Who, in Animal farm is happier, the selfish or unselfish characters? 

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question is one of perspective. Whether one deems a selfish or unselfish person to be happier than the other depends on from whose point of view the issue is approached.

If one uses Animal Farm as an example, it would seem that those who are selfish, are happier overall. The pigs, who become leaders on the farm, soon misuse their advantage and abuse the other animals. They are absolutely selfish and think only of their own comfort and enjoyment, whilst completely ignoring the plight of all the other animals. Under Napoleon's leadership, the pigs were extremely happy. They had created a utopia for themselves, precisely as it is set out in the anthem, Beasts of England. They, however, are the only ones who benefit from the freedom they gained after the tyranny of Mr Jones and his men.

The other animals, though, are no better of than they had been in Mr Jones' time. Their lives are laborious and short. They are constantly cold, hungry and tired and they still sleep in the barn on straw and hay, whilst the pigs are comfortably ensconced in beds, eat the best food, wear clothes and do no physical labor. They commandeer the other animals to do all the hard work and benefit from that labor. There is evidence from the text that the pigs eventually grow fat from the privileged lives they lead even when resources were running low..

But the pigs seemed comfortable enough, and in fact were putting on weight if anything. 

Even though the farm prospers, only the pigs and their cronies benefit and the larger body of animals are left with much the same as before and. in many instances, with even less.

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer-except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs. Perhaps this was partly because there were so many pigs and so many dogs. It was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. There was, as Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other animals were too ignorant to understand. For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called "files," "reports," "minutes," and "memoranda". These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said. But still, neither pigs nor dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.

The other animals all believe in the cause that they had fought so hard for They unselfishly committed themselves to do their best for the good of all concerned. They toil hard but are never given even the slightest bit of advantage and they are, therefore, generally miserable.

The best example of he animals' sacrifice is Boxer. He is a truly committed comrade and would wake up earlier than everyone else and work longer hours. He is driven by his motto, "I will work harder." This unselfish dedication brings Boxer much satisfaction and he seems happier. His toil is, however, never adequately rewarded, for, when he falls desperately ill, he is quickly transported to the knacker to whom the pigs sell him. It is later reported that he died peacefully. The pigs bought a case of whisky from the proceeds of their sale.

Another animal who seemed happy about his unselfish commitment was Snowball, who worked indefatigably at improving conditions on the farm. Although, as a pig, he was rewarded to a greater extent, it was the pleasure in his commitment that made him happy. Both he and Boxer, though, were seen as threats and Napoleon got rid of them at the first opportunity.

So, if one should weigh up, in terms of the overall effect of being selfish or unselfish as a determinant of one's happiness, it seems that, as far as Animal Farm goes, the vote overwhelmingly goes to selfishness. The pigs who excluded others from their lives of luxury and privilege were much happier than any of the other animals.