After a few years, the only animals that even remember the Rebellion are Clover, Benjamin, Moses, and some of the pigs. Muriel, Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher have died. Mr. Jones has died in a home for alcoholics. Still, no animal has retired, and no pasture has been put aside for retired animals. Napoleon and Squealer have both become very fat. The farm is bigger, thanks to land purchased from Mr. Pilkington, and now features a threshing machine and hay elevator. The windmill is finished, but the animals use it to mill corn for a profit instead of to generate electricity as planned. Napoleon puts the animals to work building an additional windmill, which he promises will supply electricity. However, he discourages the animals from dreaming of luxury, saying, “The truest happiness … [lies] in working hard and living frugally” (129).
The pigs and dogs continue to do no manual labor, instead devoting themselves to organizational work that the other animals are “too ignorant to understand” (130). This includes writing up notes and burning them promptly after. Propaganda and pride in living on the only animal-owned farm in England continue to distract the animals from their hardships. One day, Squealer takes all the sheep out to an overgrown patch of land on the far side of the farm. Over the next week, he claims to be teaching them a song, and no one sees them. On the day the sheep return, Clover alerts the other animals to a disturbing fact: Squealer and the other pigs are walking two-footed, on their hind legs. The sheep break into a chorus of, “Four legs good, two legs better!” Benjamin accompanies Clover to the barn wall, where he deigns to read to her for the first time. In place of the Seven Commandments there is now a single maxim: “All animals are equal / But some animals are more equal than others” (133).
The animals discover that the pigs are buying a telephone and have subscribed to several magazines. Napoleon takes to smoking Mr. Jones’s pipe, and the other pigs take to wearing Mrs. Jones’s clothes. Napoleon begins wearing Mr. Jones’s dress clothes and awards “his favorite sow” the privilege of wearing Mrs. Jones’s Sunday dress. One day, Napoleon invites human visitors to tour the farm. That night, the animals spy into the farmhouse and see the pigs dining with the humans. According to Mr. Pilkington’s toast, they are celebrating the end of their bad relations. Touring Animal Farm has impressed him and the other farmers to follow Animal Farm’s example and give their animals more work and less food. Napoleon says he wants to cooperate with the other farms and confirms that he and the pigs co-own the farm’s title-deeds. He states that the animals will no longer be calling each other “Comrade” or marching past Old Major’s skull (a practice he denies understanding anyway). In addition, the flag has been changed to a plain green without the symbols of the Rebellion. Even further, Animal Farm shall again be referred to as “The Manor Farm.” The pigs and humans begin to play poker, and a fight erupts when Napoleon and Pilkington both put down the Ace of Spades at the same time. As the animals witness the pigs and humans quarreling over their poker game, they cannot distinguish between them.
Orwell fast-forwards to a time when Animal Farm has undergone a great deal of turnover. Only a few animals that remember the Rebellion remain, and their memories of it are faint. Napoleon has rewritten the animals’ history to the extent that they feel they no longer have one. He has also manipulated language to the extent that it is meaningless. We see this reflected in the maxim, “All animals are equal / But some animals are more equal than others.” The concept of “more equal” is mathematically impossible, but the animals are too disillusioned and brainwashed to notice. In all the years since the Rebellion, not a single animal has gotten the rewards that he was promised or that was experienced so briefly in the days immediately following the Rebellion. In history, Chapter X corresponds to a time somewhere in the distant future, beyond the realm of Orwell’s own experience. It is, therefore, the manifestation of his pessimistic conjectures about the future of totalitarianism. In this chapter, Orwell slowly and firmly crushes our hopes along with the animals’. In the end, the pigs have all the tangible fruits of Animal Farm’s labor while the animals are left with only empty promises. The windmill, the cause for which countless animals labored and died, has been diverted from its original purpose of supplying electricity. Not even Clover and Benjamin, who are by this time very old, have been allowed to retire. While wearing clothing, smoking pipes, and eating sugar, Napoleon still has the nerve to tell the animals, “The truest happiness … [lies] in working hard and living frugally” (129). It is a harrowing, dystopic future.
In the pessimistic vein for which he became known, Orwell imagines a future in which not only the Soviet Union, but also the Allies, become totalitarian. We see this reflected in Pilkington’s speech at the banquet. He not only agrees to collaborate with Napoleon, but vows to emulate Napoleon’s harsh standards of labor and living on his own farm. In his own toast, Napoleon seals the door on Animal Farm’s history and breaks the last ties with its original tenets. He changes the farm’s name back to “Manor Farm,” as though the trials, triumphs, and abuses of the past many years never happened. It is clear that he intends to erase the memory of Animal Farm from history. Stalin and Hitler were both known to do this in educating the youth in their countries. Most likely, the textbooks in Napoleon’s schoolhouse will severely skew the truth about Animal Farm, if they mention the name “Animal Farm” at all. Napoleon breaks the final tie with Major when he denies knowing why the animals march past his skull in ceremonious fashion. He is erasing knowledge not just of the ideas that Major stood for, but also all the things he himself authored.
The poker game is multiply symbolic. First, it represents the carelessness with which totalitarian leaders treat their people. The animals are like cards in the gambler’s hands, subject to whim and chance. When Napoleon and Pilkington fight over the Ace of Spades (which proves that at least one of them had a card up his sleeve), they foreshadow the international disagreements and struggles that are sure to follow the temporary postwar peace. In this symbolic meaning, Orwell foreshadows the Cold War even though it did not begin in earnest until after the book was published. Pigs and humans are equals at the table, more or less, and rivals once the game is over.
Orwell demonstrates the fact that oppression is cyclical and the oppressed becomes the oppressor when given the chance. By the novel’s end, the pigs are indistinguishable from the humans not only in behavior but also in appearance. Their transformation is complete when they adopt two-legged walking. They treat the animals in the autocratic manner of Jones. In this sense, the story has come full circle.
The future Orwell creates for Animal Farm does not correspond neatly with Imperial Russia. Before the Rebellion, the animals lived under Jones’s total control but had the advantage, the bliss, of ignorance. Now they are living under Napoleon’s total control, having been enlightened to the possibility of freedom and, it seems, still under the impression that they are free but no longer understanding what true freedom would be. This is consistent with Orwell’s belief that 20th-century autocrats such as Hitler and Stalin were of a new and more dangerous kind than the dictators of the past.
Animal Farm is a warning about autocrats who take over socialist ideals for their own aggrandizement. Is there any chance for socialism if human nature is such that the lust for greed and power brings forth leaders who take control and betray its ideals, over against passive and uneducated populations? The capitalist, democratic alternative is to channel that lust into productive work and to limit the power of government to control the freedoms of the people. This alternative creates or aggravates inequalities—one might say that there will always be pigs, dogs, horses, cats, and the rest—but is far preferable to totalitarian control. The challenge for Orwell or for anyone who promotes socialist ideals is to find a practical way to circumvent the abuses that the pigs of Animal Farm so easily commit. But since the novel is a reflection of the challenges of the 1940s rather than a political treatise, Orwell has done quite enough in demonstrating, clearly and horrifyingly, the nature and scope of the challenges to be faced.