Compare and contrast the characters of Napoleon and Snowball in Animal Farm.

Napoleon and Snowball in Animal Farm are alike in having greater intelligence than the other animal species on the farm, in vying for leadership roles, and in believing the pigs deserve extra privileges. However, Snowball is far more intelligent and hardworking than Napoleon, believes to some extent in the principles of Animalism, and is courageous. Napoleon is a strutting, narcissistic bully and coward who is only concerned about ruthlessly amassing personal power and indulging his appetites.

Expert Answers

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

Because they are pigs, Snowball and Napoleon are alike in being more intelligent than the other animal species on the farm. They both are interested in leadership of Animal Farm, and both are united in thinking that the pigs, because of their brain work, deserve extra benefits that the other animals don't get to share in, such as the windfall apples.

Snowball, however, is much more intelligent and hardworking than Napoleon and more of proactive leader early on. For example, Snowball expects Farmer Jones and his men to attack and try to retake the farm, so he studies Julius Caesar's writings on military strategy to be prepared.

Snowball also differs from Napoleon in being more dedicated to the principals of Animalism, if not entirely so. He forms many committees, for instance, in order to get all the animals involved in running the farm. He wants to build the windmill, which Napoleon initially opposes, in part to fulfill the dream of making life easier for all the animals.

Snowball is also braver than Napoleon. He actually fights in the Battle of the Cowshed, rather than disappearing.

Napoleon, on the other hand, has a more ruthless will to power. Unlike Snowball, his focus is solely on amassing power for himself. He is more underhanded and unprincipled than Snowball expects, so Snowball is taken by surprise when Napoleon uses the dogs he has raised to turn on Snowball and drive him off the farm.

Napoleon, unlike Snowball, does not care at all about the welfare of the other animals. He uses terror and propaganda rather than intelligence and planning to consolidate his power. He exploits his police-state power to set himself apart from the other animals and loll about self-aggrandizing, drinking, and womanizing with a variety of female pigs. He shows himself to be utterly heartless and without empathy when he has the elderly Boxer sold to the glue factory so he and his cohort can have a drunken revel.

Snowball is the Leon Trotsky character in the book, while Napoleon is meant to represent Joseph Stalin.

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

Napoleon and Snowball are the two leading pigs on the farm at the beginning of the story, who take center stage following the Rebellion and the Battle of the Cowshed. Both pigs are portrayed as intelligent and take the initiative to lead the other animals. Napoleon and Snowball also enjoy their privileged status and are not afraid to express their opinions by addressing the animals in public.

Despite the minor similarities, Napoleon and Snowball have completely different personalities and styles of leadership. Snowball is depicted as being more "vivacious" and in-touch with the other animals than Napoleon. He takes it upon himself to establish various committees to improve the standard of living on the farm and gives the other animals a voice in government decisions. Snowball is also a more articulate speaker and has plans to build a windmill, which will provide electricity to the farm and make life significantly easier for the animals. He also values the opinions of others and subscribes to old Major's teachings regarding equality and solidarity for every animal.

In contrast, Napoleon is a more intimidating, taciturn pig, who has a reputation for getting his own way. The animals believe that he has a greater depth of character than Snowball and he is depicted as a more threatening pig. Napoleon does not support Snowball's plans to build a windmill and believes that the farm should focus its attention on increasing its food production. Napoleon also subscribes to a completely different style of leadership than Snowball. Napoleon does not believe in the tenets of Animalism and develops into a tyrannical leader. He is much more ruthless, violent, and hostile than Snowball, which enables him to usurp power with relative ease.

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

Napoleon and Snowball are two leaders with very different personalities, as is clear from the following introductory description.

 Napoleon was a large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way. Snowball was a more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character.(chapter 2)

Napoleon, then, is  big, tough, ponderous, and laconic while Snowball is quick, fiery and talkative. However, from this description, we get the sense that ultimately Napoleon's is the more powerful and forceful personality, and so it proves.

In their clash of temperament, outlook, and ideas, it is inevitable that the two pigs should become rivals. Although to begin with Snowball appears to be the more successful and charismatic leader, with his fine powers of speech, organisational abilities and passionate idealism, he is eventually outmanoeuvred by the cunning and ruthless Napoleon. Napoleon is more interested than Snowball in obtaining personal power and stops at nothing to achieve it. While Snowball has the popular touch, Napoleon is content to work behind the scenes, and finally emerges with supreme power.

The power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball is deliberately reminiscent of the rivalry between Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky in the early days of Communist Russia. Napoleon, in his laconic brutality and scheming ways, resembles Stalin while Snowball resembles the brilliant and energetic Trotsky.  Just as Stalin finally ousted Trotsky, and proclaimed him an enemy of the Communist state, Napoleon eventually expels Snowball from the farm by brute force and blackens his very memory thereafter.

When compared to Napoleon, Snowball certainly is the more appealing character. However, while not ruthless like Napoleon, he too is seen to have his faults: he is quick enough to assume the pigs' superiority over the other animals at the start, and he has a tendency to somewhat idealistic and impractical schemes, like the windmill, which he stubbornly insists on pursuing.

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

Both Napoleon and Snowball are pigs living on Manor Farm. Both become leaders in the revolution, although their roles and responsibilities take them in very different directions.

Napoleon is a "large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar" who becomes the dictator and source of ultimate power in the government set up after the revolution. Napoleon exercises his authority behind the scenes; he seldom comes out among the other animals, and always has his guard dogs around to protect him through intimidation or attack, as needed. The other animals fear Napoleon but also credit him with the success of Animal Farm after the humans are expelled.

It had become usual to give Napoleon the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune. You would often hear one hen remark to another, 'Under the guidance of our Leader, Comrade Napoleon, I have laid five eggs in six days'; or two cows, enjoying a drink at the pool, would exclaim, 'Thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon, how excellent this water tastes!

Snowball is the spokespig and the organizer of the revolution. He is "quicker in speech and more inventive" than the other pigs and becomes the conveyer of messages and explanations between the pigs and the other animals. When questions begin to arise about the ways in which things seem to not be working out as the other animals anticipated, Snowball is the one to prove that all is working out exactly as it should have been.

Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in Jones's day, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas.

Snowball is eventually driven off the farm and is blamed for everything that goes wrong. He is made into a villain in the eyes of the animals, while Napoleon goes on to establish renewed relationships with the humans of surrounding farms.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on