What was Napoleon's role in the Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm?

Expert Answers

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

This is a great question. Napoleon is conspicuously missing in the battle of Cowshed. In chapter 4, where the battle takes place, he is mentioned only once. The text says that Napoleon and Snowball sent out pigeons to broadcast the story of the rebellion. After this, Napoleon falls into...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

the recess. The one who takes charge is Snowball. In fact, Snowball is awarded a medal of honor for his role in the battle. The chapter ends with these words:

The animals decided unanimously to create a military decoration, ‘Animal Hero, First Class,’ which was conferred there and then on Snowball and Boxer.

This shows that the heroes of the battle and chapter were Snowball and Boxer. 

All of this begs the question of where Napoleon was. The answer to this question is actually found in the previous chapter. There we see Napoleon's view. He did not believe in any of the committees that Snowball set up. He believed that he needed to start with the young. So, he took the pups of Jessie and Bluebell. Later in the book, these pups would become his muscle, that is, guard dogs. 

Here is what the text says:

Napoleon took no interest in Snowball’s committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up. It happened that Jessie and Bluebell had both whelped soon after the hay harvest, giving birth between them to nine sturdy puppies.

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

Napoleon is strangely absent during the Battle of the Cowshed. We see no sign of him during the fighting. It is Snowball who charges bravely at the humans, accompanied by all 35 pigeons, all the sheep, Muriel, Benjamin and Boxer. At the end of the battle, Snowball and Boxer, who both fought bravely, are awarded the honor Animal hero, first class, but Napoleon is conspicuously missing from the honor roll. The conclusion one is led to draw is that Napoleon was carefully taking cover in the background while the other animals risked life and limb for the cause. We can assume Napoleon was there, somewhere, during the battle, because at the end of the battle Molly is noticed to be missing and everyone goes in alarm to search for her. Later, Napoleon will use propaganda to try to change the other animals' memories of what happened in this battle. 

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

Napoleon is not mentioned during the battle of the cowshed. It is unclear if he was involved in the fighting or if he was off to the side watching. Suffice to say, even if he was involved in the fighting, he did nothing significant. Napoleon is not mentioned during the battle for precisely this reason; he didn't do anything worth noting. Snowball and Boxer were the heroes of the battle. Subsequently, Napoleon and Squealer would spread propaganda that Snowball's actions were more traitorous than courageous. This had the effect of brainwashing the animals that Snowball acted cowardly and Napoleon, by default, was the only righteous leader they ever had. 

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

Where is Napoleon during the Battle of the Cowshed?

For much of the early part of the story, Napoleon is not a key player in the revolution personally, other than to criticize Snowball.  Napoleon is conspicuously absent at the battle.  This should not be a surprise, as the day after the revolution, he disposed of the cow's milk which logically should have gone to the calves or to the animals as a whole. Snowball leads the charge against the humans and is even wounded for his efforts.  Napoleon rewrites history when he decides that Snowball is too much of a threat, and places himself in Snowball's place and even makes Snowball the leader of the humans.  This is characteristic of Napoleon's leadership style.  He rewrites history so that he is always the hero and he uses fear and browbeating to make the other animals fall into line.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Where is Napoleon during the Battle of the Cowshed?

In Animal Farm, The Battle of the Cowshed is significant as Snowball is hailed as an "Animal Hero, First Class," receiving a medal, along with Boxer. These medals are to be worn on Sundays and holidays. It will not be long before the very same achievement will be used against Snowball when Napoleon attempts to discredit him and suggest that he is a traitor and instrumental in the attack by the humans. 

Before the battle takes place, Snowball and Napoleon send out pigeons to ensure that other farm animals know about the Rebellion on the former Manor Farm, now Animal Farm. This appears to be Napoleon's only involvement in this. Farmers struggle to manage the animals on these other farms as the animals are familiar with the rebellion and even know the song "Beasts of England."

Jones eventually returns, with some of the other farmers, to try and retake Animal (Manor) Farm but the animals have been expecting them and Snowball has a plan and gives the orders. Napoleon is not mentioned because he "took no interest in Snowball's committees" nor has he been involved in Snowball's plan if there ever is an attack; a plan that Snowball has developed by studying the strategy of Julius Caesar.

Jones leaves eventually when the animals get the better of him and the animals celebrate but still there is no mention of Napoleon. It seems that Napoleon is busy training the puppies that he took from Jessie and Bluebell because "the education of the young was more important than anything..." He will use the same puppies to chase Snowball off the farm: "Though not yet full-grown, they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as wolves."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Where is Napoleon during the Battle of the Cowshed?

Napoleon is conspicuously absent during the battle of the Cowshed in Orwell's Animal Farm.  Orwell makes a point to show that though nobody spoke more fiercely about the danger of the humans and their imminent threat of reappearing on the farm, when it came to actually going to war with them, Napoleon left the fighting to the other animals.  Meanwhile, his political opponent, Snowball, led the charge against the humans and got wounded in the process, earning him great acclaim among the animals.  This is another example of Napoleon's hypocritcal stance on the farm.  He wants all the reward with no sacrifice.  He stresses the importance of animal continuity, yet he puts himself above the others.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Where is Napoleon during the Battle of the Cowshed?

I think it's intentionally left ambiguous.  Napoleon is simply "not there."  There are several places he SAYS he is afterwards; however, he takes no true active part in the battle.  The key thing to note is that afterwards, he uses Squealer as his "propaganda tool" to let the others know of his influences during the battle.  In other words, he was probably hiding or watching, but in no way to participate.  After all, if he was injured, what would the animals do then? It was essentially his way of manipulating the animals to do as he said and believe what he wanted.

Last Updated on