Last Updated on May 25, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 767
As the months pass, word of Animal Farm begins to spread throughout the county. Napoleon and Snowball encourage this by sending out pigeons to tell the story of the rebellion and teach “Beasts of England” to neighboring farms. The two farmers on either side of Animal Farm claim to sympathize with Mr. Jones, but each one secretly wonders if he can somehow use the situation to his advantage. Mr. Pilkington is the easygoing farmer who owns overgrown Foxwood Farm, while the tough and shrewd Mr. Frederick owns Pinchfield Farm. Though they despise one another and rarely see eye to eye, they are both very frightened by the thought that the rebellion might spread to their own farms. They deliberately try to spread the word that Animal Farm is plagued by infighting and starvation. After it becomes clear that the residents of Animal Farm are not starving, the men begin to spread rumors that Animal Farm is a hotbed of depraved behavior such as cannibalism and torture. These rumors are not very convincing, however, and word that Animal Farm is a success continues to spread, causing a wave of rebelliousness among farm animals in the county. Soon, animals everywhere are singing “Beasts of England,” much to the chagrin of their human masters.
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That fall, Mr. Jones assembles men from Foxwood and Pinchfield and returns to reclaim Animal Farm. The animals have prepared for this, and Snowball, who has been studying the campaigns of Julius Caesar, leads the defense of the farm. The animals attack the approaching farmers in waves, with the birds and geese followed by the goats. Eventually, they lure the men into the yard, where the pigs, cows, and horses launch the main attack. Snowball is injured when he leaps for Mr. Jones, a sheep is killed, and a farmhand is stunned by Boxer’s hooves before the men flee the yard in terror. The animals celebrate their victory, though Boxer is very upset when he believes he has killed the young farmhand. Mollie is noticeably absent but is later found hiding in her stall, having fled when the gun went off. They hold a funeral for the sheep and decide to designate a military decoration—“Animal Hero, First Class”—which is awarded to Snowball and Boxer. The sheep is posthumously awarded “Animal Hero, Second Class.” The animals decide to call the battle the “Battle of the Cowshed” and resolve to fire Mr. Jones’s gun twice every year: once on the anniversary of the battle and once on the anniversary of the rebellion.
Snowball’s position as the commander of Animal Farm’s defenses parallels Trotsky’s critical military contributions as the commander of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the dissolution of the monarchy, Russia fell into civil war as various factions vied for power, the two largest factions being the Red Army (advocating Bolshevik socialism) and the White Army (a more diverse group that included adherents of capitalism, monarchy, and alternative socialism). Led by Trotsky, the Red Army defeated the White Army. The victorious Bolsheviks then went on to form the Communist Party. Trotsky’s military success elevated him to a position of power in which he regularly butted heads with Stalin. On Animal Farm, Snowball is admired for his role in the Battle of Cowshed, and Trotsky and Stalin’s historical interactions suggest that Napoleon will not react well to Snowball’s growing power. The neighboring farmers, Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick, represent Great Britain and Germany respectively, both of which attempted to invade Russia soon after the revolution.
In this chapter, “war” has shifted the focus of the farm away from work and Animalism. Mollie’s flight to the stables and Boxer’s tearful reaction when he mistakenly believes he has killed a farmhand demonstrate the degree to which some of the animals are unprepared for the violence that nearly always accompanies rebellion. Though Snowball urges Boxer to abandon his regret—“No sentimentality, comrade!”—Boxer admits that he does not wish to take life at all, even the life of the enemy. The decision to fire gunshots on the anniversaries of the rebellion and the Battle of the Cowshed suggest that the farm is becoming more focused on violent confrontations with the humans than the day-to-day success of the farm and, by extension, Animalism. Boxer’s soft heart and Mollie’s fearful nature foreshadow the future difficulties many of the animals will face as Animal Farm becomes a harsher and more militaristic place under the rule of the pigs.