Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1481

Summary

As life on the farm goes on, Mollie becomes more and more difficult. She frequently makes excuses as to why she cannot work, and one day Clover confronts Mollie, saying that she saw one of Mr. Pilkington’s men stroking Mollie’s nose over the hedge dividing Animal Farm and Foxwood. Mollie nervously denies any wrongdoing and gallops away, but Clover, suspecting that not all is right, goes to Mollie’s stall and finds hair ribbons and lump sugar stashed under the hay. A few days later, Mollie disappears from Animal Farm. The pigeons later report that they saw her pulling a small decorated cart for a man who appeared to own a pub. The pigeons observed that Mollie had ribbons in her hair and appeared quite content as the man fed her sugar cubes and stroked her nose. From that day on, Mollie is no longer spoken of at Animal Farm.

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By midwinter, the ground on the farm is too hard for planting, so the animals occupy their time with frequent meetings in the barn to plan for the next season. The animals now all accept that the pigs are the only ones who can come up with farm policies, though their proposals must be ratified by a majority vote from all the animals. Snowball and Napoleon continue to disagree, and each develops his own loyal following. Snowball is the more effective orator and is better able to convince animals to side with him during his speeches, while Napoleon is better at garnering support behind the scenes. Napoleon influences the sheep, prompting them to burst into disruptive chants of “Four legs good, two legs bad” during the important moments of Snowball’s speeches. For weeks, Snowball has been developing plans for an electricity-generating windmill by teaching himself about mechanics and electricity from Mr. Jones’s old books. The animals find his elaborate plans very impressive, though they do not understand them. Napoleon opposes the windmill from the start, arguing that the animals must focus on food production instead. He even goes so far as to urinate on Snowball’s plans for the windmill. The animals end up fairly evenly divided on the issue. Snowball claims that the machines powered by the windmill’s electricity would reduce the farm’s workload and allow the animals to work only three days a week. He adds that the electricity could heat the animals’ stalls during the winter. Meanwhile, Napoleon claims that the windmill is a waste of time and that the animals will all starve to death before it is completed. The only animal who does not take a side is the cynical old donkey, Benjamin, who refuses to believe the promises of either Napoleon or Snowball, insisting that “life would go on as it had always gone on—that is, badly.”

Napoleon and Snowball also disagree over the future defense of the farm, though both agree that Mr. Jones is sure to return. Napoleon thinks the animals should gather firearms and learn to use them, while Snowball thinks they should send out more pigeons to try to spread the rebellion beyond their farm. As the two debate various issues, the animals tend to find themselves agreeing with whoever is currently speaking. When Snowball’s plans for the windmill are completed, it is finally put to a vote. Snowball gives an impassioned speech in favor of the windmill, while Napoleon delivers an unusually brief and indifferent argument against it. It is clear that the farm is going to vote in Snowball’s favor when, suddenly, Napoleon gives a “high-pitched whimper” and nine ferocious dogs rush into the barn. The dogs attack Snowball, who only just avoids them. The animals watch as the dogs chase Snowball from the yard until he escapes through a hole in the fence. When the dogs return, the animals realize that they are the former puppies that Napoleon took into the loft.

Napoleon gets on the podium and announces that there will be no more debates or meetings and that farm policy will now be decided by a committee of pigs, over which he will preside. The animals are uncomfortable with this change, but they don’t know how to articulate an argument against it and are intimidated by Napoleon’s menacing dogs. Afterward, Squealer goes around the farm to smooth over the changes by explaining that Napoleon is making a selfless sacrifice in taking on a difficult leadership position. Squealer also tells the animals that Snowball was a criminal whose bravery at the Battle of Cowshed was exaggerated. The animals are convinced, and Boxer adopts a new maxim—“Napoleon is always right”—in addition to “I will work harder.” A few weeks later, the animals are surprised when Napoleon announces that they will build the windmill after all, though he warns that such an effort will be difficult and might mean a reduction in rations. Squealer tells the animals that the windmill was originally Napoleon’s idea, but Snowball stole his plans and pretended that it was his idea. According to Squealer, Napoleon's opposition to the windmill was merely a clever tactic to rid the farm of the corrupt Snowball.

Analysis

In this chapter, the collapse of Animal Farm’s idealistic goals becomes clear. As Snowball and Napoleon continue to disagree, the difference in their persuasive techniques is evident: while Snowball thoroughly researches his ideas and seeks to improve the quality of life for all the animals on the farm, Napoleon is more interested in consolidating power for himself. Snowball tries to gain support by making passionate public appeals, while Napoleon gains support behind the scenes, foreshadowing his use of underhanded tactics. The windmill, representing innovation and technological advancement, is what finally brings the conflict between Snowball and Napoleon to a head. Industrialization was also a controversial issue in Soviet Russia, as many Communist leaders felt that the rural country needed to modernize in order to make the Communist system work effectively. Though Stalin was initially opposed to modernization, he—like Napoleon—did an about-face after taking power. Napoleon’s use of the dogs to chase away Snowball parallels the real conflict between Stalin and Trotsky. After the death of Vladimir Lenin left a power vacuum in Russian politics, Stalin had Trotsky expelled from the Communist Party and exiled from Russia before seizing power for himself. Napoleon’s dogs represent Stalin’s real-life secret police force, which was used to eliminate political enemies and terrorize citizens into compliance with his rule.

Mollie, who has clearly never been invested in the rebellion or Animalism, continues to struggle before finally rejecting Animal Farm altogether by escaping to another human owner. Mollie’s departure mirrors the widespread immigration of upper- and middle-class Russians to the United States and Europe following the Communist takeover. The pigeons report that Mollie seems to be enjoying the same cushy lifestyle that she was accustomed to before the rebellion; in real life, most of Russia’s wealthy population (including the nobility) were fleeing for their lives and had to leave most of their wealth and assets behind. A notable contrast to Mollie is Benjamin, a donkey. Like Mollie, Benjamin does not buy into Animal Farm or Animalism; however, his extreme cynicism prevents him from taking any action at all; he is certain that no matter what, life will always be difficult. Though Benjamin’s stubbornness and cynicism initially seems unwarranted, by the end of the chapter, it is clear that it is the other animals, not Benjamin, who have been mistaken. As Napoleon begins to resemble Mr. Jones more and more, Benjamin’s insistence that things never change turns out to be prophetic.

The power of propaganda is demonstrated once again through the character of Squealer. Napoleon does not bother to explain his coup or his reversal on the windmill, trusting Squealer, his mouthpiece, to justify his actions. Squealer completely manipulates the truth about Napoleon’s rise to power and manages to sell it to the other animals as an example of Napoleon’s extreme selflessness rather than what it really is: the ultimate expression of Napoleon’s selfishness. Squealer’s attempts to discredit Snowball reflect Stalin’s real-life smear campaign against the exiled Trotsky. Stalin even went so far as to have Trotsky’s military and political accomplishments written out of Soviet history books, a move Squealer parallels by suggesting Snowball’s bravery at the Battle of Cowshed was exaggerated. The pigs’ propaganda is successful at throughly confusing the animals, who are eventually manipulated into putting their total faith in Napoleon: “Napoleon is always right.” When Napoleon initially takes power, a couple of pigs attempt to express concern but are immediately silenced by the threat of the dogs, suggesting that while the animals’ decision to trust Napoleon is undoubtedly foolish, Napoleon’s monopoly on fear and violence has left them with few practical alternatives.

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