How is fear used throughout Animal Farm?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We learn from Animal Farm that fear is a very powerful emotion—one so powerful that it can be harnessed to keep both people and animals alike in check. The animals on Manor Farm always seem to be controlled by fear of one sort or another. Under the inept, drunken management of Farmer Jones, they could at any moment find themselves being slaughtered. The time is ripe for someone to come along and free the animals from this fear. Unfortunately, this does not happen. The political ideology of Animalism potentially offers a way forward. But in the hands (or rather, trotters) of Napoleon it turns into an instrument of repression even more fear-inducing than anything ever devised by humans.

As it quickly becomes clear that Napoleon is establishing himself as dictator, it becomes necessary for the new regime to construct some useful boogie-man figures to scare the animals into submission. This need becomes particularly acute when the Animalist system leads to widespread food shortages. The system cannot be wrong; Napoleon is always right. So if there are problems then they must be caused by sabotage.

Snowball and Farmer Jones fill the role of scapegoats for the growing failures of Napoleon's dictatorship. The former is an Animalist apostate, a traitor to the cause. And as for the farmer, well, he is a human, so what can you expect? The exploiters will always try to thwart the glorious revolution and its final victory over the wicked forces of humanity. Either way, Napoleon wants the animals to be so afraid of what these enemies have in store for them that they will instinctively flock to support him.

The animals are not simply afraid of Napoleon or the possible return of Farmer Jones; they are also afraid of each other. In the show trials that take place after the hen rebellion, animals are frightened into making false confessions that they know to be utterly absurd. Informing on others becomes not just an article of Animalist faith; it is a way of surviving an increasingly totalitarian regime. Everyone is afraid that someone else might snitch on them and turn them in to Napoleon and his thuggish acolytes. That is just how Napoleon wants it. So long as the animals are afraid of him and of each other, he can maintain his iron grip on power.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To a great extent, the animals use fear to keep one another in check and in submission.  In order to ensure that there is acceptance on the part of the animals, fear is used as a motivating factor.  Old Major uses fear when he tells the animals that their purpose is to be used and discarded by the human beings.  Old Major makes no pretense about how he sees Jones and the other humans.  He makes a point of utilizing this fear to ensure that the animals understand his meaning by suggesting that when Boxer becomes old and no more of use he will be sent to the "knacker's."  Fear is the motivating element that he uses to make sure that the other animals embrace his vision, and after he dies, Snowball and Napoleon use this fearful element in their recruitment of animals into the Animalism philosophy.  Once the pigs assume leadership, Fear is then used by the propaganda master Squealer when he stresses to the animals that they have to struggle in order to avoid Jones' return.  Squealer uses the fear of Jones as sort of the ending to all arguments if any animal voices their discontent about life under the pigs.  Naturally, Napoleon uses fear to quell any dissent.  Through his forced confessions and public executions, Napoleon uses fear as a way to keep the animals under his control.  Orwell demonstrates that political regimes often use tools such as playing on fear as a way to consolidate their own power and ensure that there will not be any questioning of their policies and practices.