Which features does Napoleon in Animal Farm have in common with famous dictators from history?
A better question is what characteristics doesn't Napoleon share with them!
- He is a master of using propaganda to get people to do things,
- He is capable of re-writing history to suit his needs, as in a Hitler
- He orders sacrifices from the farm animals that he is unwilling to make himself,
- Like a Stalin or Mao he organizes a sort of collective form of living and working on "public works" type projects such as the windmill
- Like any dictator, he is ruthless about eliminating potential enemies (such as the horse,) and driving out others (like Snowball,)
- He forms a private bodyguard with the dogs, sort of his own peronsal SS squad,
- He limits contact with the outside world,
- He reduces rations for the other animals to keep them weak and hungry,
- He forces the animals on the farm to engage in ritual demonstrations around the skull of the revered pig.
That's really just the tip of the iceburg. Napoleon (as his name implies, of course!) deomonstrates nearly all the traits of the typical dictator.
Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin, a ruthless dictator who overtook Russia and ruled with an iron fist. Similar to Stalin, we see Napoleon use tactics to gain and maintain control of the farm. He is very greedy, rationing the food for the labouring animals and overindulging on the supplies himself. Like Stalin, he unashamedly breaks the original tenets of animalism, significantly Old Major’s vision of equality. Furthermore, just as Napoleon erodes Old Major’s ‘seven commandments’, arguably Stalin, as well as ignoring the initial ideas of the Soviet Union, broke the biblical Ten Commandments – stealing (became very rich without much of an explanation for where it came from), murder (killed ‘criminals’ without sufficient evidence), coveting your neighbor’s goods (invaded other countries) and more.
Napoleon’s competitor for power on the farm is Snowball. Napoleon is described as being ‘large’, ‘fierce-looking and ‘the only Berkshire on the farm’, immediately setting him up as a threat to the dream of equality. While we learn that Napoleon is ‘not much of a talker’ but has ‘a reputation for getting his own way’, Snowball is described as being ‘quicker in speech and more inventive’ – from this it is clear that Snowball is the ideal animalist leader and probably the most likely successor to Old Major. But when Napoleon expels Snowball and claims all power for himself, Orwell shows us that nothing can ever work as it is intended and the most cut throat always get their way. In context, this mirrors Stalin’s horrific treatment of Trotsky, his contemporary revolutionist. Like all the pigs, Napoleon is ‘one of the cleverest animals’, but of course he does not use this quality to ensure the success of animalism. It seems that Napoleon aims to replace ‘religion’ (Moses’ story of ‘sugar-candy mountain’) and assumes a god-like role himself – though he inspires the fear of the omnipotent god rather than the love of the omni-benevolent one.
Like Stalin, Napoleon does of course use others to maintain control. The constant feed of propaganda voiced by Squealer is the main example of this. Additionally, he indoctrinates the sheep to replace their incessant bleating of ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ with ‘four legs good, two legs better!’. He also puts Snowball in the position of a scapegoat, shifting the blame of all failures on to him. Furthermore he uses the fear of Jones to maintain power, showing that the harsh working hours and mean portions of food is the lesser of two evils, Squealer saying repeatedly ‘surely you do not want Jones back?’.
In conclusion, Napoleon is an original revolutionary who betrays the ideals of the Rebellion, is corrupted by power and ends up ruling Animal Farm as its dictator. He represents not only Stalin but in the wider picture the corruption of mankind and Orwell’s despair for society, with a story of promised-freedom-turned-sour which is globally all too familiar.