Last Updated August 1, 2023.
The animals begin to rebuild the windmill and are convinced that the rumors spread by the humans—that the windmill fell over because its walls were too thin—are only created out of spite. Despite this, the animals now build walls twice as thick as the original eighteen-inch constructions.
The work is very demanding, and morale among the animals is low. Though Squealer makes frequent speeches about the “dignity of labor,” the animals are more inspired by Boxer’s tireless contribution. When food runs short, there are periods when all the animals nearly starve.
Desperate to conceal this dire situation from the outside world, Napoleon frequently invites Mr. Whymper to visit and instructs the sheep to talk about ration increases within earshot. He also orders that the almost-empty food bins be filled with sand. The sand is then concealed with what little food remains to make the bins appear full. Mr. Whymper falls for these tricks and continues to report to the outside world that Animal Farm is a success.
Napoleon now rarely comes out of the farmhouse and is escorted by his dogs when he does. Rather than addressing the animals himself, Napoleon issues nearly all his orders through Squealer. One day, Squealer announces that Napoleon has arranged to sell four hundred eggs a week, which will pay for enough food to keep the farm going until summer.
The hens are outraged and call the seizure of their eggs murder. Several of the hens rebel, retreating to the rafters and laying their eggs there so that they smash upon the floor. In response, Napoleon stops their rations and forbids any animal from giving them food. After five days and the death of nine hens, the rest of the hens give in and return to their nesting boxes.
Meanwhile, rumors spread on the farm that Snowball is hiding at one of the neighboring farms. Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick are both anxious to buy a stack of timber from Animal Farm, and Napoleon seems unable to decide who to sell it to.
In the spring, it is announced that Snowball has been visiting the farm at night and causing mischief. From then on, whenever something goes wrong on the farm, the animals believe Snowball is to blame. One day, Squealer announces that the pigs have recently found documents that prove Snowball was in league with Mr. Jones from the beginning and that he conspired to allow the animals to be defeated at the Battle of the Cowshed. Confused, the animals point out that Snowball fought bravely and was even awarded “Animal Hero, First Class.”
Squealer incredulously asks the animals whether they have forgotten how Snowball turned and fled as soon as the men entered the yard. Squealer claims that the animals were only saved when Napoleon bravely charged Mr. Jones and bit his leg. Hearing Squealer’s graphic description, the animals start to think that maybe that is what happened. Boxer, however, remains unconvinced that Snowball was bad from the beginning until Squealer explicitly tells him that Napoleon has declared it to be the truth.
Several days later, all of the animals are assembled in the yard. Napoleon appears wearing medals (having awarded himself “Animal Hero, First Class” and “Animal Hero, Second Class”), and at his command, his dogs seize the four pigs who have attempted to question some of Napoleon’s policies. The dogs also attempt to attack Boxer, but he easily fends them off with his hooves.
Napoleon orders the pigs to confess their crimes, and they admit that they have secretly been taking orders from Snowball and confirm that Snowball has...
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been in league with Mr. Jones the whole time. As soon as the pigs finish confessing, the dogs rip their throats out, and Napoleon asks whether any other animals have confessions to make.
The hens who led the egg rebellion, a goose, and three sheep all admit to having committed various crimes, most of them claiming to have been encouraged by Snowball. All who come forward are immediately killed, and when it is over, a pile of bodies lies at Napoleon’s feet.
Afterward, the animals find a knoll and lie down together, traumatized by the apparent betrayals of their comrades as well as the violence of Napoleon. Boxer believes that these terrible events must be due to some failing on the part of the animals and resolves to work harder.
Clover thinks to herself that this terror and slaughter was not what the animals risked their lives for during the rebellion. Despite this, she knows that Napoleon’s regime is still better than being under the rule of Mr. Jones, and she, therefore, resolves to work hard and accept Napoleon’s leadership.
As a way to express her inarticulate feelings, she begins to mournfully sing “Beasts of England” and is soon joined by the rest of the animals. They are stopped, however, by Squealer, who informs them that singing “Beasts of England” is now forbidden; it is a song of rebellion, and since the last of the traitors have been executed, the rebellion is fully over. Minimus, a pig, comes up with a new song about Animal Farm to replace “Beasts of England,” but it never catches on like the original.
In this chapter, Napoleon feels pressure from both inside and outside the farm to show that Animal Farm is a success, even as his poor management is causing the farm to fail. This mirrors the very real pressure Stalin felt to prove the legitimacy of the Soviet Union to the West, which remained strongly opposed to communism.
Stalin’s first attempt to demonstrate the success of his Communist system was the institution of a “five-year plan” (of which there would be several more). The first five-year plan was a series of economic goals, many of which were aimed at rapid industrialization to counter the growing opposition from the heavily industrialized West. The rebellion of the hens echoes the real-life rebellions enacted by Soviet peasants who slaughtered their own farm animals—millions of animals in total—instead of giving them up to the collective farms created by the first five-year plan.
The failures of Stalin’s agricultural plans eventually led to widespread famine and a death toll in the millions. Just as Napoleon takes great pains to make the farm appear profitable to outsiders, the Soviet Union used extensive propaganda to deny and suppress evidence proving the existence of famine. They were occasionally aided in their misinformation campaign by prominent Western journalists, most notably Walter Duranty, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Soviet Union in The New York Times.
Duranty was later widely criticized for downplaying the extensive famine conditions and uncritically printing the false claims of the Soviet government. Western actors like Duranty who helped spread Soviet propaganda are represented in the novella by Mr. Whymper, who continues to report to the outside world that there is “no food shortage on Animal Farm.”
In this chapter, Napoleon puts on a brutal show of force when he has multiple traitorous animals slaughtered in front of the whole farm. Though it might seem odd that the animals come forward and confess to “crimes” that they have most likely not committed, this scene is meant to represent the infamous “Great Purge,” in which Stalin ordered widespread arrests within his own government and the Communist Party as well as increased police surveillance on the civilian population.
Many of those arrested during the Great Purge were tortured or threatened into making false confessions before being executed or sent to brutal labor camps. Like the animals who confess to working with Snowball, a number of Stalin’s prisoners were forced to confess to Trotskyist plots and conspiracies in order to further Stalin’s smear campaign. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands—possibly even millions—of people died as a direct result of the Great Purge.
Just as Stalin’s purge led to an era of widespread fear, paranoia, and political repression, the public executions of the animals leave the rest of the farm dazed and miserable.