In George Orwell’s satirical, allegorical novel titled Animal Farm, Squealer’s announcements to the animals serve the very useful purposes of spreading propaganda and rewriting history – practices that help cement the power of Napoleon. Napoleon resembles Joseph Stalin, the dictatorial leader of the Soviet Union. Orwell’s book depicts the very real practice in the Soviet Union of revising history – a practice Orwell also describes in his novel 1984.
Squealer, in essence, is the propagandist of Animal Farm. He uses his skills as a speaker to promote the interests of the new ruling class of pigs; his propaganda alters and shifts in response to the particular requirements of the moment. Often his latest propaganda contradicts not only the original, fundamental teachings of Animalism but also even his earlier propaganda.
At one point the narrator reports that
Squealer made excellent speeches on the joy of service and the dignity of labour, but the other animals found more inspiration in Boxer's strength andhis never-failing cry of 'I will work harder!'
In other words, at this point in the novel the other animals are more inspired by actual deeds than by mere words. Boxer, who represents the idealistic working class, sets a splendid example of what can be accomplished by sincere and dedicated workers. In contrast to Boxer, Squealer is merely a cynical wordsmith who is rewarded for his lies.
Squealer also functions as a spokesman and representative for Napoleon, who becomes more and more distant – both physically and otherwise – from the other animals he claims to serve. Thus, at one point the narrator notes that
Frequently he [that is, Napoleon] did not even appear on Sunday mornings, but issued his orders through one of the other pigs, usually Squealer.
One particularly revealing example of Squealer’s functions appears in the following passage:
'Comrades!' cried Squealer, making little nervous skips, 'a most terrible thing has been discovered. Snowball has sold himself to Frederick of Pinchfield Farm, who is even now plotting to attack us and take our farm away from us! Snowball is to act as his guide when the attack begins. But there is worse than that. We had thought that Snowball's rebellion was caused simply by his vanity and ambition. But we were wrong, comrades. Do you know what the real reason was? Snowball was in league with Jones from the very start! He was Jones's secret agent all the time. It has all been proved by documents which he left behind him and which we have only just discovered.
This passage reveals Squealer in his dual roles as propagandist and revisionist historian. Not only does he announce the latest party “line,” but he also rewrites history. He makes Snowball (a leader and hero of the original revolution, who represents the historical figure Leon Trotsky) sound like a traitor. Trotsky was Stalin’s great rival and antagonist. Not only was he the target of much Soviet propaganda and not only were many of his heroic deeds erased from Soviet history books, but eventually he was actually assassinated by Stalin’s agents. Squealer, then, is a very accurate representation of the kind of propagandists and revisionist historians who helped Stalin control the minds and memories of the Soviet people.