How does Napoleon demonstrate ruthlessness in Animal Farm?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Napoleon initially illustrates his ruthlessness by sending his ferocious dogs after Snowball and usurping power. Napoleon then proceeds to steal Snowball's elaborate plans for the windmill and takes credit for the blueprints. As leader of Animal Farm, Napoleon immediately increases the work hours and reduces the food rations. As a result of his tyrannical reign, the majority of animals suffer from exhaustion and malnutrition. He also takes the best food for himself and the other pigs. While the pigs enjoy the comfort of sleeping in the farmhouse and other privileges, the majority of animals sleep outside or in the barn and engage in manual labor for the majority of the day. Napoleon also forces the hens to produce an extraordinary amount of eggs and starves them when they protest. Napoleon then has several animals publicly executed after they offer false confessions. Many consider Napoleon's most ruthless act to be sending Boxer to the knackers after he suffers from a lung ailment. Napoleon's decision to send Boxer to the knackers illustrates his ruthlessness and utter lack of concern for his subjects.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Animal Farm, Napoleon shows his ruthlessness in several places, most notably in Boxer's death. 

Before sending Boxer off to be killed and turned into glue, Napoleon remorselessly and ruthlessly captures command of power on the farm by chasing Snowball away. This is the first act of Napoleon's approach to totalitarianism and despotism. 

After Napoleon chases his former friend Snowball off the farm, he has countless animals killed who confess to being Snowball's allies.

Though Boxer is no ally to Snowball and is clearly the most dedicated, hard-working and physically capable animal on the farm throughout the revolution, he is betrayed by Napoleon after losing his strength and ability to work. 

Boxer, who has worked tirelessly for Animal Farm, suddenly takes ill. Napoleon announces that arrangements have been made to treat Boxer in a hospital in town. However, the truck that arrives to take Boxer away belongs to a horse slaughterer, and the animals erupt in a great outcry. 

Forcing Snowball into exile and betraying Boxer to his death are both clear examples of Napoleon's ruthless nature.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial