In his controversial novella, Animal Farm, George Orwell cleverly hides political satire in his character, Napoleon, who destroys Old Major’s idea of a utopian society. Orwell not only models this farm and what happens on it after the Russian Revolution, but he also portrays his revolutionary leaders as pigs as opposed to humans. Each animal on the farm has a counterpart in history; Napoleon’s counterpart is Stalin.
At the beginning of the book, all the animals vow never to let themselves become like humans. The reason for this is most evident in Old Major’s Theory of Animalism. “…man is the only real enemy we have.” (29) He goes on to say, “… all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings…” (30) The animals all imagine that Man will someday be dominated by animals. In fact, Napoleon is a strong supporter of these ideas which spark the rebellion. Snowball leads the rebellion, and afterward, he and Napoleon share a coalition type of leadership among the animals. Napoleon becomes power-hungry and outsmarts Snowball. Napoleon, being one who is always ready to achieve his purposes with violence, politically murders Snowball with deceit leaving himself in sole command. Consequently, the discredited Snowball can now be blamed whenever problems arise.
The animals, although all very different, share one common trait: they are all weak-willed. Once they realize that their world is beginning to be “not so perfect” anymore as a result of Napoleon’s tyranny, they do not take a proactive role. Napoleon abuses his power by benefiting only the pigs and dogs with the other animals’ work, thus making it a utopia for themselves. He makes excuses for not doing any physical work by saying that running the farm is hard enough. Benjamin, the only animal that knows the true reality of the farm, in his own way, injures the farm even more by his inaction. The stupidity of the animals makes them perfect subject for manipulation. The most outrageous and most effective techniques used by Napoleon are the show trials, the humiliating confessions, and the summary executions. Orwell does not explain why there is an epidemic of confessions, but a reasonable conclusion is that the uncontrolled climate of fear paralyzes judgement, generates unnecessary guilt, which in turn, manufactures confession, in the hope that this will earn security.
Another important character in this book that plays a vital role is Squealer, who originally sides with Napoleon. His job is relaying Napoleon’s ideas to the animals. Whenever unjust privileges are given to the pigs, Squealer is always there to support and justify Napoleon’s action with half-truths and instill fear into the animals by threatening them with the return of Farmer Jones. He tells them that the farm’s production is increasing all the time, even though their food rations are being reduced. The animals blindly trust that he is telling the truth. To further make a point, Boxer, the loyal and inspirational horse, is looked up to by every animal for his hard work. At one point in the fable, Boxer is sent by Napoleon to be butchered because he is no longer capable of hard labor.
Through an accelerating series of small steps, Napoleon climbs the ladder toward becoming more and more human; that is, more corrupt and tyrannical. He subtly “revises” the commandments adopted by the animals early in the post-rebellion period to make things that were once forbidden, allowable, until finally, the seven commandments become one. This sole commandment reads: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” (133) By this time, it is not surprising he teaches himself to walk on his hind legs. Again, Napoleon is becoming more “human”. In this book, unlike many books, the villain wins and the irony is that these same themes happen in real life. As time passes, so do many lives of animals. Life is no better or different from the way it was under the farmer. The animals do not know this because it was so long ago and many new animals have since replaced the old ones.
Napoleon doesn’t just represent Stalin; he could be anyone in history who has used people as tools to gain power. The reason we dislike Napoleon so much is directly related to Orwell being