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Animal Farm: Chapter V - Analysis

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.

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