What is an example of irony in Animal Farm?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Irony occurs when Napoleon initially criticizes and ridicules Snowball's plan to build a windmill. During the debates, Napoleon is vehemently opposed to Snowball's plan and believes that the windmill is a useless, wasteful project. After Napoleon usurps power, he chases Snowball off the farm and, ironically, adopts his plans to build the windmill. Once the windmill is complete, Napoleon names it Napoleon Mill.

Dramatic irony occurs each time one of the Commandments is altered. The reader realizes that Squealer is making minor changes to the Commandments in order to align with Napoleon's changing policies, but the other animals are unaware of the changes being made.

Dramatic irony also occurs as Boxer is being driven to the knackers. Squealer informs the animals that he was taken to a veterinary hospital and died a peaceful death with Napoleon by his bedside. The reader understands that Squealer is simply fabricating the entire story, but the animals believe everything he says.

It is also ironic that Napoleon receives several military decorations while Snowball is labeled a traitor following The Battle of the Cowshed. Napoleon did not play a significant role in the battle while Snowball fought valiantly. Therefore, it is ironic that Napoleon is labeled the hero when Snowball is viewed as a coward.

The fact that The Battle of the Windmill is considered a victory by Squealer and the ruling pigs is also ironic. During the battle, the animals suffered significant casualties, and the windmill was destroyed.

The most significant example of situational irony is the fate of Animal Farm after the Revolution. It is ironic that the animals revolted against Mr. Jones only to be tyrannized by Napoleon.

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belarafon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The major irony in Animal Farm is that the glorious revolution does not actually change much in the lives of the animals, and in fact leaves them worse off in many ways. While they were exploited for their meat and work under Jones, he never expressed any other opinion to them, and they had a generally typical life when he wasn't drinking. After the revolution, when the animals expect their work burden to decrease and their personal benefits to increase, it turns out the exact opposite; the animals are forced to work even harder to support the pigs, who elect themselves supreme leaders, and the amount of food in the common pot decreases because the pigs take so much.

By showing the inevitable failure of Marxist ideals as minimized to a single farm, George Orwell shows the irony of expecting revolution to create a changed situation, instead of simply replacing the leaders.

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