Chapter VIII Summary and Analysis
After the executions, some of the animals remember that there is a commandment against killing other animals. When they check the wall, however, they find that the commandment reads “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” The animals spend the next year rebuilding the windmill, and at times, it feels like they work longer hours than they ever did under Mr. Jones. Squealer frequently announces figures showing that production has increased dramatically. Since the animals can no longer clearly remember what life was like under Mr. Jones, they have no reason to dispute Squealer’s claims. Napoleon now gives all of his orders through the other pigs and only leaves the farmhouse with great ceremony. The animals, encouraged by the pigs, now refer to Napoleon with titles like “our Leader, Comrade Napoleon” and frequently attribute any good things that happen on the farm to him. Minimus composes a poem glorifying Napoleon entitled “Comrade Napoleon,” while Squealer paints a gigantic portrait of Napoleon on the barn wall.
Napoleon continues to negotiate with both Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington for the sale of the timber. The animals much prefer Mr. Pilkington because it is rumored that Mr. Frederick is planning an attack on the farm. Meanwhile, Napoleon executes three hens who confess to planning to assassinate him, and he increases his personal security. Rumors spread that Napoleon will indeed sell the timber to Mr. Pilkington, as they have developed a friendlier relationship. The animals still distrust any human, but they are glad that they are not doing business with Mr. Frederick, who they have heard is sadistic and abusive toward his animals. Napoleon announces that he never had any intention of selling to Mr. Frederick and, respecting his forthcoming agreement with Mr. Pilkington, stops sending out pigeons with messages of rebellion to Foxwood Farm. Furthermore, the pigeons’ slogan of “Death to Humanity” is replaced by “Death to Frederick.” Meanwhile, the animals finally finish the windmill, which Napoleon announces will be named “Napoleon Mill.” The animals are utterly exhausted but also excited by the difference that the windmill will make in their lives.
The animals are then shocked to learn that Napoleon has actually sold the timber to Mr. Frederick. The pigeons are now told to avoid Pinchfield Farm, and their slogan is changed to “Death to Pilkington.” Napoleon tells the farm that the rumors about Mr. Frederick’s plan to attack and his cruelty are merely exaggerations and were probably spread by Snowball. Meanwhile, the pigs applaud Napoleon’s cunning in pretending to favor Mr. Pilkington to make Mr. Frederick drive up his price. Napoleon demands that Mr. Frederick pay him in five-pound notes, which he then displays on a china dish for the animals to view. A few days later, Mr. Whymper meets with Napoleon, and the animals hear a roar of rage. Word soon spreads that Mr. Frederick paid Napoleon in forgeries and took the timber for nothing. Enraged, Napoleon calls for Mr. Frederick’s death and warns the animals that they should expect an attack. The next morning, Mr. Frederick and his men come into the yard and use guns to force the animals to retreat to the farm buildings. Trapped, the animals watch helplessly as the men begin to drill a hole in the base of the windmill. It is Benjamin who first realizes that they intend to fill the hole with blasting powder. In a few moments, there is a tremendous explosion and the windmill is gone. Furious and no longer cognizant of the danger, the animals rush out and attack the men. The men are injured and driven away, but not before several animals are killed and nearly all of them injured. Squealer and the pigs try to convince the animals to celebrate their victory, but the animals see their dead comrades and the spot where the windmill once was and feel there is little to celebrate. After Napoleon gives a speech about the battle, the animals begin to come around and decide that the “Battle of the Windmill” was a victory after all.
A few days later, the pigs find some whiskey in Mr. Jones’s cellar, and raucous singing is heard from the farmhouse. The pigs look very ill the next day and announce that Napoleon is dying. Napoleon makes a final decree: “The drinking of alcohol was to be punished by death.” However, Napoleon soon recovers and begins studying brewing, creating a paddock for barley out of one originally intended for animals who are too old to work. Around this time, the animals are awakened by a crash in the night and find Squealer sprawled next to a broken ladder, a paint brush, and a can of white paint. The animals (with the exception of Benjamin) don’t know what to make of it, but later Muriel notices that the commandment that the animals thought said “No animal shall drink alcohol” now reads “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”
Napoleon’s dealings with Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick allude to Stalin’s relationships with England and Germany—specifically with Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler—during World War II. Technically opposed to both capitalism and fascism, Stalin had difficulty deciding between the Allies and the Axis powers in the early days of the war. He met with both sides before finally choosing to sign the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler. With the eastern front of Germany’s territory protected by the pact, Hitler was free to focus on the Allies fighting on the western front. When the western front began to turn in Hitler’s favor, however, he became more confident and broke his pact with Stalin by invading western Russia, mirroring Mr. Frederick’s double cross with the forged money. As in the Battle of the Windmill, Hitler’s forces were ultimately repelled, but the invasion cost millions of Russian lives and destroyed much of the infrastructure that had been built up along the western border. Orwell alludes to the heavy casualties sustained by the Soviet Union during this time by mentioning that “nearly everyone” on Animal Farm, including Napoleon, is wounded in the Battle of the Windmill. Following Hitler’s betrayal, the Soviet Union joined the Allies, as is represented by Napoleon’s attempt to repair the relationship with Mr. Pilkington and Foxwood Farm.
The pigs continue to rewrite history throughout this chapter. The pigs break two more commandments—the prohibition against killing any animals and the prohibition against drinking alcohol—and then rewrite them to excuse their increasingly human-like actions. Even when the animals catch Squealer in the act of rewriting the commandments, they still do not rebel. In the Soviet Union, many people (represented by Benjamin, the donkey) were aware that Stalin’s regime was corrupt, but the certainty that they would be shut down by Stalin’s brutal authoritarian regime dissuaded people from protesting. Another major factor that contributed to Stalin’s security was the cult of personality that he cultivated during the early 1930s. Soviet propaganda constantly praised and glorified Stalin, and his image was frequently reproduced for posters, murals, and statues. We see the pigs building Napoleon up in the same way by giving him new titles, painting his portrait on the wall, and even composing poems about him. In Minimus’s poem, “Comrade Napoleon,” Napoleon is portrayed as omniscient and all-powerful. The progression of anthems from “Beasts of England” to “Animal Farm!” to “Comrade Napoleon” illustrates how the pigs have attempted to turn the passion felt during the rebellion into unwavering loyalty to Napoleon. The pigs attempt to cement Napoleon’s status by portraying his leadership as synonymous with Animal Farm itself, meaning that to doubt Napoleon is to doubt the very idea of Animal Farm. For many Russians, Stalin became the embodiment of the revolution, and their belief in the legitimacy of the revolutionary cause led them to ignore Stalin’s flawed leadership. We see this same pattern at play when the animals catch Squealer with the can of paint. By this point, most of the animals have been so conditioned to believe in the greatness of Napoleon’s regime that even obvious evidence of its corruption does not faze them.
(The entire section is 1368 words.)