Animal Farm

Animal Farm Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As winter approaches, Mollie becomes more difficult to deal with. She’s often late for work and complains, but she spends most of her time gazing at her reflection in the drinking pool. One day, Clover takes Mollie aside and quietly asks if she really saw Mollie allowing a man from Foxwood to pet her nose. Mollie denies this accusation, but she can’t look Clover in the eye. Secretly, Clover goes to Mollie’s stall and discovers a stash of sugar and ribbons. Mollie disappears, and after a few weeks, pigeons report that they’ve seen her in Willingdon happily pulling a dogcart and wearing ribbons.
Mollie leaving is a parallel to how many in the middle class simply left the USSR while they still could. If Snowball or Napoleon were to assess her motivations and the implications of her leaving, they’d likely say that Mollie has bought into the narrative that she needs to strive to become a member of the ruling class in order to leave a successful life—something that Animalism tries to discount by insisting that class itself is silly. This is hypocritical, of course, as the pigs are becoming their own upper class.
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The weather becomes bitterly cold in January, so the animals can’t do anything in the fields. They attend many meetings and the pigs plan out the coming season, something the animals accept as natural given how intelligent the pigs are. The other animals still get to ratify the pigs’ decisions, however. The system would be perfect, except that Snowball and Napoleon disagree on every point. Snowball is better at speaking and convincing animals at meetings, but Napoleon is better at convincing animals individually between meetings. He’s especially successful with the sheep, who begin bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad” in the middle of meetings—and especially in the middle of Snowball’s speeches.
Again, when the animals accept outright that the pigs should make decisions because they’re smarter, it shows how the uneducated lower classes essentially give away a lot of their power by not recognizing their own right to an opinion—or, for that matter, their ability to voice it. The relationship between Snowball and Napoleon mirrors that between Trotsky and Stalin, especially in the way the two were able to connect (or not) with potential supporters.
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Snowball speaks often about farming theory and develops complicated schemes. Napoleon comes up with no ideas of his own, but quietly insists that Snowball’s schemes are silly. Their biggest dispute, however, is over the windmill. Snowball proposes that they build one on the highest point on the farm, as it would be able to give the farm electricity, which would then allow the animals to enjoy leisure time while machines work for them. It takes Snowball a few weeks to develop the plans in chalk on the smooth floor of a shed. The other animals can’t make sense of the drawing, but it looks impressive, so everyone visits daily—except for Napoleon. Napoleon does visit once, contemplates the plans, and then urinates on them.
Trotsky had grand plans to modernize the USSR and bring it into the modern world, plans symbolized by the windmill. Note that with Snowball, he makes it clear that modernization like this is actually in line with the ideals of the revolution in that all the animals will benefit from putting in this work on the front end. They’ll all enjoy electricity and the ensuing leisure time. This suggests that in an ideal situation, there would be fewer class distinctions, since leisure time is a mark of being higher-class—one can only enjoy leisure time if they don’t have to work all the time.
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Snowball is upfront that building the windmill will be difficult. They’ll have to carry stone, build walls, and somehow procure cables, but he insists they can do it in a year. After this, he says, the animals will only have to work three days per week. Napoleon argues that they need to increase their food production and that focusing on the windmill will lead to starvation. The farm is deeply divided over the windmill, but the only animal who doesn’t take a side is Benjamin. He insists that no matter what happens, life will continue to be awful.
Napoleon in particular plays to the concerns of the lowest, most uneducated classes by insisting that the windmill is a pipe dream that will leave them all in dire hunger. This begins to create an environment of fear, as many animals are probably starting to fear that if this windmill idea goes through, their reasonably happy lives will disappear instantly.
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The other question that occupies the animals is that of the farm’s defense, as they all recognize that their conflict with humans isn’t over—they expect humans to try to reinstate Mr. Jones, especially since news of the animals’ victory at the Battle of the Cowshed has spread. Napoleon insists they must train the animals to use firearms, while Snowball proposes they send out more pigeons to stir up revolution elsewhere. The other animals can’t make up their minds and agree with whoever’s talking at any given time.
Snowball makes the case here that if Animal Farm is able to incite rebellion all over England, they’ll effectively get rid of all the people who might want to stop them—and then, there will be no reason to fight, since there’s no one to fight in the first place. This represents a more idealistic take on things, as it holds that rebellion like this is always good and will always end well, if only the rebellion keeps going.
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Snowball finishes his plans for the windmill and brings it to a vote at the Sunday meeting. He makes his case logically. Napoleon then stands and says only that the windmill is nonsense, and nobody should vote for it. In response, Snowball jumps up, shushes the sheep, and passionately explains why they need the windmill. His passion wins over the animals as he talks about how electricity can operate farming machinery, as well as equip stalls with lights, hot and cold water, and heat. Just as everyone seems decided, Napoleon stands, looks at Snowball, and whimpers oddly. Suddenly, nine ferocious dogs bound into the barn and chase Snowball all the way through a hedge. The animals realize that these dogs are the nine puppies Napoleon educated.
The events in this passage make it clear that while it’s possible to use language persuasively to bring someone to one’s side, what will win in the end is brute strength and fear, as represented by the nine attack dogs. Napoleon doesn’t have to say anything, he just has to make it clear that anyone who agrees with Snowball’s rhetoric will be chased down and possibly killed. Removing Snowball also means that Napoleon has a clear path to declaring himself leader, which will allow him to turn Animal Farm into a terrifying totalitarian state.
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Napoleon stands on the raised platform, surrounded by the dogs. The other animals notice that these dogs wag their tails at Napoleon just like other dogs used to wag at Mr. Jones. Napoleon announces that there will be no more Sunday meetings, as they’re unnecessary and waste time. Farm policy will be decided by a special pig committee that he oversees, and the committee will convey their decisions to the others when they all sing “Beasts of England.” There will be no more debates. The other animals, even Boxer, are dismayed. Four young pigs squeal in disapproval, but the dogs growl and silence them. The sheep bleat “Four legs good, two legs bad!” for 15 minutes.
Napoleon’s announcements make it clear to the reader, if not entirely to the animals, that no one else will have any power in his state: he oversees the pig committee, after all, which means that he can still squash ideas that he doesn’t like. The fact that the young pigs’ disapproval is so quickly silenced by the dogs again shows the power of brute force and fear over language and illustrates how leaders like Napoleon shut down open communication in order to take power.
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Later, Squealer makes the rounds to explain the new rules. He points out that Napoleon is sacrificing himself by taking on the difficult job of leadership, and he must do so because the other animals might make the wrong decisions. Squealer asks where they’d be if they’d followed Snowball, but someone points out that Snowball fought bravely at the Battle of the Cowshed. Squealer insists that bravery isn’t as important as loyalty or obedience and implies that Snowball’s role in the battle was exaggerated. He reminds everyone again that if they’re not disciplined, Mr. Jones will return. This convinces the animals entirely—anything that might help Mr. Jones must stop. Boxer declares that if Napoleon says it, it must be right.
Using Squealer like this essentially allows Napoleon to employ a good cop, bad cop strategy, as he terrified the animals during the meeting—but now, Squealer can make everything okay by “explaining” it to everyone. However, Squealer is clearly on Napoleon’s side, as he insists that the other animals aren’t capable of making good decisions. Specifically, spreading misinformation about Snowball allows Napoleon to make the case that he himself is the only one the animals can trust.
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Winter turns into spring and the plowing begins. Every Sunday, the animals gather in the barn to get their orders for the week. Napoleon disinters Old Major’s skull and asks everyone to walk past it reverently, while during meetings, the animals sit separated. Napoleon, Squealer, and a pig named Minimus sit together surrounded by the nine dogs, while the other pigs sit behind them. The rest of the animals sit in the body of the barn, looking at the pigs. Three weeks after Snowball’s departure, Napoleon announces that they’ll build the windmill. It will take two years and will require everyone’s rations to be reduced.
Digging up Old Major’s skull is a nod to the fact that Stalin disinterred Lenin’s skull and treated it in a similar manner. This has the effect of making the animals constantly declare loyalty and reverence to the state, as represented by both Napoleon and Old Major, the “father” of the revolution. The way the animals sit in the barn, however, shows clearly that there are major class divisions at play. The dogs and the pigs have all the power, while the others have little or none.
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Later, Squealer explains privately that Napoleon never opposed the windmill—it had been his idea and Snowball stole his plans. Napoleon only appeared to oppose the windmill to get rid of Snowball, whom he declares is dangerous and a bad influence. Squealer says that this is called “tactics,” a word the other animals don’t understand. Squealer is persuasive and has three dogs with him, so the animals don’t ask questions.
When Squealer insists on calling Napoleon’s scheming “tactics,” a word the other animals don’t know, it shows how he’s beginning to use language to make himself seem smart and competent. But really, using language like this is just a way to scare the other animals and impress upon them how unintelligent he thinks they are.
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