Why does Napoleon use Snowball's name to control the animals in Animal Farm?

Quick answer:

Napoleon uses Snowball's name to control the animals to solidify his power and ensure his authority. Napoleon understands the importance of diminishing Snowball's role in the creation of Animal Farm and recognizes the need to have a scapegoat. Napoleon also knows the significance of maintaining an atmosphere of hysteria at all times. By casting Snowball as the ultimate villain, he can blame him for every unfortunate event and cause the animals to feel paranoid by mentioning his name.

Expert Answers

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

Napoleon always hated and resented that Snowball was smarter, braver, and a better planner than he is, as well as more of a true believer in the principles of animalism rather than motivated by sheer, unmitigated self-interest. For all these reasons, Snowball stands in the way of Napoleon taking complete power. Therefore, Napoleon uses his dogs, his faithful militia, to stage a coup and chase Snowball off as soon as he possibly can. Now, he can set up his dictatorship, unimpeded by Snowball making him look like the fool that he is.

Napoleon takes a special malicious delight in tarring the name of his more competent and courageous rival, blaming him for all of his own failings and misdeeds and possibly even coming to believe his own self-serving lies. Snowball thus becomes a classic scapegoat. By vilifying him as a traitor and enemy of the state, Napoleon can divert anger that might otherwise, and with very good reason, be directed at himself and channel it towards Snowball. Snowball is ideal, too, in that he is not around to defend himself against Napoleon's outrageous lies. For example, when the windmill the animals have struggled with all their might to build collapses during a windstorm because, ignoring facts and science, Napoleon arbitrarily decided not to have it made thick enough, Napoleon blames Snowball and redirects their disappointment and fury toward the absent pig:

This traitor has … destroyed our work of nearly a year …

The animals were shocked beyond measure to learn that even Snowball could be guilty of such an action. There was a cry of indignation.

As we see in the quote above, the other animals, gullible and easily led, fall for it. This helps the cunning Napoleon maintain his grip on power despite his hypocrisy, laziness, and inability.

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

With the help of Squealer, Napoleon spreads false propaganda and alters history to secure his authority and portray Snowball as an evil traitor. Once Napoleon chases Snowball off the farm and assumes complete power, he begins to portray Snowball in a negative light to cultivate an atmosphere of hysteria and fear. Squealer spreads false propaganda suggesting that Snowball was a traitor from the beginning and had always worked closely with Mr. Jones to undermine the animals' cause. The idea that Snowball was an enemy from within contributes to the hysterical atmosphere on the farm, and the animals do not know whom to trust. This creates dissension and suspicion among the animals, which undermines the possibility that they will work together and rebel against Napoleon.

By altering history and depicting Snowball as a ruthless traitor, Napoleon bolsters his own accomplishments and portrays himself as a wise, genuine ally. Napoleon also uses Snowball as a scapegoat by blaming him for every mistake and unfortunate event on the farm. Snowball makes the perfect scapegoat because he cannot defend himself, and the farm's history has been rewritten to cast him as the ultimate villain. According to Napoleon and Squealer, Snowball planned Mr. Jones's invasion, destroyed the windmill, and helped forge the banknotes to defraud the farm.

Similar to how Napoleon and Squealer threaten the animals with Mr. Jones's return, they use Snowball's name to spread fear throughout the farm. After successfully altering history and making Snowball the scapegoat, the mere mention of his name incites fear, anxiety, and paranoia. The animals come to perceive Snowball as an arch-villain and consider him the foremost enemy of Animal Farm. Napoleon manipulates their fear and portrays himself as their ultimate leader and protector.

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

It’s clear in the early chapters of Animal Farm that Napoleon and Snowball had different ideas of what to do with the farm after their revolution. Both pigs weren’t going to be able to lead together, and Napoleon successfully exiled Snowball through the use of his trained dogs. To put this in Russian terms, as Animal Farm is an allegory of the rise of Communism in Russia, Stalin (Napoleon) takes over in the USSR after the death of Lenin (Old Major), and Trotsky (Snowball) is exiled for a series of political disagreements. He is later assassinated in Mexico. Stalin is well-known for taking out his political opponents through an extensive network of supporters, spies, and secret police, which the dogs represent.

In the context of the book, bringing up the image of Snowball does two things for Napoleon’s image. First, it makes Snowball a scapegoat. Every mistake and every problem, up to the destruction of the windmill, is blamed on Snowball. It’s ridiculous to think a tiny pig, acting on his own, could take down such a large construction project, but the animals buy it. Secondly, it helps Napoleon control the other animals through fear. Snowball becomes a kind of boogeyman for the other animals on the farm, and they are coerced to things, because if they don’t, the punishment is Snowball’s return. “Do you want Snowball to come back?” Squealer asks them, several times over, until they do as they’re told.

While Snowball is gone for good, the character still plays a very important role. Unfortunately for him (and Trotsky), he was more useful to Napoleon in his absence than he ever was in his presence.

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

After Napoleon usurps power and banishes Snowball from the farm, he develops into a tyrannical ruler who makes the animals work long hours while simultaneously reducing their food rations. As leader of Animal Farm, Napoleon employs a pig named Squealer to act as his mouthpiece and spread propaganda in his favor. Whenever anything goes wrong on the farm or Napoleon makes a costly mistake, he and Squealer place the blame on Snowball. Napoleon essentially uses Snowball as a scapegoat to shift the blame and hide his mistakes. Napoleon ends up blaming Snowball for colluding with neighboring farmers to attack Animal Farm and destroying the windmill. By using Snowball as a scapegoat, Napoleon successfully manipulates the animals into believing that he is always in the right while bolstering the hysterical atmosphere on the farm. Napoleon earns the animals' confidence by presenting himself as a faultless leader and courageous protector, which significantly increases his control over the animals.

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