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Benjamin is the phlegmatic, crotchety, and cynical donkey in George Orwell's anti-totalitarian fable, Animal Farm. Given to deadpan and cryptic aphorisms such as "Donkeys live a long time", Benjamin is the only animal of Manor Farm who does not enthusiastically embrace the golden promise of the Revolution. He believes (accurately, as it turns out) that life will continue on in its hardscrabble way despite the 'regime change'. Of equal intelligence to the pigs, and as literate as they, nevertheless Benjamin prefers to refrain from using these capabilities in the building of the new society, except, significantly, near the end of the story when he informs the non-reading animals of the true meaning of the words written on the knacker's van come to pick up Boxer, the ailing workhorse.
Each animal or group of animals in Orwell's fable personifies a figure or concept of totalitarian society: Napoleon, the pig, is the visionary leader of the glorious revolution; Snowball, the pig, is the ideological traitor; Squealer, the pig, is the glib propagandist; the sheep are the unthinking supporters of all the twists and turns in the party line; and Boxer, the workhorse, is the stouthearted 'hero of socialist labour'. But who or what does Benjamin personify? He could represent the indifferent millions, whose lives are little affected by the vagaries of party politics. Except that in the closing pages of the narrative the reader suddenly encounters a Benjamin whose persona comes alive and whose character emerges into three dimensions. It is as if the one character whose reason for existense in the text was to deconstruct the vacuity and meaninglessness of totalitarian society took on a full-blooded personality. As he excitedly rains blows on the knacker's van, no longer cynical, no longer tongue-tied, Benjamin is clearly Orwell himself, the enraged critic of communism.
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