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Animal Farm: Chapter VIII - Analysis

Napoleon’s revisionism continues with the alterations of the commandments. Worst of all is the reversal from “No animal shall kill any other animal” to “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” This particular revision may strike a particularly deep chord with readers on the parallel between the original Commandment and the Biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” On that note, we should notice that by this point,Moses is absent from Animal Farm along with the morality he represents and his vision of Sugarcandy Mountain, which could help the animals through their terror. Napoleon adds to his array of propaganda the reading of optimistic statistics. Stalin’s Five Year Plans were successful, especially considering how much catching up Russia had to do, but they did not meet up to his exceptionally high projections. Maintaining appearances was deemed vital to the regime’s international reputation.

At this point, Napoleon can trust that his terrorist tactics have made the animals submissive. They cannot believe in their own safety, so they embrace any good news they can get, and good news arrives to them almost exclusively in the form of propaganda. They have lost the ability to judge their success or their quality of life because they cannot remember what life was like before or just after the Rebellion. The animals have also become immune to the type of outrage that their leaders’ deceit might arouse in someone with a democratic education and mindset. Even when they catch Squealer in the act of revising the Seven Commandments, they are too subdued to protest. The animals have taken on Benjamin’s quality of apathy, not because they are naturally apathetic like him, but because Napoleon has molded and terrorized them to be that way. In the same way, the Soviet populace adjusted to Stalin’s tactics of fear and manipulation. Powerless to change anything, they grew to accept it. In psychology this might be called a denial, a defense mechanism, or a coping mechanism. Again, the nobles, who tended to have better educations than the working class, had fled.

As the animals are forced to live an increasingly restricted lifestyle, Napoleon and the pigs are continually awarding themselves privileges and taking an unfair share of the rations. Historically, this corresponds to Stalin’s privileging of the Communist elite. While the typical Soviet citizen worked hard and gained little, the typical member of the Communist elite had access to everything from fancy consumer goods to summer houses in the country. During the 1930s, it became increasingly difficult for people to join the ranks of the Communist elite. Orwell reflects this in Animal Farm, where there is absolutely no social mobility. Pigs alone have access to privileges such as sleeping in beds and drinking alcohol. We should recall that the seeds of this extreme class stratification, contrary to the tenets of Animalism and to Marxism-Leninism, began very early on when the pigs appropriated the milk supply. Orwell introduces the pigs’ privileges early and increases them gradually to show how insidious and therefore successful Stalin’s policies could be. People can be subjugated severely when the subjugation is enacted by degrees.

The events of Chapter VIII cover the historical events of: Hiter’s ascension to power in Germany, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, and Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Napoleon continues to be suspicious of Frederick just as Stalin kept one eye open as Hitler ascended to power in Germany. The stories of animal torture on Frederick’s farm are meant to symbolize the reports of atrocities coming out of Nazi Germany. The rumors are not substantiated in Animal Farm, presumably because the truth about the scale and severity of Hitler’s atrocities did not emerge fully until after World War II. Napoleon’s tightening leash on Animal Farm’s consciousness is reflected in his interactions with the messenger pigeons. The pigeons, which were formerly his mouthpieces, are now forbidden from flying over the neighboring farms. Presumably, Napoleon does not want them to undermine his ever-changing opinions about Frederick and Pilkington.

In 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact that promised neutrality and cooperation between the two nations. In Animal Farm, Napoleon’s trade agreement with Frederick symbolizes this pact. Napoleon does not trust Frederick completely, as shown in his unwillingness to accept a check. In the same way Stalin was wary of Hitler and his goals, perhaps seeing some of his own ruthlessness and ambition in Hitler’s eyes. Napoleon’s distrust of Frederick soon turns out to be true, just as Stalin was right not to trust Hitler completely. Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, an event that Orwell mirrors in Frederick’s attack on Animal Farm. He summarizes the incredible damage that the Nazis did before their defeat in the destruction of the windmill.

Pilkington’s neutrality during the conflict and his not-so-neutral message, “Serves you right,” satirize the Allies’ initial hesitance to respond during World War II. World War II devastated the Soviet population, which lost over twenty million people. Orwell reflects the magnitude of the Soviet Union’s loss in Boxer’s flagging enthusiasm. Even he, the bastion of positive thinking, finds it difficult to recoup after the Battle of the Windmill. With Animal Farm so isolationist and duplicitous toward the human world (compare modern-day North Korea), it is no wonder that it faces withering shortages, demoralization, and tyranny within and hostility everywhere without.

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