Last Updated on May 25, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1292
Though Boxer is injured from the Battle of the Windmill, he continues to push himself hard. Clover and Benjamin warn him to take it easy, but Boxer is determined that the windmill be well underway before his upcoming retirement. Though the animals seem to be working even harder and for less food, the pigs insist that rations have been readjusted rather than reduced. Squealer continues to announce how much the animals’ quality of life has improved since Mr. Jones ran the farm, and the animals are happy to believe it, especially since they now don’t remember the farm under Mr. Jones at all. Several piglets are born on the farm, and Napoleon orders the construction of a school in the garden. In the meantime, he educates the piglets himself and discourages them from associating with the other young animals. A new rule is passed that says any animal meeting a pig on a path must step aside and let the pig pass first. Rations continue to decrease, though the pigs seem to be gaining weight. To offset the increasing hardship, the pigs hold weekly “Spontaneous Demonstrations” in honor of Napoleon, which briefly allows the animals to focus on something other than their empty stomachs.
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In the spring, Animal Farm is declared a republic, and Napoleon is unanimously elected president. The pigs report that new evidence shows that Snowball openly fought on Mr. Jones’s side during the Battle of the Cowshed. The wounds on Snowball’s back were inflicted by Napoleon, they say. During the summer, the pigs allow Moses to return to the farm. Though they personally believe that his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain are lies, they give him food and allow him to stay even though he is not working. Most of the animals, comforted by the idea that they will someday go to a better world, believe Moses’s tales about Sugarcandy Mountain. Meanwhile, Boxer continues to work as hard as ever on the windmill, though he is beginning to show signs of aging.
One day, the animals hear that Boxer has collapsed while working independently on the windmill. The animals run out to meet him, and he says that he believes it is a problem with his lung. Knowing that he will no longer be able to work, Boxer comforts himself by saying that he only had one month left until his retirement anyway. After a short while, Squealer appears and announces that Napoleon has arranged for Boxer to be treated by a veterinarian. For the next few days, Boxer remains in good spirits and looks forward to his retirement. During the middle of the day, a van comes to pick Boxer up, and Benjamin—uncharacteristically excited—calls all the animals to come running. Watching Boxer being driven away in the van, all the animals begin to call out goodbyes—until Benjamin angrily tells them that the van reads “Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler, Willingdon.” Horrified, the animals race after the van, yelling at Boxer to try to escape. They hear Boxer attempting to kick in the door of the van, but in his weakened state, he is not able to manage it. Boxer never returns.
Three days later, the pigs announce that Boxer died at the animal hospital and that Napoleon spared no expense for his care. Squealer even claims to have been present at Boxer’s deathbed himself. Squealer dispels the rumor that Boxer was sent to the knackers by telling the animals that the veterinarian had just purchased the van from the knacker and had not yet repainted it. The animals are glad to hear this, as it allows them to believe that their good friend died happy. The pigs hold a memorial banquet in honor of Boxer, and the animals hear the sounds of their celebrations late into the night. The next day, word spreads that the pigs had somehow acquired enough money to buy themselves a case of whiskey.
As the animals’ memories of life under Mr. Jones grow faint, the pigs become bolder in their excesses. Convinced that the farm’s inhabitants are sufficiently indoctrinated, the pigs no longer work to protect the appearance of equality among the animals. They go so far as to decree that all animals must step to the side for passing pigs, and they discourage young pigs from associating with other animals. The pigs use a number of strategies to draw attention away from the increasingly poor quality of life on the farm, including the comically named “Spontaneous Demonstrations” that are anything but spontaneous. Through the Spontaneous Demonstrations, Orwell illustrates how hollow and superficial the support for totalitarian leaders really is. Forced to celebrate their leader, the animals only enjoy the ceremony because it serves as a distraction from their hard lives.
Soon after, Animal Farm is declared a republic, and Napoleon (the only candidate who runs) is elected as the president. Though the pigs’ claim that Animal Farm is a republic is laughably inaccurate, the decision to rebrand is common in authoritarian or otherwise non-democratic regimes (e.g., the People’s Republic of China or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). As the Soviet Union continued to spread its influence after World War II, it was not uncommon for states controlled by the Soviets—such as the Hungarian People’s Republic—to be styled as “republics,” though the countries were, in reality, not democratic. The renaming of Animal Farm serves as yet another warning about the dangers of conflating a people with a government. The pigs, like nearly all authoritarian regimes, know that the best ways to prevent rebellion is to portray their government as inextricably tied to and supported by the people.
In a move that is in keeping with the pigs’ constant revision of history, the pigs allow Moses—whom they once openly despised—to return to the farm and tell the animals about Sugarcandy Mountain. Moses’s return mirrors Stalin’s decision to revive the Russian Orthodox Church during Word War II, despite the strong stance the Soviet government had taken against religious institutions in the aftermath of the revolution. The pigs’ reversal with regard to Moses is important because it demonstrates the conditions under which religion—which many consider to be a force for good—is easily turned into a tool of oppression. The pigs know that belief in a utopian afterlife will make it much easier for the animals to bear hardship during their mortal lives. Though the pigs once feared that Moses’s message would undermine the revolutionary spirit of the animals, they now count on it to drive the animals to work harder.
The most heartbreaking betrayal of this chapter is the murder of Boxer. Though Old Major warned Boxer that one day, when “those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker,” we see that it is actually the pigs who consign him to this terrible fate. While it is true that the pigs have already broken the commandment against killing other animals, Boxer’s death is particularly notable because he was killed for financial rather than political purposes. The executions of the other animals, though unjust, might be regarded as a necessary part of Napoleon’s seizure of power. In contrast, Boxer, the hardest-working and most loyal animal on the farm, is sold to the knacker for the price of a case of whiskey. Ironically, the very characteristics that made Boxer beloved—trust, determination, and selflessness—led to his downfall. Though Boxer had great passion for the revolutionary cause, he failed to think critically about the sort of society he was fighting for and, as a result, falls victim to the manipulation of the pigs.