Benjamin does not participate when the animals celebrate their accomplishments, even though he has shared in the work. Why is his cynicism significant, and what might her represent?
Benjamin has a savvy awareness of the situation that many of the other characters do not. I completely agree with post #7 that Benjamin is, well, all about the Benjamin! He is not going to say or do anything that would jeopardize his own security, even if he did have the opinion that what Napoleon was doing was wrong. Benjamin is the epitome of self-preservation.
Benjamin represents the part of society that tries to keep its head low, its back covered, and itself uninvolved in causes and problems that it perceives as being unsolvable and therefore not worth wasting time worrying about. Benjamin just wants to do what he has to do to survive, and beyond that to be left alone.
Bejamin, to me, is a stoic and a-political character. His interest in philosophy and in ideas of the unchanging economy of people's nature, so to speak, leads Bejamin to distrust surface changes.
What matters to him is not what people say, but what they do, which is why he is attached to Boxer, the work-horse, the figure of action.
Benjamin has been around the block a few times. He is no fool.
Benjamin was the oldest animal on the farm, and the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did, it was usually to make some cynical remark. (ch 1)
Orwell includes Benjamin for a very specific reason. He is in some ways Orwell's voice.
Benjamin represents the cynical intellectual who refuses to get involved in politics and so fails to affect meaningful change. His cynicism is much like Orwell's own attitude toward life. (enotes character analysis, other characters, Benjamin)
Yet Benjamin has a genuine affection for Boxer. Although he is cynical and attempts to stay uninvolved, he does care. Benjamin is like many people who realize that the propaganda is a lie but decide they are better off not getting involved.
Nevertheless, without openly admitting it, he was devoted to Boxer; the two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small paddock beyond the orchard, grazing side by side and never speaking. (ch 1)
He supports Boxer, because Boxer is his friend, even though Boxer represents a large contrast. He is the loyal supporter. So it is not that Benjamin is always a vocal opponent of the new regime necessarily. He supports Boxer.
Benjamin does fight alongside Boxer. He is brave. However, he does not go along with the revolutionary rhetoric.
Benjamin was the only animal who did not side with either faction. He refused to believe either that food would become more plentiful or that the windmill would save work. Windmill or no windmill, he said, life would go on as it had always gone on--that is, badly. (ch 5)
In many ways, Benjamin is the voice of reason. But he never actually seems to try to convince anyone to go along with him, and many ignore him because he is always negative.
You can read more about Benjamin here:
The full text and quotes can be found at: http://www.george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/0.html
Benjamin is a cynic who does not believe actual change can be effected through the political process. He believes that things will remain bad for the animals no matter what, and the fact that it is he that recognizes that the truck that comes to take Boxer away is a horse slaughterer suggests that Orwell views him as a person who is unwilling to get involved until it is too late.
I agree with #2, and I would add that he also represents people who just don't see any point in getting too involved in the political process. Like Benjamin says, he's been around a long time, and none of the other animals has "ever seen a dead donkey." He knows that things tend to stay pretty much the same, regardless of what they try to do or who is running things.
I think he is supposed to represent a group of people in Russia who were opposed to the communists but who were too smart to say anything about it that would get them killed. Unlike some of the others, Benjamin knows he's getting used. But he's not going to do anything dumb about it like criticizing Napoleon.