Every animal, down to the ducks and the hens, works hard to bring the hay in. The pigs are clever enough to figure out how to do this without tools that involve standing on two legs, while Boxer and Clover know the intricacies of bringing hay in. Because the pigs are so intelligent, they don’t actually work and instead assume leadership positions. It takes the animals less than time than it ever did Mr. Jones to bring in the hay, and the harvest is bigger than it’s ever been. Throughout the summer, things work perfectly. The animals are thrilled to eat food that they produced for themselves and not have to share it with humans.
Though it seems like everything is going smoothly, note that the pigs are already elevating themselves above the rest of the animals by assuming leadership positions rather than laboring physically. This again is an indicator that class divisions are developing on Animal Farm, and that the pigs are the ones who will end up assuming privileged, upper-class roles in this society.
Some things prove difficult, such as threshing the corn without a threshing machine, but the pigs are clever enough to figure it out and Boxer is strong enough to pull them through. Everyone admires Boxer, as he seems as strong as three horses and even gets up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else to labor where he’s needed most. His motto becomes, “I will work harder!” All the animals work as hard as they can, save for Mollie and the cat. Mollie struggles to rise in the morning and often leaves work early because of stones in her hooves, while the cat disappears during work time and shows up for meals with excellent excuses. Benjamin seems unchanged since the rebellion. He cryptically repeats that donkeys live a long time and that no one else has seen a dead donkey when asked if life is better without Mr. Jones.
Boxer is a representation of male peasants in the USSR. The success of Animal Farm—which represents the Soviet Union—rests on these peasants performing as much labor as possible, something that Boxer throws himself into with gusto. His personal motto suggests, however, that he’s overly idealistic and is putting the ideals of the revolution above his own self-interest in a way that, in the end, won’t serve him. Meanwhile, Benjamin broadly represents intellectuals who, the novel suggests, could see what was going to come—his cryptic answers suggest that he’s aware that revolutions happen on a cycle, and that the farm will inevitably find itself right back where it started.
On Animal Farm, there’s no work on Sundays. After a late breakfast, the animals hoist a flag that Snowball painted with a white hoof and horn on a green field. The animals then attend a meeting in the big barn, where they discuss the work for the week ahead and put forth resolutions for debate. The pigs are the only ones who propose resolutions and Napoleon and Snowball are the most active debaters. However, they never seem to be able to agree on anything. The meeting ends with a round of “Beasts of England.”
On paper, the system that the animals work out should work for everyone. In theory, everyone gets a say in what happens. However, it’s still telling that the pigs are the only ones who ever speak up. They do this because of their education and their rising class status, while the animals’ willingness to go along with this suggests that they’ll be easily manipulated into giving up their voices in the future.
The pigs adopt the harness room as their headquarters and study books from the farmhouse in the evenings. Snowball organizes committees such as the Egg Production Committee for the hens and the Whiter Wool Movement for the sheep, but these projects fail. His only success is with the reading and writing classes—every animal is somewhat literate by fall. The dogs learn to read well, but only read the Seven Commandments. Muriel learns to read and reads newspapers out loud, while Benjamin is completely literate but refuses to read. Clover learns the whole alphabet but cannot read words, while Boxer learns the first four letters and nothing more. Mollie, meanwhile, learns only to spell her name.
The different animals’ varying degrees of literacy, as well as what they choose to read once literate, speak to how class will continue to develop thanks to language. The dogs’ choice to read only the Seven Commandments suggests that they’ll become loyal to the cause and are uninterested in truly educating themselves, while Muriel’s willingness to read newspapers suggests an interest in the outside world—and possibly, in other ideas of how life should be.
The less intelligent animals, such as the sheep, learn only the letter A and struggle to memorize the Seven Commandments. Snowball reduces them to the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad.” At first, this goes over poorly with the birds, who have only two legs, but Snowball explains to them that what makes humans evil is their hands—and birds don’t have hands. Everyone else also learns the maxim and the sheep take to repeating it for hours on end.
Coming up with this maxim illustrates how easy it can be to distill somewhat complex ideas into an easily digestible, easily repeatable phrase that lacks nuance. It’s impossible to tell, from the phrase, that Snowball’s explanation should actually be correct—but because of his grasp of language, he can essentially make the maxim mean whatever he wants it to.
Napoleon takes an interest in the nine puppies born to the dogs, which arrive soon after the hay harvest. He takes them to educate himself, believing that it’s more important to educate the young than teach everyone else to read. The other animals soon forget about the puppies, but they do discover that the missing milk ends up in the pigs’ mash. The pigs insist that they should get all the fallen apples, which the other animals assumed would be divided evenly. Squealer makes the case that the pigs are “brainworkers” and therefore need the milk and apples in order to care for everyone else—if they don’t get them, Mr. Jones will come back. The animals see his point and say nothing when the main crop of apples also goes to the pigs.
Notice that when Napoleon insists on educating the young, the only “young” he seems truly interested in educating are the puppies—that is, children of a literate, somewhat powerful class, not the offspring of any of the cows, sheep, or chickens. Doing this allows Napoleon to start to dictate who’s worthy of education and through doing so, dictate who’s able to move up the class system and gain power. Squealer’s insistence that the pigs need the milk and apples because of their work shows that the pigs are already beginning to take advantage of the system they’ve set up.