Animal Farm begins with Old Major's vision of a farm without human intervention, where all the animals will be treated fairly and equally. It is his inspiration which leads to the animals taking over the farm. However, right from the start, there is the question of whether birds and other small creatures are to be included in the vision for the farm and already the reader sees that "some animals are more equal than others." There is also the mystery of the milk which the animals come to accept is needed by the pigs as "brain " food. Whilst the pigs are securely placed as the leaders, there is something of a power struggle for leadership as Napoleon and Snowball, both of whom see a future for the farm, have very different ideas of that future.
Snowball has convinced the animals that building a windmill is the best way forward and the animals call a meeting as Napoleon thinks it is a bad idea and is opposed to it. He intends to persuade the animals to vote against it. The animals get excited when Snowball starts speaking but then the sheep start bleating and eventually, upon Napoleon's instruction, there is a complete breakdown of the meeting as Napoleon unleashes the pack of dogs which chases Snowball off the property. The animals are confused and are already afraid of Napoleon. He is therefore established as the leader and the animals, through Squealer's persuasion, come to think of Snowball as a troublemaker, set on ruining their chances of success.
Although Snowball is smarter and a better talker, Napoleon is better respected and seems persuasive.
The animals respected Napoleon’s strength and Snowball’s intelligence. Napoleon and Snowball were both “[pre-eminent] among the pigs” (ch 1). Napoleon was “not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way” (ch 1). The vivacious Snowball was “quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character” (ch 1). Napoleon does not talk much. He usually has someone else, mainly Squealer, to be his mouthpiece and talk for him. Napoleon knows that Squealor is persuasive.
At the Meetings Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. (ch 5)
In the end, Napoleon is able to get enough support from other pigs and plan well enough with the puppy police force to push Snowball out. He then takes over the farm and rules tyrannically.
A significant difference between the animals' listening reactions to Napoleon and Snowball emerges. When the animals listen to Snowball, they are entranced, captured by his powers of persuasion. Snowball's passion and approach is what enables the animals to buy into Animalism and the promises of a life transformed. The animals' listening to Snowball was one of mesmerizing in the hopes of what can be. His speeches were lengthy and compelling. This is not the speaking condition of Napoleon, who was much more economical in terms of word usage. The reaction of the animals listening to Napoleon was one of forced respect or even fear. When Napoleon's response to Snowball's speech about the benefits of the windmill was the high pitched whistle/ squeal to the dogs to chase Snowball off of the farm, the animals' reaction is one of instant fear and respect. The same approach is taken in chapter 7, when Napoleon orders the dogs to attack the animals who have taken steps against his leadership. The reaction of the animals to Napoleon's speeches from this point on was a form of silence, enhanced by fear of Napoleon's retribution. The significance in the difference of reaction helps to bring out the fundamental difference in how the animals perceive both leaders.