In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, what is significant about the dogs wagging their tails at Napoleon after they chase Snowball from the farm?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, Napoleon (the pig who resembles the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin) uses trained dogs to violently chase Snowball (the pig who resembles Stalin’s rival, Leon Trotsky) from the farm.  After witnessing Snowball’s expulsion, the other animals seem shocked:

Silent and terrified, the animals crept back into the barn. In a moment the dogs came bounding back. At first no one had been able to imagine where these creatures came from, but the problem was soon solved: they were the puppies whom Napoleon had taken away from their mothers and reared privately. Though not yet full-grown, they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as wolves. They kept close to Napoleon. It was noticed that they wagged their tails to him in the same way as the other dogs had been used to do to Mr. Jones.

This episode – particularly the wagging of the dogs’ tails – seems significant for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Napoleon, by raising the dogs himself, has essentially created a private army or private police force. This is a common tactic of dictators: to create an armed force answerable only to themselves. Adolf Hitler had the SS, and Stalin had his own secret police force, which inflicted horrible cruelties upon his enemies. (In fact, Trotsky was eventually assassinated at Stalin’s command.)
  • The wagging of the dogs’ tails indicates that they are loyal to Napoleon alone, not to the farm or the rest of the animals. The dogs are paradoxical creatures: they are vicious, but they are also obsequious and subservient to their master.
  • The dogs who lived on the farm when Mr. Jones was in control resemble the secret police under the Russian Czar. The animals had hoped that by overthrowing Jones, they would achieve freedom; instead, they are simply under the control of a new and in some ways far more vicious autocrat (Napoleon) with a new and in some ways far more vicious secret police force.