In Animal Farm, how does selfishness make you happy?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most striking messages of Animal Farm is the idea that being selfish promotes happiness. This is most-commonly expressed through Orwell's characterisation of the pigs and we see numerous examples in the text.

Firstly, at the end of Chapter Two, Napoleon steals the milk and, later, it is decided that the milk is to be mixed in with the pig's mash. Napoleon's act of selfishness in taking the milk enables the pigs to eat better than the other animals and therefore creates a sense of happiness.

Similarly, in Chapter Six, the pigs decide to leave the barn and sleep in the farmhouse. This decision directly contravenes one of the principles of Animalism, ("no animal shall sleep in a bed"), but the pigs know that sleeping in the farmhouse will be much more comfortable than the barn. There is no reason why all of the animals could not live in the farmhouse but, again, this is an example of the pigs' selfishness in pursuit of personal pleasure. They care more about themselves than they do about the other animals.

By the end of the novel, the pigs are in charge of Animal Farm. Through a series of selfish and calculated acts, they have manipulated and overcome the other animals. We, perhaps, see them at their happiest in the closing chapter, when they walk on two legs, consume copious amounts of alcohol and plan for the farm's future. But all of this has come at a great cost: by pursuing a selfish agenda, the, pigs have lost the very characteristics which once defined them. Observing from a window, the other animals look from "pig to man, and from man to pig," but could not tell one from the other.