In Animal Farm, how is Benjamin a foil for Boxer?

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Boxer is a wonderfully strong character who has an intense work ethic, is loyal and does not question the process. Boxer, a horse, has intense values and cares for all living things.   He simply works to make everything better without complaint.  Boxer works himself harder than every other animal on the farm and his...

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Boxer is a wonderfully strong character who has an intense work ethic, is loyal and does not question the process. Boxer, a horse, has intense values and cares for all living things.   He simply works to make everything better without complaint.  Boxer works himself harder than every other animal on the farm and his mottoes throughout the novel are: 

 "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right." 

Boxer gives everything he has to the success of the farm but when he becomes older and too sick to work Napoleon sells him to the slaughter house.  His work on  the windmill and all that he has done for the farm don't mean anything to the pigs. 

Benjamin is a Donkey.  He is "the oldest animal on the farm, and the worst tempered," is lazy and not a strong character at all.  He is the exact opposite from Boxer. Benjamin doesn't trust the party or anything else.  He refuses to read and he does anything he can to avoid work.  His philosophy is that no matter how hard they work or what they do to advance, there will be no improvement in their way of life.  At the time when the truck takes Boxer away it is Benjamin that tries to save him but is unsuccessful.  

Boxer is the loyal unquestioning supporter of the government who doesn't complain but works to make things better.  Benjamin is the person who sits around all the time complaining that the government isn't working, but he doesn't vote to change things.

 

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The old donkey Benjamin "gets wise" right away to what's going on at Animal Farm (the subversive take-over of the pigs), but he doesn't react or even comment on it. At first glance he seems apathetic but then his silence seems to be part of his strategy of simply staying alive. Benjamin has seen a lot of things and knows the simpler animals have lost from the very start.  They are outwitted by the craftier and keener pigs, who manipulate them into subservience.

Boxer the workhorse is a member of this second category. He is sincere and full of good will, but too dull-witted to learn how to read or to observe the new hierarchy taking place. He repeats two slogans incessantly: "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right." He is the antipode of Benjamin, and they are indeed foils of each other.

Remember that Animal Farm is not simply a fable; it is also an allegory of the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism. The characters in the story represent individuals or types. Benjamin would be the intelligentsia stifled into silence through repression; Boxer represents the proletariat initially manipulated via propaganda, then through repression as well.

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I think we can see these two as foils when we look at the difference in their political attitudes. Boxer is a figure of blind zeal who shows nothing but complete enthusiasm (99% of the time). Benjamin, on the other hand, is politically disengaged. He is far from excited. 

Maybe this is why Benjamin, the oldest animal on the farm, remains safe through the action of the revolution and Boxer ends up getting killed.

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Boxer is the animal who believes whatever the leaders tell him.  He works night and day because he believes that the Revolution will produce a better life for the animals.  On the other hand, Benjamin is a cynic.  He watches what is going on, but does not get taken in by it.  He seems to know that nothing ever changes, that getting too excited about or involved in a revolution will lead to disapointment and frustration.  Put simply, he is as cool as Boxer is hot.  He expects nothing and gets nothing.  But he is there at the end of the novel whereas Boxer is off to the glue factory.

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