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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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