine of deception. Napoleon feels no affinity for Boxer, despite that animal’s years of tireless work on Animal Farm’s behalf. This is because Napoleon feels entitled to the animals’ hard work just as Stalin was more concerned with his own goals than with his people’s well being. Napoleon sends Boxer off to the slaughter for profit without seeming to have any second thoughts except for finding a way to explain the betrayal to the other animals. Adding insult to injury, he uses Boxer’s murder as an opportunity for more propaganda, having Squealer relate to the animals Boxer’s supposed patriotic last words. Then he and the pigs celebrate their latest feat of deception and violence by drinking the case of whisky. While the pigs are becoming more like humans, they are becoming the kind of humans whom others would call animals for their cruelty and irrationality.
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