Last Updated on January 6, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1356
The years pass and many of the animals grow old and die. No one remembers the time before the revolution except Clover, Benjamin, the pigs, and Moses. Several animals have been added to the farm, though they are rather dumb and do not seem to understand the principles of Animalism. Over the years, the farm has grown larger and more prosperous, but the animals no longer dream of living in comfort or luxury. After the completion of the windmill, Napoleon makes it clear that the idyllic, electricity-powered life Snowball once spoke of is contrary to “the spirit of Animalism,” which promotes frugal living and hard work. Indeed, as time passes, Snowball is forgotten, as is Boxer. The pigs insist that they are working hard supervising the farm and, as proof, show the animals sheets of paper covered in writing. The papers are burned as soon as they are produced. No animals can remember whether life was better or worse under Mr. Jones, except Benjamin, who, as usual, cynically says that life is as bad as it has always been.
Despite their difficult lives, the animals still take pride in their farm and dream of a day when England will be ruled by animals. The animals derive comfort from the knowledge that if they are working hard, it is at least for their own benefit rather than for the enrichment of a tyrannical human. During the summer, Squealer takes a group of sheep aside for several days to teach them a new song. Soon after, the animals are shocked and terrified to see the pigs walking around on two legs, led by Napoleon, who carries a whip. Despite everything they have endured, the animals are so disturbed that they are inclined to protest. Before the animals can utter a word of complaint, however, the sheep loudly bleat “Four legs good, two legs BETTER” until the moment for protest has passed. Returning to the barn, Benjamin and Clover realize that the wall with the Seven Commandments has been painted over and now simply reads: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.” In the days that follow, the pigs walk on two legs, carry whips, take out magazine subscriptions, and even begin to wear Mr. Jones’s old clothes.
A week later, several human visitors—including Mr. Pilkington—come to visit the farm. Later, the animals sneak over to the farmhouse, curious as to what the pigs and humans are doing inside. They see all of them sitting together at the table, drinking and playing cards. Mr. Pilkington then stands up and makes a toast, saying that while Animal Farm had initially made the humans uneasy, they are pleased to see that it is run so efficiently. He commends the pigs for making the animals work so many hours on such little food and announces that the humans intend to introduce such a system on their own farms. He makes it clear that the pigs and humans have a lot in common, joking that while the pigs must contend with the “lower animals,” the humans must contend with the “lower classes.” After Mr. Pilkington’s speech, Napoleon gets up and says that it has never been true that Animal Farm intended to stir up rebellion among animals on neighboring farms and that he is glad their misunderstanding is at an end. He further announces that the animals are now forbidden from calling one another “comrade,” and the hoof and horn icons on the flag of Animal Farm have been removed. Finally, Napoleon announces that Animal Farm will officially be reverting to its original and “correct” name, Manor Farm.
As Clover and the other animals watch through the window, they begin to feel that something has altered in the faces of the pigs. Walking back to the barn, they are halted by an eruption of noise from the farmhouse. On rushing back to the window, the animals see that a big argument has broken out because Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington both played an ace of spades. As they watch the quarrel play out, the animals realize that they can no longer tell who is a human and who is a pig.
In the final chapter, Animal Farm—now renamed Manor Farm—has come full circle. By learning to walk on two legs and dressing in clothes, the pigs have now violated all of the original Seven Commandments and, in the process, have become indistinguishable (literally) from humans. The passage of time and the erosion of the animals’ memories have continued to work in the pigs’ favor as they are no longer bound by the expectations and rules of the rebellion. Orwell makes it clear that the animals, unable to historically contextualize their treatment, have no way of judging whether they are better or worse off. They have learned to manage their expectations under the pigs and have given up on ideas like a retirement age or windmill-generated energy to decrease their workload.
While the animals have given up on these smaller comforts, they have still not abandoned their faith in the rebellion and in Animal Farm as an idea. Though their lives are hard, they hold out hope that one day, Old Major’s dream of a true animal republic will be realized. This idealism only makes the final scene all the more brutal as the animals watch Napoleon completely deny the legitimacy of an animal revolution to his human peers:
They had been credited with attempting to stir up rebellion among the animals on neighboring farms. Nothing could be further from the truth! Their sole wish, now and in the past, was to live at peace and in normal business relations with their neighbors.
Though Mr. Pilkington lavishes praise upon Napoleon while Napoleon extols the new friendship between the two farms, it is clear that they do not trust one another. This interaction is meant to represent the uneasy alliance between the West (Great Britain and the United States) and the Soviet Union during World War II. Through Mr. Pilkington’s comment that the lower animals are similar to the lower classes, Orwell extends his criticism beyond totalitarian regimes to show that the exploitation of the working class is a universal issue. Mr. Pilkington’s joking comparison suggests that many countries really do view and treat the working classes like “animals.” The superficiality and tenuousness of the friendship between Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington is demonstrated when both of them simultaneously play the same card—meaning that one of them is cheating—immediately after declaring their mutual admiration. This betrayal is meant to signify the breakdown of relations between the Soviet Union and the West that occurred almost immediately after the end of World War II and eventually morphed into the Cold War.
The transformation of the Seven Commandments into the single maxim “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” exemplifies one of the main ideas of the book: in the hands of corrupt individuals, language can be a powerful tool of oppression. The phrase itself is nonsensical, and the word “equal” is used to mask the fact that the maxim is actually describing a system that is inherently unequal. This doublespeak, however, confuses the animals and thus forestalls their protests. Throughout the novel, the pigs manipulate language to rewrite history, glorify their rule, sow fear, and silence criticism. The power of language is displayed one final time when the animals first see the pigs walking on two legs. Shocked into a rare moment of protest, the animals are about to challenge the pigs when they are immediately shut down, not by violence but by words, as the new slogan—“Four legs good, two legs BETTER!”—is incessantly repeated by the sheep. Though Animal Farm’s plot is inspired by events that have already come to pass, this novella is undoubtedly meant to be a warning to future generations. Ultimately, Animal Farm suggests that societies that opt for apathy rather than critical thinking and put their trust in powerful individuals rather than ideas will always be vulnerable to tyranny.
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