Why do the animals confess to their crimes in chapter 7 of Animal Farm?

In chapter 7 of Animal Farm, the animals confess to their crimes out of fear and because they think that doing so will result in more lenient treatment from Napoleon.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The forced confessions and subsequent show trials implemented by Napoleon are all part of his efforts to consolidate his power.

As has become blindingly obvious to just about everyone on the farm, Napoleon is not much good as a leader. Lazy, brutal, and incompetent, he has tarnished the ideals of...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

The forced confessions and subsequent show trials implemented by Napoleon are all part of his efforts to consolidate his power.

As has become blindingly obvious to just about everyone on the farm, Napoleon is not much good as a leader. Lazy, brutal, and incompetent, he has tarnished the ideals of Animalism as set down by Old Major, and, despite his elaborate promises, he has not greatly improved the animals' condition.

So in order to cement his grip on power, Napoleon starts casting around for scapegoats to explain the many things that have gone wrong on the farm. Before long, animals are being accused of all kinds of serious crimes, such as deliberate sabotage and collusion with Snowball, the hero of the Battle of the Cowshed who's now the regime's Public Enemy Number One.

The charges made against the animals are completely ridiculous and without foundation. But even so, many of them confess to their so-called crimes. This is mainly for two reasons. First and foremost, they have been coerced into giving confessions. Second, they believe that if they confess, they'll receive more lenient treatment.

In the event, however, such leniency is not forthcoming, and those animals who confess are mercilessly slaughtered at Napoleon's behest.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Seized by the dogs surrounding Napoleon, four now bloodied pigs who protested the end of the Sunday meetings confess to a string of absurd crimes, such as working with Snowball to destroy the windmill. They are promptly killed by the dogs. More animals, such as three hens, a goose, and a sheep step forward and confess that they, too, have committed crimes in league with Snowball. They too are executed.

The text never explains why the animals confess or why they confess to crimes that they clearly never perpetrated. We all know that the idea of Snowball as an evil agent trying to destroy Animal Farm is a myth concocted by the other pigs to make him a convenient scapegoat for problems on the farm.

Contemporary audiences would have immediately recognized these show trials, however, as mimicking the show trials Stalin staged to purge the party of anyone he perceived as an enemy. Guilt or innocence were irrelevant: those arrested were tortured until they publicly confessed to any number of crimes they never committed, then executed. These trials were never about justice but about terrorizing the population by showing them the power of the state.

We have to assume either that some coercion has occurred behind the scenes on Animal Farm or that the animals hope confession will bring mercy. By not focusing on why the animals confess, Orwell places the emphasis on Napoleon's ability to terrorize the animals through violence, which is contrary to the original values of Animal Farm.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The animals confess to their crimes in chapter 7 due to their growing terror of what Napoleon is capable of. After seeing what happened to the pigs, the other animals are in no mood to try and keep anything secret.

The barrage of confessions begins with four pigs being tortured by dogs, who drag them by their ears up to Napoleon. The sight of the squealing pigs, the bloodthirsty dogs, and the unmoved Napoleon is a terrible sight to behold, and it is easy to imagine that the other animals will do whatever it takes to avoid ending up in the same predicament.

After the murder of the pigs, the hens and sheep come forward with a wide array of confessions. The hens who had tried to keep their eggs safe earlier in chapter 7 confess that “Napoleon had appeared to them in a dream” and instructed them to be rebellious. The murder of the hens gives rise to even more fear in the other animals.

After that, the fear-driven confessions come thick and fast, with every murder making the remaining animals more fearful. As the bloodbath goes on, their fear becomes paranoia of Napoleon discovering their secrets. The confessions come in the futile hope of lesser sentences.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For days after Squealer announced that Snowball was an undercover agent for Jones long before the rebellion, Napolean assembles the animals in the yard and suddenly orders the dogs to seize four pigs. When Napolean calls on them to confess their crimes, they immediately admit to being secretly in touch with Snowball, collaborating with him to destroy the windmill, and entering an agreement with Mr. Frederick. After confessing, the dogs rip their throats out. Various other animals then step forward from the crowd and confess to being influenced by Snowball. They are all slaughtered, and the surviving animals are deeply shaken.

The pigs initially confess their crimes because they are threatened by the savage dogs. Out of fear, the pigs attempt to appease Napolean in hopes that they will not be murdered. After the pigs are brutally slaughtered, hens and sheep are quick to confess minor crimes inspired by Snowball. Their offenses are ridiculous. From seeing Snowball in a dream, to urinating in a drinking pool, the animals willingly confess to minor offenses. The reason they confess is because they are paranoid. Out of fear that Napolean might find out about their transgressions, they confess in hopes of receiving a lesser punishment. Unfortunately, Napolean mercilessly slaughters each animal that confesses.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The forced confessions is a major part of chapter 7.  In order to consolidate his own power, Napoleon orchestrates the demonstration of the forced confessions.  The animals do not confess out of their own volition.  Rather, they confess under extreme pressure and force, believing that a public confession could spare them from Napoleon's brutality.  As is shown, it does not.  Additionally, the forced confessions are also designed to divert attention from the food shortages and the challenges the animals undergo while living on the farm.  Napoleon understands that ensuring their obedience is crucial during trying and difficult times.  This is why he orchestrates the ceremony where he is awarded and those who have "betrayed" Animal Farm with voicing dissent or supporting Snowball are executed.  The forced confessions also coincides with the teaching of a new slogan where "loyalty" to Animal Farm becomes all that matters.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Animal Farm is based on Stalinist Russia of the 1930s. As is Russia, an idealistic revolution goes badly wrong and turns into a tyranny.

In Russia under Stalin anyone suspected of being an enemy of the state could be arrested, tortured, and forced to publicly confess before execution, whether they were guilty of the accused crimes or not. This was supposed to purge the country of dissident elements who might be secretly plotting to undermine the revolution or overthrow the government. The idea was to keep in people's mind that enemies were in their midst. The show trials were also a form of terror, meant to discourage people from complaining in any way lest the same fate befall them.

Orwell is showing a similar series of events occurring on Animal Farm as in Russia. Napoleon, like Stalin, becomes a tyrant. Napoleon wants the animals to fear Snowball coming to infiltrate and undermine the Rebellion. He also wants the animals to be too terrified to protest his rule. While it is not shown, the parallels with history suggest that the animals who confess and then are executed have been arrested and tortured.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Things are going horribly wrong with the Animalist experiment. There are chronic food shortages on the farm; everyone has to work harder for fewer rations; and the rickety old windmill has collapsed. But Napoleon cannot admit that he is any way responsible for what's happening, despite being dictator. So he creates a scapegoat, namely Snowball. Napoleon makes out that Snowball is the evil genius behind everything that goes wrong on the farm. And any animal found to be in league with Snowball is history.

Napoleon assembles all the animals in the yard. There follows a grotesque, bloody spectacle of false confessions and summary executions. So why do the animals confess to something they haven't done? There all kinds of reasons. Fear would be one of them. Although the animals are not actually guilty of anything, some of them are worried that if they don't confess, they'll end up getting in trouble sooner or later.

However, the most important factor is that the animals, for all their troubles, have come to believe in the ideals of the Animalist revolution; they've invested themselves body and soul in its success. If things are going wrong, then it can't be the fault of Animalism; it must be because of conscious acts of sabotage. According to the dominant ideology, the individual is ultimately of no importance; the collective is everything. This inculcates a mindset of individual sacrifice for a higher cause, and it is this, more than anything, that prompts animals to come forward and confess to crimes that they never committed.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is an interesting question.  Immediately we must say that Orwell does not give a reason why these animals confessed to crimes that they probably did not commit. Therefore, the reader has to make educated guesses. If we do this, two reasons emerge. 

First, Napoleon might have forced some animals to confess by threatening them or their loved ones. This invisible violence is not beyond Napoleon.  He did have the dogs who would have killed any of the animals at the bidding of Napoleon.  Napoleon also wanted to look good, as some sort of savior and protector of the farm. So, if he could elicit confessions, his heavy handed ways would be more tolerated. Moreover, from a historical point of view, Stalin did have times of mass killings. 

Second, in a state of paranoia and fear, sometimes animals (or people) confess to things for various irrational reasons.  The power of pressure cannot be underestimated. 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Stalin's reign consisted of many purges. These were incidents in which he would kill masses of people for various reasons. They were never good ones, whether he couldn't or wouldn't get resources to people or they didn't do what he wanted them to do.

I think Orwell threw this incident into the book to demonstrate Stalin's regular purges and the effect it had on people (or in this case the animals). Once their confessions are complete and the rest of the animals are left speechless and in a huddle, we feel the weight of what has happened as readers. I think he hoped this would give the world a taste of how it felt to be a Russian under Stalin's rule.

My students in class hypothesize that maybe some of the animals knew death would be better than continuing to live this way.

A biography I've seen had Russians from Stalin's rule reporting the difficulty they experienced. They were so affected by the propaganda that they believed everything Stalin wanted them to. It is hard for us as free individuals to relate with such submission to a ruler. For them, it was business as usual.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

That's  a good question.  Why would they confess if they are going to get killed for doing it?  We aren't actually told in the book.

I assume that they confess because they have been in some way forced to do it.  When Stalin (the one Napoleon is based on) did something similar to this in Russia, he had confessions that were forced by torture.  He also had his secret police (the dogs) let the people know that bad things would happen to their families if they did not confess.

So I assume that's going on here -- the animals fear that they'll die in worse ways and/or bad things will happen to their families.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on