Animal Farm

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Benjamin Character Analysis

A donkey. Guided by a skeptical philosophy that life will always be difficult and painful, Benjamin is not surprised when the pigs corrupt the revolution and transform Animal Farm into a totalitarian state. Though Benjamin's skepticism proves to be correct, it also makes him powerless. Alone among the other animals, Benjamin seems to understand what's going on, but he does nothing to stop it. In the end, his inaction comes back to haunt him when his dear friend Boxer is betrayed and killed. Benjamin represents those who were aware of Stalin's unjust and oppressive policies but did nothing to try to stop them.

Benjamin Quotes in Animal Farm

The Animal Farm quotes below are all either spoken by Benjamin or refer to Benjamin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Animal Farm published in 1996.
Chapter 8 Quotes
At the foot of the end wall of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. Squealer, temporarily stunned, was sprawling beside it, and near at hand there lay a lantern, a paint-brush, and an overturned pot of white paint. None of the animals could form any idea as to what this meant, except old Benjamin, who nodded his muzzle with a knowing air, and seemed to understand, but would say nothing.
Related Characters: Squealer, Benjamin
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

After the pigs begin to consume alcohol, Squealer is discovered modifying the Commandments to sanction their behavior. Though most of the animals are unable to make sense of the event, the skeptic Benjamin is unsurprised by what he sees.

The novel has previously implied that the pigs were modifying the commandments, but here their actions become fully conspicuous: not only does Squealer reinterpret the laws with clever propaganda, but also he literally re-writes them to suit the whims of the pigs. What is more surprising about this passage, however, is how the animals are unable to make sense of the event. Orwell points out how, even when confronted with clear evidence of political malpractice, a populace will not necessarily be able to make sense of it or agree to do anything about it. Due, perhaps, to exhaustion, a lack of education, or simply fear, the animals are still unable to challenge the leaders. Benjamin’s character might seem to offer a source of insight, for, from the beginning, he has been skeptical and observant of the pigs’ actions. Yet his passivity and unwillingness to share his opinions renders him fundamentally ineffective, thus pointing out that knowledge of corruption does not necessarily lead to changing it.

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Benjamin Character Timeline in Animal Farm

The timeline below shows where the character Benjamin appears in Animal Farm. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
...motherly Clover who lets some orphaned ducklings shelter between her legs; Muriel the goat and Benjamin the donkey; Mollie, a white horse showing off the red ribbons in her hair; and... (full context)
Chapter 3
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
...own masters. Though Mollie does tend to disappear when there's work to be done, and Benjamin the donkey remains cynical, refusing to voice an opinion about the revolution. (full context)
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
The Soviet Union Theme Icon
...the farm. But only the reading and writing classes generate any interest. Soon Muriel and Benjamin can read as well as the pigs and dogs. (full context)
Chapter 5
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
...animals take sides: some support Snowball's windmill, while others favor Napoleon and food production. Only Benjamin refuses to join sides, observing that no matter who wins, life will go on as... (full context)
Chapter 6
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
...the winter promises to be bad. The windmill is now half-finished, which pleases everyone (except Benjamin). (full context)
Chapter 8
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
...fallen ladder and a bucket of white paint beneath the commandments written on the barn. Benjamin seems to understand what's happened, but refuses to say. Muriel later discovers that she's misremembered... (full context)
Chapter 9
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Class Warfare Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
...stall until a van comes to pick him up. The animals yell their goodbyes, but Benjamin shouts that side of the van reads, "Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler." The animals cry... (full context)
Chapter 10
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
Years go by. Only Clover, Benjamin, Moses the raven, and some of the pigs remember the revolution. Animal Farm is more... (full context)
Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Revolution and Corruption Theme Icon
Language as Power Theme Icon
Clover asks Benjamin to read the Seven Commandments to her. But the wall now only reads, "All Animals... (full context)