Animal Farm Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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How does Napoleon use his power for evil in Animal Farm?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One could argue that Napoleon doesn't use his power for anything but evil. He's taken a perfectly noble ideology, Animalism, and cynically turned it into an instrument of his own personal dictatorship. Napoleon doesn't share Old Major's passionate commitment to improving the lot of the farm animals; he simply wants power for himself, and he uses the slogans of Animalism to consolidate his despotic rule.

Under Napoleon's increasingly brutal regime, the animals toil away like slaves, while Napoleon and his lackeys lead lives of ease and comfort. When his total incompetence as ruler leads to starvation on the farm, Napoleon shows no concern whatsoever for the welfare of the animals. Instead, he seizes what little food is available and sells it to neighboring farms.

As well as being cruel and indifferent to suffering, Napoleon is also a shameless hypocrite. This can be seen in the cynical way that he distorts the Seven Commandments of Animalism to serve his own ends. Napoleon wants to sleep on a nice, comfy, bed and drink alcohol, so he subtly changes the rules to allow him to do so. In the meantime, life on the farm gets harder and harder for the poor, downtrodden animals. But Napoleon really couldn't care less.

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Kathryn Draney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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  • Napoleon uses his power for evil by benefitting himself at the expense of the other animals.

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Alec Cranford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Napoleon uses his power to benefit himself at the expense of the other animals. By the end of the book, he and the other pigs are walking around on their back legs like humans, drinking alcohol, gambling, treating themselves to lavish meals when the rest of the animals are nearly starving, and generally behaving in a way that is totally inconsistent with the ideals of Animal Farm (i.e., they are acting like Man). So Napoleon and the pigs are obviously corrupted. But the issue of power goes beyond such abuses. Napoleon becomes a character who seeks and uses power for its own ends. The pigs alter the Seven Commandments to suit their needs. They "rewrite" history to persuade the other animals that Snowball was the enemy of Animal Farm all along. Napoleon holds vicious purges that murder dozens of innocent animals. All of this is done to augment their own power. This is a central theme, or a sort of moral, of Animal Farm as well as Orwell's other great novel 1984: power, if left unchecked, will only grow destructive.

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