A Critical Analysis of "Animal Farm"

Rhetoric and the Technique of Repetition
The satire in Animal Farm begins with the rhetoric of Major’s first speech to the animals in Chapter 1. The primary technique of this rhetoric is an argument from passively accepted grounds which allows the speaker to establish a familiarity with his audience from false premises.

Although Major appears to offer free choices to his audience, he is, in fact, in complete control. He pretends to be detached and objective by telling his listeners that he would soon die, but by this method he hides the control which he is acquiring upon them through the repetitions of his rhetoric. The technique of repetition is found in the several questions which he puts to his audience, and then providing the answers himself. Thus he asks: “What is the nature of this life of ours?”, “Why then do we continue in this miserable conditions?”, “What then must we do?” The acceptance of these questions is further controlled by his tight, complete answers which do not encourage discussion and varied response. There is also the repetition of phrases and of key words which establish a personal vocabulary. Another technique employed is that, from the beginning, the animals are addressed as “comrades”, while man is set up as the enemy. The animals are presented through personalized references which create sympathy, but man is referred to as one unit representing a type of evil and cruel enemy.

Manipulation of Votes on an Initial Problem
Having controlled the process of his background speech, Major then also controls the events which follow. A vote is needed on whether wild animals like rats should be included in the community of animals. Major skilfully manipulates the votes, by bracketing the rats with rabbits and thus weakening the negative connotations of the rats, and also by asking: “Are rats comrades?” instead of asking: “Are rats enemies?” The weight of the word “comrades” helps to turn the argument in the favour of the rats, and they are accepted as comrades. This incident is also important from the strategic point of view because it involves all the animals in the act of collective voting and strengthens the idea that they all form a compact unit.
Major’s Dream, a Utopian Vision of the
Past and the Future
When Major comes to the summarizing of his directions, he says “I merely repeat” as if he is referring back to a previously discussed and agreed principle. The phrasing of the directions is entirely in terms of “duty”, of “never faltering”, of allowing no argument to lead astray. The account of his dream which follows, and the rendition of the song (“Beasts of England”) confirm the stance. His dream is a Utopian vision of the past to be transferred to the future. It is carried by images of plenty, and the “golden future time” of the song. The song itself is not there for education or illumination, but as a unifying device, depending upon the ability of the members to pick up the tune quickly without thinking about the words. Although Major says that “no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind,” his speech already has in it the seeds of tyranny in it because the manner of his speaking discourages participation and discussion, because the set of directions announced by him show a narrow view, and because he uses the device of the song which serves as an unthinking populist stimulation.
The Emergence of Three Pigs as Leaders
Major’s speech also lays the foundations for the political developments which follow. The three pigs who take up and apply his ideas are defined by their ability to handle language. Napoleon is “not much of a talker” in contrast to Snowball who is “quicker in speech and more inventive”. The only porker of significance is Squealer who is a brilliant talker and who is reported as having the capacity to turn black into white by his arguments. Snowball is depicted as the one who makes the rules and exercises control through talking and writing. Napoleon is depicted as the one who exercises control by manipulating the physical aspects of the farm, the produce, and its consumption. After the death of Major, the three leading pigs develop the negative strategies which are already present, and they turn Major’s directions into a complete system of thought legitimized  by the word “Animalism”. By doing so, they acquire a power which is seen in the way they run the meetings of the animals. Organization is left to them because “naturally” it should be and because they are “generally recognized” as the cleverest. They  exploit their position by failing to answer the questions of other animals, and dismissing the questions on the ground that they are “contrary to the spirit of Animalism”. The key-reaction to their techniques is that of the horses, Boxer and Clover, who “had  great  difficulty  thinking anything  out  for themselves, but having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything they were told, and passed it on to the other animals in simple arguments.” Most important is the fact that the pigs can read and write. This is the key to their intelligence. After the Rebellion, we get a clue to the significance which they attach to their ability, because the first thing they do is to change the name of Manor Farm to “Animal Farm”, thus making use of the magic which names often have. The second thing they do is to reduce the directions of the late Major to “Seven Commandments of unalterable law”. Realizing that the directions can never be absolute unless treated as laws, they write them down. In the process they reduce the directions, leaving out certain points such as the injunction that animals are not to tyrannize over each other.
Linguistic Ability, a Great Asset
The domination by the pigs increases as the life at the farm moves through the first few months of animal government. At the same time, it is again emphasized that their power proceeds from their ability to use language; and the direction of that power is toward reducing the scope of life instead of expanding it. Once more, it is Snowball and Napoleon who participate the most in the debates and who therefore control the meetings. But the difference between the methods of the two leaders is between Snowball’s superior linguistic ability and Napoleon’s physical control. Snowball concerns himself with committees and education. However, he caters to the desire of the animals not to think, thus making it easier for them simply to memorize than really to learn. Of course, this itself is partly a result of the system which discourages active participation in debate and discussion. The pigs have no difficulty in reading and writing. The dogs, as well as the donkeys (like Benjamin) and the goat Muriel too, have not much difficulty. But the dogs are slavish creatures, only interested in reading the Commandments, and the donkey Benjamin says that there is “nothing worth reading”. Clover is intelligent but not intelligent enough to “put words together”; while Boxer can never remember more than four letters of the alphabet at a time, even though he takes great pleasure in them. The vain mare, Mollie, learns only her own name, and none of the other animals can go beyond the letter A. These varying abilities in reading and writing determine the status of the various animals. At the top, the better one is able to read, the cleverer one is thought to be, and the less work one has to do. At the bottom, the majority of illiterate of animals merely accept their subordinate position and do their duties. In the centre are the intelligent but not completely literate animals, like Boxer and Clover, who cannot read and therefore must work, but who are yet clever enough to realize that they must actively participate and perform a larger number of duties than the others.
“Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad”
For those who have the minimum intelligence, Snowball reduces the Seven Commandments to a single maxim which is “Four legs good, two legs bad”. This maxim is quickly learnt by the sheep who then keep repeating it most of the time. When the birds object that this criterion will exclude them because they have only two legs, Snowball explains that the two wings of a bird will also count as legs. The birds accept this explanation even though they do not understand Snowball’s long words. Thus explanation serves a useful purpose, but it is made possible through linguistic ability. When Napoleon has to justify the pigs’ consuming all the milk and the apples, he sends Squealer with the necessary explanations.
The Expulsion of Snowball from Animal Farm
Upto this point the satire emphasizes the theory that language, written or spoken, is the key to political power. The other animals have a limited capacity to learn and use the language, and they cannot therefore discuss the various issues effectively with the pigs. As the other animals cannot write and as they have imperfect memories, they cannot verify the original assumptions and decisions from which a start had been made after the Rebellion against Mr. Jones. If the other animals did not suffer from these limitations, the pigs could not have acquired a supremacy at the farm. In Chapter 4 the question arises whether this type of political situation can last. Once again the key is propaganda by means of language. The leaders at Animal Farm send out birds to instruct the neighbouring animals in the elements of a rebellion and in the singing of the song called “Beasts of England”. The song is a unifying point of contact, and it is the one thing that greatly annoys the farmers at the neighbouring farms. At first the farmers retaliate by laughing and circulating rumours to refute this propaganda, but afterwards they launch a violent attack on Animal Farm. The attack by the farmers is repulsed, and the inhabitants of Animal Farm celebrate their victory in a formal manner. They now adopt a flag; they institute medals for heroism; and they adopt the practice of firing a gun on important occasions. The political development at Animal Farm is portrayed most clearly by the manner in which the meetings are now conducted. The pigs set up a process whereby they make the decisions and the other animals simply ratify these decisions. However, the consolidation of this process is interrupted by the incident of the windmill in Chapter 5. Snowball had decided that building a windmill would enable the animals to modernize the farm and raise their standard of living, but Napoleon is opposed to the plan, saying that it will come to nothing. The matter is first raised as a casual example of the differences between Snowball and Napoleon, but is gradually turned into the main event which leads to Snowball’s expulsion from the farm. During the final debate about whether or not to build the windmill, Snowball defends his position intellectually and rationally, while Napoleon replies with a brief statement of disbelief and subsequently resorts to the use of force. Both leaders, however, exclude the rest of the animals from any active involvement with their reasoning. Snowball’s expulsion from the farm is one of the climaxes in the novel.
The Pigs Supreme at Animal Farm
After Snowball’s departure, there are no more debates at the meetings of the animals. A committee of pigs is established to take all decisions which are afterwards communicated to the other animals. Discussion is made impossible partly because the animals do not have sufficient command of the language to be able to put their questions in words, and partly because the chanting of slogans drowns the questions which are asked. This position is further strengthened by the threat of the use of force against any dissidents. A general submission on the part of the animals to the supremacy of the pigs and their leaders is now the general rule at Animal Farm, and this submission leads to an unthinking acceptance of Boxer’s second maxim which is: “Napoleon is always right.” (Boxer’s first maxim is: “I will work harder”).
The Increasing Power of the Pigs, and the Subservience of the Other Animals
A new seating arrangement is now introduced at the meetings of the animals. The pigs and the dogs sit on a raised platform, and the rest of the animals sit below. Furthermore, no reasons are given for the decisions which have been taken even before the meetings are held. A new custom is also introduced: this is the worship of the skull of the dead Major. All animals have to walk past this skull in a spirit of reverence once a week. By such methods, the principles of Animalism are elevated to an unquestioned position. The rhetoric of the leaders has now become a negative process for inducing passivity and submission; and the next rhetorical development (which occurs in Chapter 6) relates to the techniques which the pigs employ to stop all questioning by the other animals. The first example of this is Napoleon’s announcement that Animal Farm will now start trading with human beings. The decision provokes a protest because some animals remember that Major had forbidden such trade; but the timid voices of these animals are immediately silenced by threats of force from the dogs and by the slogan-chanting of the sheep. Squealer then comes with an explanation which is actually a re-interpretation of past events. As the past events have not been written down anywhere, nobody is in a position to give any counter-argument against the position adopted by Squealer. Similarly, when the pigs take up their abode in Mr. Jones’s house, Squealer is able to convince the other animals that there is nothing wrong with the step which the pigs have taken. Boxer merely repeats his maxims: “I will work harder”; and ‘Napoleon is always right”. Clover and Muriel try to re-read the Commandments, but because the pigs have already modified the relevant Commandment to suit their own purpose, Clover accepts the new position. Squealer’s rhetoric consists of placing the animals in a negative perspective and Napoleon in a positive one. Squealer re-defines words as if the word could absolutely represent an event, and hence re-definition firmly justifies a new interpretation. Gradually, with the support of slogan-chanting by the sheep and the threat of force from the dogs, the animals get used to the explanations and cease to question. When they are told for the second time that Snowball was a villain and a traitor, they accept it.
Napoleon, the Leader, No Longer Directly Accessible
to the Animals
The form of government on Animal Farm now depends on an enforced “voluntarism” superintended by the pigs. Napoleon soon becomes detached even from the rest of the pigs. His speeches are not now directly made to the animals at the meetings but are merely reported to them. He is now referred to as “the leader”. At the same time, a contact has been established with human beings, and this contact begins to develop and increase. Animal Farm now acquires a human lawyer (by the name of Mr. Whymper) to look after its interests. The pigs adopt certain devices to keep up an appearance of prosperity. One such device is to fill the storage drums with sand and topping them up with barley to produce an impression of the availability of large quantities of corn in the store. Such propaganda has to be kept up not only to deceive the outsiders but also to keep the subordinate animals at the farm satisfied because, after all, Napoleon’s control over the government depends on his apparent strength and infallibility. Napoleon now appears only on ceremonial occasions. He stops giving any direct commands. His commands are communicated to the animals by Squealer. In this way possible disagreements are avoided, because there is no one with whom the animals can argue directly. At the same time, Napoleon realizes that whatever discontent the animals might feel should be provided with some focus. Accordingly, he reconstructs history in such a way that Snowball is made to appear the cause of whatever weakness or deficiency the animals find on the farm.
The Hens on Strike; and their Surrender
Each of the three major incidents of Chapter 7 centres on techniques for removing the discontent of the animals. In each case Napoleon tries to remove himself farther from direct communication, and the other animals become increasingly passive. During the first incident the hens are ordered to surrender their eggs for sale at a time when, in the normal course, they would be hatching the eggs. The hens go on strike on the ground that Napoleon’s order means the murder of the unborn chickens, and Napoleon cuts off their food supply. By the time the hens yield, nine of them die. However, it is given out by an unspecified source that the hens have died not because of hunger but because of disease. As in the case of the fictional reconstruction of Snowball’s history, the new facts come from an unknown origin. The catch-phrases now are: “It was said” and “It was noticed.” The animals become so used to the process of explaining or rewriting history that they seldom protest. When they do protest, Squealer is there to persuade them.
The Rewriting of History to Discredit Snowball
The main rewriting of history in this chapter relates to the first battle with the farmers which had been fought and won by Snowball. As a result of the rewriting of history, the animals are told that in fact Snowball had not even taken a part in the fighting. This is not easily believed by the animals, and even Boxer has his doubts. But Squealer describes the historical events of the battle in such a convincing manner that the animals have to believe the new version. When Boxer is still unwilling to believe the new facts, Squealer says that Napoleon has said so “categorically”, and this finally satisfies Boxer too.
Killings on the Basis of “Confessions”
The final incident of Chapter 7 is Napoleon’s ordering an assembly of the animals to which he comes wearing medals and decorations, and escorted by fierce dogs. The meeting has been called so that those animals, who had aided and helped Snowball in his treachery, may make their confessions and receive punishment. At the assembly, the animals are persuaded to accept personal guilt and to sacrifice themselves because of that guilt. Several animals come forward to make their confessions. Each one of them knows that he will be killed, but each is so convinced of his guilt that he thinks it necessary to make the confession. It is important that some of the pigs should be the first to make their confessions. In the eyes of the other animals this provides Napoleon with a greater degree of impartiality. In a more subtle way, this emphasizes the point that the only serious threat to Napoleon comes from his own class. As animal after animal makes his confession, he is put to death for his guilt. Eventually, there is a pile of dead bodies lying at Napoleon’s feet. It is clear that the animals are in a state of hysteria. The very excitement of the situation leads a large number of them to make confessions which, we know, are absolutely false and baseless. (We can guess that the confessions have been manipulated by Napoleon’s agents).
The Realization of Utopia, According to Squealer
The animals, who remain, feel completely confused because such extreme punishment seems to them to be totally wrong. Boxer blames himself, but Muriel and Clover try to understand what is happening. One of the reasons for their puzzlement is that they cannot use the language well. If Clover could have spoken her thoughts, it would have been to say that this was not what the animals had originally aimed at. She therefore merely begins to sing “Beasts of England”. But significantly Squealer arrives just then to inform them that the song has been banned on Animal Farm because the Rebellion is complete and is now over. Utopia has been achieved, he says, and a new song had been written to take the place of the first. The point here is that, whether or not Utopia has been realized, the impression must be created that it has. The new song would be one of the symbols to prove that Utopia has been realized.
A Further Development in Napoleon’s Strategy
Throughout Chapter 8, Napoleon consolidates his position and authority and thus becomes a dictator. Rumours are circulated about threats to his life; the gun is fired not only to commemorate the Rebellion and the battle but also Napoleon’s birthday; and an entire mythology is built up around him through proverbial sayings, verses, and portraits. Now that the immediate problem of controlling the animals has been solved, he turns to the propaganda needed for the outside world. The primary concern is now to convince the neighbouring farmers of the legitimacy of Animal Farm and Napoleon’s undisputed power. This external propaganda is combined with information given to the animals on the farm that there is a threat to their security from outside. One of the two human farmers, who are competing to buy timber from Animal Farm, adopts a favourable attitude towards Animal Farm while the other becomes hostile. The hostility of this farmer provides Napoleon with a focus to direct the animals’ ire against him. But, as with all short-term propaganda, a continual novelty is necessary to sustain the persuasion and, after Napoleon is cheated over the timber-deal with forged bank-notes, the farmers attack the farm and blow up the newly-built windmill. However, there are hints that Napoleon might even have engineered the attack himself in order to cover up his own stupidity over the forgery.
Persuasion, Backed up by Force, Leading to
This second battle is in marked contrast to the first. The animals advance boldly enough but are easily beaten back until their pride and joy, the windmill, is blown up. Afterwards, Boxer’s simple questions again reveal the disillusionment of the animals, and this disillusionment has to be dispelled by Squealer’s ceremonies, medals, songs, speeches, and the firing of the gun, to convince them that “after all they had won a great victory”. The incidents leading up to the battle and its conclusion are enclosed by references to the Commandments which Muriel reads to Clover. In each case, “there were two words which they had forgotten”, with a resultant change in the meaning. Again, Benjamin, who knows that the Commandments have simply been amended, abdicates his responsibility and remains uninvolved. It is interesting to note that, as the animals become more detached, they pick up Squealer’s vocabulary of persuasion. After a point, Squealer ceases even to persuade by misleading proofs. He simply reads off statistics which appear to show that the lot of the animals now is far better than it was under Mr. Jones; and the animals believe every word of it. The continued use of negative rhetoric, of persuasion by omission, deception, and reinterpretation, backed up by force, has produced s state of constant self-deception.
Racism; Class-privileges; and the Re-writing of History
The next development in the government is the introduction of racism and open privilege. All the young pigs, who are Napoleon’s offspring, receive special education and are kept apart from the others. The pigs in general are now allowed to wear ribbons on their tails; and the man-made conveniences on the farm now become requirements and are no longer regarded as superfluous things. The other animals are encouraged to take part in songs, speeches, processions, and organized weekly demonstrations which are described as Spontaneous. This is done to divert the attention of these animals from the privileges which the pigs have now begun to enjoy. Next, Animal Farm becomes a republic with Napoleon as the president. The history of Snowball is rewritten to prove that he had actually been on the side of Mr. Jones. Moses, the raven, who had left when the Rebellion occurred, returns with his dreams of Sugarcandy Mountain. Although he is lying when he suggests that there is a better place beyond the Utopian farm, he yet provides to the animals another means of escape from their daily life into a world of imagination. In accepting the vision offered by Moses, the animals use a twisted logic. They argue that, their lives being laborious, it is only right and just that a better world for them should exist somewhere else.
Boxer, Sold to a Butcher. A False Account,
Given to the Animals
Then comes another important development. Boxer receives a serious injury. The pigs decide to send Boxer to a veterinary doctor in a nearby town, and the van which comes to carry him away arrives in the middle of the day when everyone is busy working. However, Benjamin sees the van and, for the first time, breaks down. Benjamin reads the sign on the van and comes to know that it has come from the slaughter-house. He tells the other animals that Boxer is going to be taken to the butcher to be killed. The animals make an unsuccessful attempt to stop the van. Squealer gives to the animals a false but plausible account of the circumstances in which Boxer had died. On the following day Napoleon himself addresses the animals and he too gives an utterly false version of Boxer’s death. The real fact, however, is that Boxer, the faithful horse which had always worked laboriously in the service of the community, has been sold to the butcher because he had now become useless from Napoleon’s point of view. The episode shows the total control which is now exercised by Napoleon.
The New Slogan: “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better”
The final Chapter completes the process. The central event in this Chapter is the shattering of the last illusion which the animals have, namely that they own the farm. To prepare the animals for this development, Squealer trains the sheep to bleat a new slogan which is: “Four legs good, two legs better.” The pigs now begin to walk around on their hind legs, holding whips with their front legs. The other animals would have uttered protests against this development, but the sheep interrupt them by shouting slogans. The situation has therefore to be accepted by the other animals; and afterwards nothing that happens would seem strange to them. Benjamin now tells Muriel that only one Commandment now remains of the original seven, and that it has been modified to read is follows: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
Pigs, the Ruling Class. The Original Name of
the Farm, Restored
The fable ends with the speeches of the farmers and pigs in which the aim is not to inspire a new situation but to summarize an old one. Both the farmers’ representatives and Napoleon proceed by a series of statements which do not even form an argument. Napoleon announces that the original name of the farm has now been restored, and that the farm will now again be known as “Manor Farm”. The other animals have been peering in at the window, watching this declaration of cooperative ownership among the pigs, and hearing themselves described as lower animals. But the other animals do not protest because they have become hopeless and have therefore resigned themselves to this development. The final transformation of the pigs into human beings is not surprising. It comes as something inevitable in view of the developments which have already taken place.

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