Animal Farm

Animal Farm Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few days later, some animals think they remember that the Sixth Commandment said that animals shouldn’t kill other animals. Nobody says anything to the pigs or the dogs, but Clover feels that the executions aren’t in line with this rule. She asks Benjamin to read her the Commandment, but he refuses so, Muriel reads instead. The Commandment reads, “No animal shall kill any other animal WITHOUT CAUSE.” She sees that the Commandment wasn’t violated.
Benjamin’s refusal to read the Commandments, when it seems he’s the only one who understands anything, continues to situate him as someone who enables the pigs’ rule by keeping silent. Clover, on the other hand, doesn’t have the education or the suspicion of her leaders to recognize that the Commandment truly was changed.
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The animals work harder than they ever have. The windmill, in addition to regular farm work, means they sometimes wonder if they work harder now than they did for Mr. Jones, but possibly for less food. On Sunday mornings, Squealer reads lists of figures that prove production is up by at least 200 percent and sometimes up by 500 percent. The animals don’t question this, especially since many don’t remember clearly how things were before—but they also think some days that they’d rather have more food and less of the figures.
What the narrator says would suggest that life is actually worse now than it was under Mr. Jones, which makes Squealer’s figures look especially silly—if there really was 500 percent more food, the animals wouldn’t be so hungry. Instead, Squealer’s figures are a way for him to look powerful and knowledgeable, all the while feeding the workers uplifting lies about how great things are.
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Napoleon is now seldom seen in public. He never goes out without the dogs, and now, a black rooster that marches ahead and trumpets. In the farmhouse, he lives alone and eats off of the Crown Derby dinner service. Squealer and the other pigs relay his messages, and it’s decided that the farm will fire the gun on Napoleon’s birthday. These days, Napoleon is referred to as “our Leader, Comrade Napoleon,” and the pigs refer to him as Father of All Animals, Protector of the Sheep-fold, and other such titles. Animals credit Napoleon for everything, from good laying rates to the clean water. Minimus expresses these feelings in a poem, which reads that Napoleon cares for everyone and everyone is faithful to Napoleon. Napoleon asks Squealer to paint it on the big barn next to a portrait of him.
Everything that Napoleon asks for and begins to do in this passage continues to situate him as a totalitarian leader, in power because he works hard and strategically to cultivate a cult of personality that reveres him above all else—and gives him the credit for everything good happening on Animal Farm, true or not. That animals revere Napoleon so much speaks to his success in this endeavor, while Minimus’s poem and Squealer’s portrait mirror the role that portraits like these have played in totalitarian regimes worldwide, from Chairman Mao in China to Hitler in Nazi Germany.
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Napoleon busies himself negotiating with Mr. Frederick and Mr. Pilkington about the timber. Mr. Frederick wants it badly, but he won’t offer a good price—and rumors still circulate that he wants to attack Animal Farm and destroy the windmill. Pinchfield supposedly still houses Snowball too, and in the summer, three hens confess that Snowball inspired them to try to murder Napoleon. After their execution, Napoleon begins sleeping guarded by dogs and appoints a pig to taste his food for poison. Napoleon eventually agrees to sell the timber to Mr. Pilkington and enters into an agreement to trade regularly with him. As the windmill’s completion approaches, rumors of an impending attack from Mr. Frederick grow stronger, and rumors circulate of all the cruel things Mr. Frederick does to his animals.
These negotiations continue to parallel Stalin’s dealings with both the Allies and Hitler during the eve and early days of World War II. Napoleon’s increasing paranoia speaks to how precarious he realizes his position is and suggests that no matter what kinds of rumors he may circulate about either Mr. Frederick or Mr. Pilkington, he suspects that either of them might have the power to take over Animal Farm. This then makes it necessary to convince the animals that they can’t trust anyone but Napoleon, so that they won’t help oust him in a possible invasion.
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One Sunday, Napoleon announces that he never considered selling the timber to such a horrible human as Mr. Frederick. He commands the pigeons to leave Foxwood alone and also to spread the slogan “Death to Frederick.” Later in the summer, the animals discover that with the help of a goose, Snowball mixed the wheat and corn seeds with weeds. The goose commits suicide, and the animals learn that Snowball never received “Animal Hero, First Class.” Rather, he was punished for cowardice after the Battle of the Cowshed and made up the story of the honor to make himself look better. Squealer convinces everyone that their memories were faulty.
Continuing to make Snowball the evil henchman responsible for every ill on Animal Farm makes Napoleon’s hold on power even stronger, as he’s then able to position himself as the one who got rid of Snowball and gave the farm normalcy and stability. Again, Squealer is able to convince the animals that they didn’t remember correctly because the animals don’t have much education to draw on, and they work too hard to be able to put much effort into their minds at all.
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The animals finish the windmill in the fall, though Mr. Whymper is still in the process of negotiating for the machinery. The animals are tired but proud of their work, and they think of what the windmill will be able to do for them. Napoleon announces that they’ll name the windmill Napoleon Mill. Two days later, Napoleon announces that he sold the timber to Mr. Frederick. He changes the pigeons’ message to “Death to Pilkington,” says the rumors about Mr. Frederick’s cruelty are untrue, and insists that Snowball is living in luxury at Foxwood. The pigs are thrilled, as Napoleon’s dealings made Mr. Frederick raise his price by £12, to be paid in cash. The money will buy the machinery for the windmill.
There’s no real way to verify if any of Napoleon’s dealings worked the way he and his cronies insist they did—but though the animals may be shocked, they also have nothing to do but accept Napoleon’s words as fact, given how tight and scary his control over the farm is. Making the deal with Mr. Frederick is a reference to the non-aggression pact that Stalin signed with Hitler, which said that Hitler wouldn’t attack the USSR—something that Hitler promptly went on to do.
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Mr. Frederick’s men cart away the timber quickly and when it’s gone, the animals gather to reverently inspect the banknotes. Three days later, Mr. Whymper arrives with horrible news: the banknotes are forgeries. Napoleon immediately sentences Mr. Frederick to death and warns that Pinchfield might attack Animal Farm. He also sends pigeons to Foxwood with nice messages. The next morning, Mr. Frederick’s men attack. There are 15 men, many with guns, and the animals cannot stand up to the bullets. They’re forced to hide, and even Napoleon looks nervous. The pigeons return with a note from Mr. Pilkington reading, “Serves you right.”
The attack by Mr. Frederick and his men parallels the opening of the Eastern Front of World War II, in which Hitler’s armies began to invade the USSR, and within months were within 40 miles of the capital city of Moscow. Stalin’s men were unable to effectively fight back, and the Allies were understandably unwilling to work with Stalin after he signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler.
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Mr. Frederick and his men gather around the windmill. At first it looks like they’re going to try to knock it down, but Benjamin nods in amusement and notes that they’re going to blow it up. He’s right: after a deafening explosion, the windmill is gone. The enraged animals charge. Boxer kills three men and the dogs bite and terrify the rest. The animals win, but they’re bloody and tired. They gather around the windmill’s foundations and note that they won’t even be able to reuse the stones. Squealer skips up to them looking satisfied as the gun booms in the distance. Squealer cries that it’s to celebrate their victory. Boxer points out that this wasn’t a victory since the men destroyed the windmill. He insists that they just won back what they had before, which Squealer says is a victory.
The destruction of the windmill and the animals’ ensuing victory continues to parallel the German occupation of the Soviet Union, though the Soviet forces did eventually emerge victorious. Notice that the animals—the ones who actually did the hard work of fighting off the armed men—have a far more realistic view of what happened and what will happen going forward. Squealer, however, has to spin this to look like a grand victory, as that’s the only way to lift spirits and trick the animals into thinking that this is far more meaningful than they suspect it is.
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At the barnyard, Boxer feels the pellets in his leg and begins to mentally prepare himself to rebuild the windmill. It occurs to him that he’s 11 now and maybe isn’t as strong as he once was. However, when he and the other animals see their flag, hear the gun, and listen to Napoleon’s speech, they all agree that this was a great victory. They solemnly bury the killed animals, name the battle the Battle of the Windmill, and Napoleon confers the new Order of the Green Banner on himself. Everyone forgets the forged banknotes.
Pay attention to the way that the celebration brings the animals around to Squealer and Napoleon’s way of thinking. This makes it clear that the purpose of these celebratory exercises is to remind the lower classes what exactly they’re fighting for—the state—and distract from whatever injuries, illness, or other wrongs they’re suffering at the hands of the state.
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A few days later, the pigs discover a case of whiskey. That night, the animals hear loud singing that sounds suspiciously like “Beasts of England” coming from the farmhouse, and Napoleon inexplicably gallops around the yard in Mr. Jones’s hat. In the morning, Squealer is the first to emerge at nine a.m. He announces that Napoleon is dying because Snowball poisoned his food. Squealer says that Napoleon’s final pronouncement that drinking alcohol is punishable by death. By the next afternoon, Napoleon is entirely well and asks Mr. Whymper to purchase books on brewing and distilling, and orders that the pasture for retired animals should be planted with barley.
That the pigs mistake Napoleon’s hangover for death shows clearly how unprepared the pigs are to be members of the human world—even though they’re clearly headed in that direction, given their discovery of alcohol and Napoleon’s jaunt in Mr. Jones’s hat (which, remember, is a piece of clothing and therefore forbidden as a mark of humanity). Reallocating the retirement pasture to alcohol production (barley) shows that Napoleon is more than willing to do things that help himself at the expense of those who have, for the most part, served him selflessly.
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One night at about midnight, the animals wake to a crash. They discover a broken ladder by the Seven Commandments along with Squealer, who is stunned on the ground next to a lantern, a paintbrush, and white paint. The dogs surround Squealer and escort him back to the farmhouse. No one but Benjamin seems to understand anything. A few days later, Muriel sees that the Commandment that she thought forbade drinking alcohol actually forbids drinking alcohol to excess.
This is the first and only real proof that the reader ever gets that the pigs are tampering with the Commandments. When the animals cannot figure out what’s going on, it shows that they’re entirely loyal to Napoleon and his rule—and cannot fathom that the person leading them could possibly want to hurt him. That would, after all, be against the Seven Commandments.
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