What happens in the Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm? How is the windmill built (chapters 4–7)?

Quick answer:

In the Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm, the animals repel the humans and secure their control of the farm. Building the windmill shows how Napoleon appropriated credit for Snowball’s ideas, but the lack of expertise and effective administration doomed the project to failure.

Expert Answers

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

The Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm is significant because it represents the point of no return for the animals’ control of their farm. Even as most of the animals jubilantly celebrated their triumph over the humans and the expulsion of Farmer Jones, Snowball understood that the humans would not give up without a fight. The events of the battle demonstrate the different animals’ skills and contributions, as well as demonstrate the escalating violence of their behavior. Snowball distinguishes himself as an intellectual strategist whose analytical approach to battle draws on ancient Roman military antecedents. In practice, however, the brute force of Boxer and collective ferocity of the masses really turn the tide. Even more frightened than injured, the routed humans run off.

The lengthy process of debate over the merits and later construction of the windmill serves to highlight the differences between Snowball and Napoleon. The project’s failure also foreshadows later difficulties on the farm. Snowball’s intellectual approach is useful for developing long-term projects that would contribute to the animals’ self-sufficiency. However, his penchant for planning over acting instead contributes to his own downfall. Napoleon, who is both more conniving and more practical, succeeds in displacing Snowball. Given their former subservient status, none of the animals has real experience in managing a team of workers or translating abstract schemes into concrete projects. Even if the mill had survived the human onslaught, it would not have functioned properly.

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

In chapter 4, Mr. Jones and all his men enter the gates of Animal Farm with the intention of recapturing it. Snowball had anticipated an attack and created an elaborate plan to defend the farm after studying a book on Julius Caesar's campaigns. Snowball launches his first attack as a light skirmishing maneuver, intended to create disorder, by sending pigeons and geese to peck the men. Snowball then leads a second attack alongside Muriel, Benjamin, and all the sheep before quickly retreating.

Jones and his men proceed to follow the animals into the yard where they are ambushed by three horses, three cows, and the rest of the pigs. The animals viciously attack the unsuspecting men, and Boxer proceeds to wreak havoc on the humans by rearing his legs and kicking a defenseless stable lad. Snowball also demonstrates bravery by attacking Jones after being shot, and the humans eventually sprint from the farm as the animals chase them out. Within five minutes of the invasion, the battle is over, and the animals retain control of the farm.

In regards to building the windmill, Napoleon makes the animals work sixty-hour weeks, and Boxer bears the brunt of the heavy lifting. Boxer drags massive boulders to the top of the quarry where the animals push them back over the ledge to break the stones into smaller pieces. They then carry the broken stones back up the hill and use them to construct the windmill. Unfortunately, the animals do not build the walls thick enough, and it is destroyed during a violent storm.

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

Snowball had expected the humans to fight back to regain the farm, so he had been studying a book of Mr. Jones's on the battles of Julius Caesar. When the humans attacked, Snowball was ready. The animals were able to win what was later called the Battle of the Cowshed.

After that, Snowball, who had been studying some of Farmer Jones's manuals on electricity, began to advocate for building a windmill to generate electricity. He argued that in the long term a windmill would make the farm more productive. It would allow the animals to have hot and cold running water, a heater, and electric lighting in their stalls. Napoleon opposed building the windmill, saying their efforts should be put into increasing food production. He maintained that the animals might starve while constructing a windmill.

However, once Napoleon ran Snowball off the farm, he insisted that the windmill had been his idea all along and that he had simply pretended to oppose it. The animals built the windmill at great cost, only to have it fall down. They heard the humans say the walls were too thin, so, when they rebuilt it, the animals made the walls three feet thick instead of eighteen inches. Even though the humans then blew it up, the animals rebuilt it again. However, they never saw the promised benefits of it. 

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

In the Battle of the Cowshed, a group of humans, led by the former owner of Manor Farm, Mr. Jones, attempted to retake the farm by force. But the animals were waiting for them. After a "light skirmishing manoeuvre" devised by Snowball,

... Snowball now launched his second line of attack. Muriel, Benjamin and all the sheep, with Snowball at the head of them, rushed forward and prodded and butted the men from every side...

The men seemed to have overcome this attack as well, and Snowball ordered a planned retreat. But other animals were "lying in ambush in the cowshed," and they attacked from the rear, denying the men an outlet to escape. Snowball ordered a full charge from the remaining animals, and soon the humans were in full retreat from the farm.

The windmill, conceived by Snowball in order to produce energy and ultimately reduce the workload on the animals, was scoffed at by Napoleon. However, after Snowball was run off the farm, Napoleon decided that the windmill would be constructed after all. It was a laborious task, since the animals had no hands and could use none of the humans' tools. The "animals worked like slaves" to complete the construction, and it took more than a year. A terrible windstorm left the windmill in ruins, but the animals began work again. The animals were forced to trade with the humans for grain and supplies, but the windmill was finally completed. Soon afterward, a group of humans blew up the windmill, but the animals again ran them off the farm in what became known as the Battle of the Windmill, and soon the animals once again began work on its ultimate completion.

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