In George Orwell's Animal Farm, what do you think the missing milk foreshadows?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The missing milk, which transpires to have been taken by the pigs, foreshadows the ending of the novel. At the end, it turns out that the pigs’s ruse all along had not been to create a Utopian environment in which all animals are equal, but simply to overthrow Mr Jones...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The missing milk, which transpires to have been taken by the pigs, foreshadows the ending of the novel. At the end, it turns out that the pigs’s ruse all along had not been to create a Utopian environment in which all animals are equal, but simply to overthrow Mr Jones and take over the farm for themselves. Ultimately, they changed the name of Animal Farm back to Manor Farm, which had been its original name before the rebellion.

The incident with the milk happens in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Jones and his men being forced off the farm by the animals. The fact that this happens so quickly tells us that the pigs probably never had any intention paying anything more than lip service to the idea of creating a farm that is managed by the animals for the equal benefit of all the animals.

When it is pointed out that the milk could be mixed in with the animals’s feed, as Mr. Jones had occasionally done, Napoleon tells them not to worry about the milk. He distracts them by telling them to follow Snowball out into the field to finish the harvest. By the time they get back, the milk is gone; it is safe to assume that it has been consumed by the pigs. This action foreshadows the fact that the pigs care for no one but themselves.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The incident with the milk can be found at the very end of Chapter Two, which opens with the death of Major and details the animals's capture of the farm. At this point in the book, we see the pigs simplifying the tenets of Animalism down to seven core principles. The animals on the farm are, for the most part, highly enthusiastic and optimistic about the future. This entire chapter is characterized by this sense of optimism, one which is then undercut by the image on which it ends. The pigs entreat the other animals to focus on the harvest, while the milk goes missing in the meantime. Thus, Orwell concludes this chapter on a very cynical note. He is suggesting that the farm's reality, as well as its future, will not reflect the utopian idealism of Major's vision.

The next chapter builds on this theme when the animals learn that the pigs took the milk. Here, the pigs employ propaganda to defend what is a betrayal of animalist principles. They claim to have taken the milk out of pragmatic necessity, as the intellectual leaders and organizers of the farm. Thus, we see the pigs already claiming special privileges for themselves, and utilizing these tools of rhetoric and propaganda to justify these abuses. These themes will become critical as Animal Farm continues.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Towards the end of chapter two, the pigs milk the cows and Napoleon promises to attend to the milk as Snowball leads the animals to the fields to begin harvesting. Napoleon stays behind as the animals go to the fields, and when they return, the milk is missing. In the next chapter, the animals are initially outraged to learn that the pigs have been hoarding and indulging in the milk and apples, which are considered luxury goods on the farm. Squealer defends the pigs's actions by explaining to the gullible animals that it is necessary for the pigs to drink the milk and eat the apples in order to remain mentally healthy and alert. He refers to the pigs as brainworkers and warns them that if the pigs do not consume milk and apples, they will not be able to run an organized farm, which will result in Mr. Jones's return.

The missing milk foreshadows the privileged class that will arise on the farm. The fact that the pigs have access to luxury goods while the other animals do not foreshadows the impending social hierarchy on the farm in which the pigs are considered the aristocracy. The missing milk also foreshadows Napoleon’s selfish nature and deceitful tactics.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As the other answer said, the missing milk foreshadows that the pigs are not going to support equality of all the animals. They are going to use their superior intelligence to their own advantage and use language (propaganda) to justify policies that serve their needs over the needs of the other animals. Stealing the milk foreshadows that they are going to act first and rationalize later.

We note that the pigs do not come to the meeting of all the animals and ask for others' input on what to do with the milk, which would more closely follow the spirit of Animalism. Nor do they come to the other animals and make a special plea for the milk, leaving it to the entire group to decide what to do with it. No, as will become characteristic of the pigs, they simply take what they want, and when they are discovered, devise an excuse. Unfortunately, the other animals are prone to accept and not question what the pigs have to say.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The milk disappears in Chapter II, and the animals discover what happens to it in the next chapter. It is revealed that the milk is mixed each day into the pigs' mash. When the animals wonder why the pigs are receiving this privilege, Squealer argues that the pigs, because they are the brains behind the farm, need the extra nutrition found in the milk and apples, which, he claims, is scientifically proven to be essential for pigs. He even says that some of the pigs don't like milk and apples, but eat them for the benefit of all the animals. What this foreshadows is that the pigs, contrary to their rhetoric about the equality of all animals, are going to reserve certain privileges for themselves. They have no intent of creating true equality on the farm. This is the first example of the corruption of the principles of the revolution, which will eventually disintegrate into a totalitarian nightmare in which the pigs are no better than the humans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team