Animal Farm Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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Why did Napoleon want to gain power over Animal Farm?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Since the story is an allegorical tale of the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Soviet Union, Napoleon represents the dictator Joseph Stalin, who usurped power and ruled his nation with an iron fist. Similar to Stalin’s motivation for usurping power, one could argue that Napoleon's motivation is his inherent ambition as well as his desire to completely control his environment and satisfy his ego.

Napoleon may also be motivated to enjoy the opportunities and privileges that go along with having absolute authority, which explains why he chases Snowball from the farm and rules as a tyrant. With the help of his nine ferocious dogs and Squealer's manipulative propaganda techniques, Napoleon abolishes democracy and acts as the farm's dictator. As the supreme leader of the farm, Napoleon proceeds to establish a cult of personality, reserve special privileges for himself and the other pigs, and ruthlessly execute political dissidents.

By examining Napoleon's actions as the farm's dictator, one could argue that his primary motivation for gaining absolute power is to control his environment, selfishly enjoy special privileges, and satisfy his massive ego.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Why does anyone want power?  There is an innate proclivity in many to desire control over others and to have an exalted position in their societies.  While ostensibly concerned for the other animals, Napoleon manipulates circumstances and the rules established after the revolution.  In this way, he does what he wants and has anything that he desires.

Once Napoleon banishes Snowball, he has absolute power, and as the old adage goes, "Absolute Power corrupts absolutely."  He trains dogs as his enforcers and goes to live in Mr. Jones's house.  The commandments are revised; his propagandist Squealer reinterprets the law so that the other animals will not object. 

Orwell's pointed criticism of the Stalin regime is evident in this allegory.  The conflict between Snowball and Napoleon represents the Lenin/Trotsky conflict in Russia with Lenin prevailing.  Stalin then took over after Lenin; he was a brutal dictator.

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