How is Napoleon in Animal Farm viewed as a powerful character?

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Napoleon is powerful in different ways. Perhaps most importantly, he is powerful because he controls the dogs, who intimidate and suppress the other animals. Napoleon deliberately takes the dogs from their mother when they are puppies and then raises them to become a vicious, loyal fighting unit. They are the...

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Napoleon is powerful in different ways. Perhaps most importantly, he is powerful because he controls the dogs, who intimidate and suppress the other animals. Napoleon deliberately takes the dogs from their mother when they are puppies and then raises them to become a vicious, loyal fighting unit. They are the equivalent of Hitler’s Brownshirts or Stalin’s NKVD. Napoleon uses the dogs to chase his only rival, Snowball, from the farm. He also uses the dogs to silence any dissenting voices. For example, when four piglets voice their disapproval in Chapter 5, “the dogs sitting around Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and the [piglets fall] silent and [sit] down again.”

Napoleon is also powerful because he creates a sort of cult of personality around himself. For example, he replaces the Beasts of England song with a song all about himself. In this new song, Napoleon is lauded as “the sun in the sky” and the “giver of / All that thy creatures love.” In other words, Napoleon sets himself up as indispensable. The animals are taught to believe that they depend upon him as they depend upon the sun. They depend upon him, they believe, for food and to keep Jones away. Napoleon also organizes processional marches, during which he is surrounded by his dogs and preceded by his black cockerel, who acts as “a kind of trumpeter, letting out a loud 'cock-a-doodle-do' before Napoleon speaks.” These marches are intended to make the animals believe that Napoleon is almost like a god.

A third reason as to why Napoleon is powerful is because he controls the past. He convinces the animals, through Squealer, that their lives under him are better than they ever were under Jones, even though the reader is aware that this is not the case. Napoleon has Squealer read out to the animals

. . . long lists of figures proving that the production of every class of foodstuff (has) increased by two hundred per cent, three hundred per cent or five hundred per cent.

These figures are, of course, nonsense, but the animals believe them because they “no longer remember very clearly what conditions had been like before the Rebellion.” Napoleon thus convinces the animals that the past was worse than the present.

Napoleon also controls, or rather manipulates the past by claiming that Snowball, during the Battle of the Cowshed, “turned and fled,” while he himself “sprang forward with a cry of ‘Death to Humanity!’ and sank his teeth in Jones’ leg.” Again, we the readers know that this account of the past is completely untrue, but the animals have poor memories and are easily convinced otherwise. In one of his other books, 1984, Orwell writes that, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Napoleon seems aware of this truth, and so he manipulates the past to better exercise power over the animals and over their future.

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Napoleon is described as being a fierce-looking Berkshire boar with a "reputation for getting his own way," which is clearly illustrated by the way he usurps power on the farm with the help of his nine ferocious dogs. After driving Snowball from the farm, Napoleon begins to rule the farm as a tyrant and uses Squealer to spread propaganda that favors his agenda. Napoleon requires the animals to work long hours or lose their precious food rations, while he simultaneously alters the commandments to coincide with his political decisions. Napoleon is viewed as powerful by distancing himself from the animals, using Squealer and the lesser educated animals to sing his praises, and always being seen walking with his vicious dogs by his side. Napoleon's power reflects his ability to manipulate and threaten the animals while simultaneously being considered their protector and devout leader.

Animals continually praise Napoleon, like Boxer, who says, "Napoleon is always right." Additionally, political dissidents are publicly executed. As the novella progresses, Napoleon's power becomes absolute, and he is hardly seen by his subjects. Napoleon awards himself with the military decorations "Animal Hero, First Class" and "Animal Hero, Second Class" and is referred to as titles such as our Leader, Comrade Napoleon, as well as Father of All Animals, Terror of Mankind, Protector of the Sheepfold, and Ducklings' Friend. Napoleon even has poems written about himself and is portrayed as an omnipotent monarch by the end of the novella. Napoleon's cult of personality and harsh leadership emphasize his unchecked power on Animal Farm, where he rules as an absolute tyrant.

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When Boxer says, "Comrade Napoleon is always right" and "I will work harder," he might not mean it, but he is clearly stating a sentiment regarding the extent of Napoleon's power.  No animal really comments on his power because of the truth that they all gain to understand that Napoleon uses his power as a tool to consolidate his own control and to ensure that there is no dissension on the farm.  To merely speak of it would guarantee the experience no animal wishes to have.  Consider the forced confessions and public executions in chapter seven as an example of this.  Clover witnesses animals being killed by Napoleon and the dogs and can only wonder how far things have strayed from Animalism and questions whether or not this is what reality should be.  Yet, she does not speak to this.  In fact, no animals speak of anything that is contrary to Napoleon's wishes.  Snowball did.  He was chased off by the dogs, never to be seen or heard from again.  In this, Napoleon is viewed as a powerful leader, one that the animals learn quickly not to cross or anger.  As the novel progresses, he is shown to be a leader that is brutally swift and decisive in what he feels he must do.  The animals understand this and never speak it, but fully grasp and comprehend its implications.

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