Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on December 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1006

Summary

The animals work hard to complete the harvest. The pigs direct the work of the other animals instead of doing any work themselves, and when it is finished, it is the largest harvest the farm has ever seen. For the rest of the summer, the animals continue to work. Boxer undoubtedly works the hardest, adopting “I will work harder!” as his personal motto. The animals take great pride in their ability to provide for themselves, especially as their increases in efficiency and the absence of the humans allow for more food and leisure time. The animals do not work on Sundays. Instead, they ritually hoist a flag that Snowball created and then meet to submit resolutions, which are debated and voted upon. While the animals understand how to vote, only the pigs are smart enough to think of resolutions to submit. Through these debates, it soon becomes clear that Snowball and Napoleon are always in disagreement with one another.

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The pigs use the harness room as a headquarters and study skills like carpentry and blacksmithing. Snowball takes great pains to organize the animals into committees and set up reading and writing classes. Though the committees are a failure, soon nearly every animal on the farm possesses some level of literacy. When it becomes apparent that the least intelligent animals cannot commit the seven commandments to heart, Snowball simplifies them even further into the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad,” which is then inscribed above the commandments on the wall. Napoleon takes no interest in the committees, saying that the focus should be on the education of the young. When both Jessie and Bluebell give birth to litters of puppies, Napoleon takes the puppies away to a secluded loft. Soon, the other animals forget about the puppies entirely.

It is eventually revealed that the milk is being mixed into the pigs’ mash every day. The pigs also announce that all of the windfall apples shall be given to them, not split equally among the animals. When the animals begin to grumble, Squealer explains that the pigs are not acting out of selfishness, claiming that most of them don’t even like the taste of milk and apples. The pigs eat them anyway, he says, because they need the nutrients to nourish their minds and ensure the continued success of the farm. Squealer claims that if the pigs fall ill, Mr. Jones will surely come back. Convinced, the animals quickly agree that the milk and apples should be given to the pigs.

Analysis

Initially, it appears that the animal rebellion has been a great success. Now the masters of their own labor, the animals are energized to work harder and more efficiently. As a result, they produce a quick and bountiful harvest. Nearly all of the animals seem to have taken Old Major’s message to heart as they each contribute selflessly to the best of their ability, refusing to take even one mouthful of hay away from the harvest. The only exceptions are the pigs, who supervise the other animals rather than performing any labor themselves.

Though Snowball attempts to teach the other animals to read and write, hardly any of them are able to become fully literate like the pigs. The lack of literacy among the animals means that their understanding of the principles of Animalism and, by extension, the rules that govern their new life on the farm relies totally on the pigs. It is notable that the simplified maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad” excludes many of the key tenets of Old Major’s original philosophy, from the specific prohibitions against human behavior to broader underlying principles such as “all animals are equal.” The ready adoption of this oversimplified and nearly meaningless slogan by the sheep and other less intelligent animals will become significant later on in the narrative.

The power struggle between Snowball and Napoleon continues to intensify, mirroring the conflict between Trotsky and Stalin after the Russian Revolution. While Snowball believes in trying to educate and involve the adult animals in the running of the farm, Napoleon wants to focus on the next generation. Interestingly, in taking away the dogs’ puppies, Napoleon is committing the very same theft that Old Major accused Mr. Jones of during his speech: “And you, Clover, where are those four foals you bore, who should have been the support and pleasure of your old age?” Though Napoleon and Snowball disagree on nearly everything, they both think that the pigs should be the leaders of the farm and, like the rest of the pigs, agree that they should receive milk and apples. So though Snowball appears to care more about the animals on the farm than Napoleon does, both of them are seemingly already violating the commandment that all animals are equal.

The incident with the milk and apples clearly demonstrates the pigs’ corruption. Though the pigs have been subtly exploiting the animals by making them work while the pigs “supervise,” the pigs’ decision to keep the milk and apples to themselves marks the first time that their actions arouse suspicion in the other animals. Any objections, however, are  quickly laid to rest by Squealer, who uses empty rhetoric to manipulate and mislead the animals. Squealer’s claim that the pigs don’t want the milk and apples but need them for health reasons obviously rings false, but the farm animals do not question it. Similarly, the birds do not question Snowball’s explanation of the new, shorter maxim, though they do not understand it. Uneducated and trusting, the animals lack the initiative and, to some extent, the mental capacity to challenge the decisions of the pigs. This is exacerbated by their fear of returning to the old way of life under Mr. Jones, a worry that makes the animals quick to accept any small unfairness. Throughout the novella, the animals’ willingness to accept the explanations of the pigs—which are usually delivered through the persuasive Squealer—will leave them vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation.

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