The first animals to arrive are the three dogs, Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher, followed by the pigs. Hens, pigeons, sheep, and cows arrive, as well as the horses, Boxer and Clover. Muriel, the white goat, and the donkey Benjamin follow. A group of motherless ducklings wanders in and Clover, being the motherly type, forms a safe place for them to sit with her leg. Mollie, the young mare, arrives just before the cat, who settles in between Boxer and Clover. The only animal missing is Moses, the raven, who is sleeping on his perch behind the barn door.
Old Major addresses the animals, calling them, “Comrades.” He explains that, because he is getting old and may die soon, he wishes to impart his wisdom. Over his lifetime, he has come to the conclusions that “No animal in England is free” and “The life of an animal is misery and slavery” (28).
Old Major states that animals’ domination by Man is the sole reason they cannot be free, happy, and fulfilled. Man is “the only creature that consumes without producing.” His only job is to be “lord of all the animals,” which makes him “the only real enemy” animals have. Man overworks animals only to rob them of the fruits of their labor, and treats them only well enough to survive and provide more labor. When Man is done with an animal, he slaughters it cruelly.
According to Old Major, Rebellion is the path to freedom. Overthrowing the human race would make animals “rich and free” almost instantly. Old Major begs the other animals to devote the rest of their lives to the cause of Rebellion and to reject the idea that they have co-dependence with Man. Furthermore, the animals must be united in order to overthrow man: “All men are enemies. All animals are comrades” (31). Despite this saying, he is not sure whether wild animals count.
Old Major holds a vote to decide whether domesticated animals should unite with wild animals. Only the dogs and the cat vote no, although the cat is not paying attention and votes twice. After the vote, Old Major crystallizes his point, stating: “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” He adds the additional point that, once they have achieved victory, animals must not emulate Man. They must not wear clothing, live in houses, or copy any of Man’s other “evil” habits.
Finally, Old Major relates his dream to the animals. His dream was about the state of happiness that will exist once Man is eliminated. In the dream, a tune his mother and the other sows sang to him in his childhood returned to him, and new words accompanied the tune. Old Major is sure that he has, in his dream life, uncovered an old animal anthem that has lain dormant for generations. It is called “Beasts of England,” and he sings it to the other animals. Orwell describes the song as “a stirring tune, something between Clementine and La Cucaracha” (32). The song glorifies the freedom and joy that will follow “Tyrant Man’s” overthrow, and he urges all animals to “toil for freedom’s sake,” even if they die before the cause is won.
The song rouses the animals, even the dullest of whom learn it in minutes. In fact, the animals are so taken with the song that they sing it five times in unison. The ruckus awakes Mr. Jones, who fires several bullets from his shotgun into the barn wall. The animals rush to their sleeping places, and the farm is silent once again.
Chapter I introduces us to the idealism upon which Animal Farm and Animalism will later be built. In explicating Animal Farm, some critics stress Orwell’s broad focus on totalitarianism over his specific criticism of Stalinism. After all, Orwell saw the threat of totalitarianism (and elitism) manifested not only in Soviet Russia but also in places such as Spain and colonial Britain. However, despite Animal Farm’s far political reach, Orwell did write it as a cautionary tale about Stalinism specifically and, as we shall see, matched its plot quite closely with Russian history. We can read the novel as both a specific and a general allegory.
Old Major assumes the role of philosopher, creating a detailed model for a utopian society. His role is also that of visionary or prophet because, smart as he is, part of Major’s vision of the future came to him in a dream. In his roles of philosopher and visionary, Major represents the political theorist Karl Marx. Old Major is older and wiser than the other animals, a fact that mirrors history. Marx and his theories predated (and therefore influenced) the ideas of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. All three men were still children at the time of Marx’s death.
Major’s vision of mankind’s problems and his plan for a utopian society closely match the tenets of Marxism as expressed in The Communist Manifesto. Major’s ideas of the animal and Man correspond with Marx’s views of the common man and the elite. We should bear this symbolism in mind as we examine Major’s speech. First, Old Major focuses on the exploitation of the animal by Man, who is concerned only with making a profit. Although the animal does all the work, it gets no stake in what it produces because man controls not only the means of production but also the means of distribution. Marxism argues that the common man becomes confused by the elite’s self-serving ideology and becomes separated from its true nature. In the same way, Major says that Man keeps animals in submission only because he is the one creating the ideology and the rules. In order to claim their destiny of being “rich and free,” the animals must overthrow Man.
Major also represents Vladimir Lenin, the foremost author of the Russian Revolution and of the formation of the Soviet Union. If historically Marx played the role of grandfather theorist, then Lenin played that of young interpreter and motivator. Old Major not only bestows his theory upon the animals, he awakens them from the dreamtime of Man’s ideology and rouses them to action. He does so with the help of “Beasts of England,” a revolutionary song that helps the animals envision the “golden future time” when they will live free of man’s (literal and metaphorical) yoke. Orwell also connects Major to Lenin by his use of the word “comrade,” which is associated with communism.
If Major represents Marx and Lenin, two revolutionary forces, then Jones represents the existing totalitarian regime. He symbolizes imperial Russia and the ineffective Czar Nicholas II. Jones stands for an ideology and methodology that have been in practice for a very long time. In all the history of Manor Farm, the animals have never risen up against him nor thought of doing so. Though they are superior in numbers and strength, they cannot match his intellectual capabilities (or at least think they cannot). We should also note that Moses the raven is Jones’s “especial pet.” Moses represents the religion that, in the Russian Empire, was connected closely with the throne. Jones feeds Moses bread soaked in beer to keep him tame, just as the Russian throne cooperated with the Church but kept it on a tight leash. Under Marxism-Leninism, religion is one of the things that appeases the common man and makes him easier to subjugate; as Marx famously stated, “religion is the opiate of the masses.” It has no value in a truly utopian society, such theorists believe, because people are satisfied in reality and no longer feel the need to rely on faith or the promise of heaven. It follows that Moses is conspicuously absent from Major’s big meeting.
Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer have taken charge especially, and they have expanded Old Major’s concept into a “complete system of thought” called Animalism. They hold frequent meetings in the big barn to espouse the views of Animalism to the other farm animals. At first, the animals are not convinced that they should follow Animalism. Some feel loyalty to Mr. Jones, some worry that they cannot be self-sufficient, and others, such as Mollie, worry about losing treats such as sugar and ribbons. Snowball contradicts Mollie, saying that the ribbons are “the badge of slavery” and that “liberty is worth more than ribbons” (37).
Moses causes trouble for the pigs by inventing an animal heaven called Sugarcandy Mountain., a utopia for another time. In contrast, Clover and Boxer are some of the pigs’ strongest collaborators. Not being very intelligent themselves, Clover and Boxer memorize simple pro-Animalism arguments that they pass on to the others.
Monetary troubles plague Mr. Jones, leading him to drink excessively. The farmhands are lazy and fail to tend the farm well, yet hard times for Mr. Jones mean a leg up for the animals. In fact, Mr. Jones’s misfortune makes the Rebellion come earlier than expected. On Midsummer’s Eve in June, Mr. Jones gets so drunk that he passes out and neglects to feed the animals. Having gone unfed for hours, the animals break into the store-shed and eat. Mr. Jones and the farmhands rush in and begin whipping the animals indiscriminately, and the animals respond by attacking them in unison. The men are frightened and forced to flee the farm.
After a disbelieving calm, the animals barge into the harness-room and drown or burn all the implements of their former bondage. Snowball makes sure to burn the ribbons, which he calls tantamount to clothing, and states, “All animals should go naked” (40). The animals then help themselves to double servings of food and sleep better than they ever have. When they awake the next morning, they survey the farm with new eyes, absorbing the fact that it is now their own. Finally, they tour the farmhouse, seeing in disbelief the “unbelievable luxury” in which the Joneses had lived. Then the animals agree to leave the farmhouse intact as a museum. They confiscate a few hams for burial and leave.
The pigs reveal that they have taught themselves to read and write from an old children’s book, which they burned in the bonfire of human belongings. Snowball uses paint to replace the title “Manor Farm” with “Animal Farm” on the farm gate. Back in the big barn, they reveal that they have reduced Animalism to Seven Commandments. The animals must live by these commandments “for ever after.” The commandments, which Snowball writes on the wall with some typographical errors, are:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
After reading the Seven Commandments out loud, Snowball declares that the animals must begin the hay harvest. Three cows interrupt his thought by lowing in pain, since their udders are full to bursting. Some pigs milk the cows, producing “five buckets of frothing creamy milk” (44). The animals wonder what to do with the milk, but Napoleon puts off that decision for a later time. The animals begin the harvest in the fields, and when they return the milk is gone.
Old Major’s death represents Lenin’s death in 1924, which left Stalin (Napoleon) and Trotsky (Snowball) to vie for the leadership position. Major’s meeting changes the animals’ outlook on life, but Orwell is careful to mention that not all the animals quite grasp Major’s idea of a utopian society. All the animals can learn “Beasts of England,” but only those smart enough can truly assume the revolutionary spirit and the task of preparing for the Rebellion. The pigs become the organizers very quickly. It is important to note two things about their rise to power. First, the pigs have not always been in charge of the other animals, though later in the book when the pigs are so thoroughly demonized, Orwell makes it hard for the animals—and the reader—to remember that. But they are superior by nature—or at least by tradition—when it comes to intelligence. Second, the pigs’ intentions are not necessarily bad at first. They take on the task of organization because of their reputed superiority rather than a desire to take control for themselves. Just as Boxer is best suited for hard manual labor, the pigs take their place for organizational work in the animals’ division of labor.
Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer organize Major’s ideas into the theory of Animalism, which can stand for any “complete system of thought” but is meant to evoke Soviet Communism. If Snowball and Napoleon represent the organizers of Communism, then the other pigs represent those of the Russian intelligentsia who became involved in the revolutionary cause. The Seven Commandments represent Communism in its theoretical, idealized form. In writing, the Seven Commandments look fair and hold true to Major’s stipulation that the animals not emulate humans. Though the animals intend to live by the Seven Commandments “for ever after,” we will learn quickly that the tenets of Animalism do not translate perfectly into reality, especially not with the seeds of elitism already planted among the pigs.
Like any new theory, Animalism is met with doubt and opposition. The most notable objection comes from Mollie, the fickle mare that represents Russia’s elite. Although the common animals also doubt Animalism, Mollie is spoiled by the special treatment she received under Jones’s rule (mirroring the czar’s rule). She also, despite being superficial and fickle, has the intelligence and the resources to get herself out of Animal Farm, which the “peasant” animals lack. Historically, many of the Russian elite were unwilling to give up their privileges, just as Mollie is loath to give up ribbons, sugar, or being petted. Like Mollie, they became expatriates in capitalist societies where they could retain their advantages (this was a particularly wise move, considering what had happened to the nobility during the French Revolution). Moses also presents a challenge to Animalism, just as religion presented a challenge to Communism. Historically, Stalin used intimidation and force to crush religion and promote atheism in the Soviet Union. However, despite their efforts to promote their ideas over those of Moses, the leadership of Animal Farm allows Moses to come and go as he pleases. The struggles and inconsistencies of Animalism as practiced can be made softer by belief in an animal heaven to be enjoyed later.
Mr. Jones’s monetary troubles mirror the Russian throne’s ineffectiveness and dwindling power on the eve of the Revolution. The air is ripe for revolution, and the animals seize the opportunity to run Jones off his own land. The animals are kinder to Jones than the revolutionaries were to Czar Nicholas II, who was executed on Lenin’s orders along with his family.
With Jones gone, the animals begin to realize Major’s vision of a utopian, animal-run society that operates under its own ideology. The Rebellion could represent the February Revolution (though it happens on Midsummer’s Eve) or the Russian Revolution as a whole. The February Revolution did result in Czar Nicholas II’s abdication, which Jones’s expulsion mirrors neatly. The story, however, does not need a one-to-one correspondence with history, and Orwell can make his points more crisply by adapting the history to his carefully crafted allegory.
Although the animals live happily for a while, it is important to note that the pigs have begun their clandestine and elitist activities already. For example, they order that all artifacts of the animals’ oppression be burned. The pigs thus burn a children’s book they used to teach themselves to read and write, but the resource is no longer available after the book-burning. Throughout the novel, Orwell emphasizes the other animals’ lack of intelligence, but we can never be sure that the animals’ ignorance and illiteracy is due to lack of intelligence rather than an oppressive environment, generation after generation, that has made their lower status and ability seem natural. When the pigs take the milk for themselves, the reader knows that this is the beginning of a new round of subjugation and oppression by an elite.
On Animal Farm, everyone works “according to his capacity.” Boxer is invigorated and pushes himself to work harder than ever; because he is strong and big, he contributes to the most strenuous labor. In contrast, the hens and ducks work at gathering small bits of corn that the bigger animals would not be able to gather. The system of Animalism is working well: every animal is satisfied with his share of the labor and its fruits. No one steals or argues, and very few shirk their responsibilities, with the exception of the cat and frivolous Mollie.
Every Sunday is a day of rest and devotion to Animalism on Animal Farm. The animals hold an hour-long ceremony at which they raise their new flag. The flag is green to represent England’s pastures and features a hoof and horn that “represent the future Republic of the Animals” that will exist “when the human race has finally been overthrown” (48). A gathering called Meeting follows the flag raising, in which the animals plan the coming week and the pigs present resolutions for debate (none of the other animals are intelligent enough to think up resolutions). Snowball and Napoleon tend to debate the most and take opposite sides. The animals end each meeting by singing “Beasts of England.”
The pigs set up a study center for themselves in the harness-room, where they study trades using Mr. Jones’s books. Snowball begins organizing the animals into Animal Committees, including the Egg Production Committee, the Clean Tails League, the Wild Comrades’ Re-education Committee (to tame rats and rabbits), and the Whiter Wool Movement. These committees generally fail to produce results or remain cohesive. Snowball does succeed in teaching some of the animals to read, although most of them lack the intelligence needed for literacy. In fact, many of the animals lack the intelligence needed to memorize the Seven Commandments, so Snowball reduces Animalism’s tenets to one simple saying: “Four legs good, two legs bad” (50).
As time goes by, the pigs begin to increase their control over the other animals. For example, when Jessie and Bluebell give birth to puppies, Napoleon takes them to an isolated loft where he can teach them. Napoleon believes that educating young, impressionable animals is more important than trying to re-educate older ones. It turns out that the pigs are mixing the cows’ milk with their food. When the wind knocks ripe apples out of the orchard trees, the pigs claim the right to take them all, as well as the bulk of the coming apple harvest. The pigs claim that they need milk and apples in order to power their “brainwork.” Squealer says that, were the pigs to stop eating milk and apples, they could lose their powers of organization and Mr. Jones could come back. The threat of Mr. Jones’s return is enough to quell the other animals’ doubts and questions.
At first, the animals seem to be living in the utopia Major had imagined for them. Now that they have their own ideology and own the means of production, they feel “rich and free,” just as Major predicted. They enjoy a temporary calm as well as a sense of invigoration after years of discontent, now assume Man’s position of control over themselves and nature. In doing organizational work, the pigs are working in accordance with their capacity. But at the same time, the pigs are fairly large and strong animals that could surely contribute to the farm’s manual labor force. They are slowly assuming Man’s competitive advantage and becoming “the only creature that consumes without producing.”
From the very beginning of the Animal Farm era, Boxer assumes the majority of the burden of labor. Now that he is working for the animals’ benefit and not Jones’s, he feels enlivened and adopts the first of his two personal maxims, “I will work harder.” In his heartiness, usefulness, and relative dullness, Boxer represents the faithful peasant. Some critics have pointed out the similarity of this motto to that of the main character in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Indeed, Orwell was certainly familiar with Sinclair’s writings. While Sinclair’s novel criticized capitalism, Orwell’s focuses on Communism. Either way, the point expands the reader’s consciousness to see how elitism can result in willing subjugation in very different regimes. Boxer is not pugnacious despite his name, but he is as strong as his name implies. In this way, Boxer is painfully ironic. He is strong enough to kill another animal, even a human, with a single blow from his hoof, and the dogs will not be able to overpower him in Chapter VII. Still, Boxer lacks the intelligence and the nerve to sense that he is being misled and mistreated. He knows how to use his brawn only in submission to his leaders and not against them.
Chapter III marks the beginning of the dispute between Snowball and Napoleon, which evokes the power struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. After Trotsky’s fashion, Snowball is a progressive, eloquent, and public politician. He not only creates countless plans for reform, but he also dominates the Sunday meetings with his skillful and rabble-rousing orations. Snowball has the capacity to inspire the animals just as Major did in his big meeting. After Stalin’s fashion, Napoleon conducts his politics clandestinely. His public statements are generally limited to rebuttals of Snowball’s ideas; he keeps his own plans to himself. For example, Napoleon secrets the puppies away to a loft and, by keeping out of the public eye, manages to rear them into fierce, blood-hungry, creatures submissive to him. Napoleon’s collaboration with and control of the dogs evokes Stalin’s focus on quietly gaining support from powerful allies.
Chapter III also introduces the idea of propaganda. “Stirring” as it may be, “Beasts of England” is more of a revolutionary anthem than a piece of propaganda. It is meant to unite the animals in the cause of the Rebellion and help them to envision the utopia for which they must strive. But most of the animals are not intelligent enough to let the song do more than vaguely inspire their hopes. Without even being able to remember the Seven Commandments, most of the animals rely merely on the propagandist refrain, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Snowball reduces the Seven Commandments into this single maxim, vastly oversimplifying the full system of Animalism into a catchphrase. As the animals adopt the phrase, they begin to forget the Seven Commandments, which gives the pigs the opportunity to change them. In fact, the pigs manage to break every one of the other commandments without arousing much suspicion. Clover and Muriel, who periodically think about the Seven Commandments, are easily duped in this regard. Having memorized the simple maxim in their place, they are easily convinced that their doubts about the original content of the commandments are unfounded.
Squealer, who represents the propaganda machine, introduces fear tactics in this chapter. After convincing the animals that the pigs have a right to milk and apples, he threatens the animals with Jones’s return for the first time. The pigs have created an environment where their rules must be followed out of fear of the return of the old older. It is an easy, winning response to animals that see only the two alternatives and cannot see a way back to the utopian principles that inspired their rebellion.
Despite the farmers’ efforts to subdue ideas of rebellion, their animals begin lashing out against them. The animals resist the farmers’ orders. They also adopt the infuriating habit of singing “Beasts of England.”
In October, accompanied by several other farmers, Mr. Jones tries to recapture Animal Farm. Snowball has already trained the animals for war, however, and they take their defensive positions. The smaller animals attack the men and then pretend to retreat into the yard in defeat. Once the men follow, the larger animals ambush them. Mr. Jones kills one sheep and wounds Snowball several times with his gun, but the animals manage to overpower the humans. Boxer is thought to have killed a stable-lad, which upsets the stalwart horse. But it turns out that the boy is only injured, and he flees with the other men. The only animal who does not fight is Mollie, whom the animals discover cowering in her stall.
After the battle, the animals sing “Beasts of England” yet again. They invent a military honor called “Animal Hero, First Class,” which they bestow upon Snowball and Boxer. Then they bury the fallen sheep and confer upon him posthumously the title of “Animal Hero, Second Class.” The animals decide to call this conflict the Battle of the Cowshed. The agree to fire Mr. Jones’s gun into the air twice a year, on the anniversaries of the battle (October 12) and of the Rebellion (Midsummer’s Eve).
The first part of Chapter IV mirrors the international reaction to the young Soviet Union. For centuries, other nations had been able to write off Russia as a backwards and disorganized country, despite the size of its territory and population. There had been socialist uprisings elsewhere, and efforts like the French Revolution had not brought the workers’ utopia that had been dreamed of. But after the Russian Revolution, and armed with a new ideology and power structure, the Soviet Union began to garner international interest due to its prospects for success. Communism thus re-entered the realm of international politics as a possibly viable alternative to fascism and capitalism, and workers around the world were hopeful that the promises of the Soviets would come to fruition everywhere. We see this history reflected in the farmers’ growing awareness of the happenings on Animal Farm and in the animals’ rebelliousness on their own farms.
Part of Trotsky’s politics (called Trotskyism) was the belief that the Revolution should be encouraged in other countries, leading to an international revolution of the proletariat. Orwell mirrors this view in Snowball’s pigeon-messenger missions; he enlists the birds to spread news of the Rebellion to farms across England. Thus, Animal Farm is not just an example of change but an agent of the new solidarity of the animals.
Snowball’s efforts work to an extent, since animals on other farms not only start disobeying their owners but also agitate the owners–as Trotsky’s ideas agitated foreign nations. At once fascinated and threatened by the Soviets’ increasing power, some foreign leaders found the need to suppress the seeds of revolution in their own countries. Thus, when Pilkington and Frederick spread lies about Animal Farm, they represent the Western vilification of Communism. Although the farmers and capitalists to some degree were just protecting their own investments, it turns out that the villains really are the pigs and the Stalinists after all.
Jones’s attempt to recapture Animal Farm strengthens the bonds between the animals. The animals, small and large, work together to successfully overthrow the humans once more. Of course, the animals do not like the war. At the same time, it strengthens their determination to maintain their freedom and work for the greater good.
The Battle of the Cowshed also creates a legend about Snowball’s heroism that will become subject to revisionism throughout the book. In truth, Snowball leads the charge against Jones and his men, being shot several times in the process. Over time, memories will fade and the battle will be reinterpreted by those in power.
According to some critics, the Battle of the Cowshed represents the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks replaced the provisional government. This idea is supported by the battle’s date (October 12) and the animals’ post-battle resolution to fire the gun on the anniversaries of the Rebellion and the Battle of the Cowshed; in that resolution, Orwell seems to liken the two events to two main turns in the Russian Revolution. But Orwell does not give us a neat parallel with history. Russia was disorganized and dissatisfied under the provisional government, whereas Animal Farm is already prospering in Chapter IV. Also, the animals are already living by the Seven Commandments, which symbolize the Soviet decrees passed after the October Revolution. As we will see in the refiguring of the Red Terror, Orwell does not adhere tightly to historical progression in the novel, letting his own message take precedence.
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.