Boxer’s split hoof takes a long time to heal. He refuses to take time off from work on the windmill, but in the evenings, he shares with Clover that his hoof is painful. Clover and Benjamin encourage Boxer to be careful, but Boxer insists he wants to see the windmill done before he retires. The age of retirement for horses is 12 on Animal Farm, and though no animal has yet retired, they’ll all receive a generous pension when the time comes. Boxer’s 12th birthday is next summer.
Even though Boxer looks forward to retirement, keep in mind that Napoleon just reallocated the retirement pasture for barley—a suggestion that Boxer is being overly idealistic about whether or not retirement is even in the cards for him. His devotion to the windmill and to Animal Farm, meanwhile, shows that he’s still easily manipulated into serving those projects at the expense of his own health.
The winter is cold and hard. The animals, except for the pigs and dogs, suffer reduced rations. Squealer explains that equality in rations isn’t in line with Animalism—and furthermore, that they’re not short on food and are doing better than they did in the days of Mr. Jones. He points out all the things that are better now and the animals believe him, in part because they barely remember Mr. Jones. They’re also thrilled that they’re free, not slaves. That spring, the four sows give birth to 31 piglets, all obviously Napoleon’s children. Napoleon announces plans for a schoolroom for them but teaches them himself in the farmhouse kitchen. The piglets aren’t allowed to play with other animals, and it becomes law that other animals should step aside for pigs. Pigs can also wear ribbons in their tails on Sundays.
The hungry animals imply that clearly, there’s not enough food—while Squealer’s figures and insistence that food equality isn’t in line with Animalism allows him to abuse language to trick the animals into believing that this is as it should be. At this point, the pigs are also seriously corrupting language, as the original Seven Commandments have lots of room to argue for ration equality. When Napoleon insists on only educating these 31 piglets and insists that other animals should step aside, he gives these piglets a leg up in the world while reminding the other animals that they’re of a lower class than the pigs.
The farm is fairly successful this year, but it’s still short on money. The animals need building materials and sugar for Napoleon, so Napoleon increases the hens’ egg quota to 600 per week. He reduces rations twice over the winter, though the pigs seem to put on weight. In late winter, the animals smell cooking barley from the brew-house and wonder if they’ll get a warm mash for supper. However, the pigs announce that the pigs will get all the barley—as well as a pint of beer per day. Napoleon gets a half-gallon. Despite the hardships, life has more dignity. Napoleon holds “Spontaneous Demonstrations” weekly to celebrate Animal Farm. This often takes the form of a military-style parade, followed by speeches and songs. The animals enjoy the celebrations, as it helps them forget that they’re hungry.
The “Spontaneous Demonstrations” are, again, a way for Napoleon to focus his subjects’ attentions on the state and how awesome it is, while also detracting from all the things that are going wrong. That the pigs are getting beer while the other animals get nothing is another mark of corruption, while the success of Napoleon’s rule is evident when the narrator insists that life has more dignity. In many ways, life is exactly the same as it was under Mr. Jones—the animals feel like there’s more dignity just because Napoleon tells them so.
In April, Animal Farm becomes a Republic in need of a president. Napoleon is the only candidate and wins the election unanimously. He uncovers more documents detailing Snowball’s dealings with Mr. Jones, including some saying that Snowball led the human forces and shouted, “Long live humanity!” Moses returns and continues to not work while talking about Sugarcandy Mountain. The animals like the idea of Sugarcandy Mountain since their lives are so hard, and oddly, the pigs allow Moses to stay and even give him an allowance of beer.
Now that the pigs are effective rulers over the other animals, Moses—and the religion he represents—isn’t such a huge threat. Indeed, the idea of Sugarcandy Mountain makes the animals even more likely to continue to submit to Napoleon’s demands, as they now have hope that things will get better in the afterlife. In this sense, Moses gets his beer because he’s giving the pigs another tool to hang onto their power.
Boxer works harder than ever once his hoof heals—though all the animals work like slaves. His coat begins to look somewhat dull and he seems to function on determination alone, but the animals reason he’ll pick up once summer comes. Clover and Benjamin warn him to take care of himself, but Boxer ignores them. One summer evening, however, Boxer falls while dragging stone to the windmill. The animals rush to him and Boxer weakly tells Clover that his lung has collapsed, but he doesn’t care—his work means the others will be able to finish the windmill without him. He’s looking forward to retirement now.
When the narrator insists that all the animals work like slaves, it makes it clear that none of the promises of the rebellion have come true: the animals may feel as though things are fine, but Boxer’s sudden downturn in health shows clearly that living in this totalitarian state means that he must sacrifice everything, including his health, in order to support it.
Except for Benjamin and Clover, all the animals run to tell Squealer what happened. Squealer concernedly tells Boxer that Napoleon is going to send him for treatment at the Willingdon veterinary hospital. This disturbs the animals, but Squealer convinces them that the vet is better able to help Boxer. Boxer manages to limp back to his stall and remains there for two days. Benjamin and Clover stay at his bedside when they’re not working and listen to Boxer talk about studying the alphabet once he’s retired.
Boxer’s desire to study the alphabet suggests that on some level, Boxer recognizes that getting some education will be the key to spending his old age like Old Major did—as a visionary, with time to think about the world and how it works. His belief that he’ll be able to retire, however, is indicative of his blind trust that Napoleon still has his best interests at heart.
The van arrives to take Boxer away in the middle of the day, while the other animals are working. The animals are astonished when Benjamin races for them, braying that they’re taking Boxer away. The animals race back to see Boxer in a big horse-drawn van with lettering on the side. They yell goodbye to Boxer, but Benjamin reads the writing on the van: “Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler.” The man whips his horses and they race down the drive. Clover shouts for Boxer to get out, and Boxer kicks a few times—but he’s too weak. They never see Boxer again. Three days later, Squealer announces that Boxer died in the hospital and that he was with Boxer to the end. Boxer’s last words were in support of the windmill, Napoleon, and Animal Farm.
It takes the obviously impending death of his best friend to rouse Benjamin to action, but at this point, it’s too late. Boxer’s unthinking loyalty to Animal Farm, which robbed him of knowledge of his strength—combined with Benjamin’s silence—means that Benjamin never alerted Boxer to the fact that if he’d chosen to do so, he could’ve stopped Napoleon’s reign of terror long ago with a single kick. Boxer’s weak kicks are a stark contrast to his former strength, symbolizing how the state used and abused him until he was no longer useful to them—or able to survive for himself.
Suspiciously, Squealer notes that he’s heard rumors that some animals believe Boxer went to the glue factory. This isn’t true: Napoleon would never do that, for one, and for another, the veterinary hospital had just purchased a van from the glue factory and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to repaint it. Squealer’s descriptions of Boxer’s death and of the misunderstanding calm the animals. On Sunday, Napoleon gives a speech commemorating Boxer and orders a wreath for Boxer’s grave. He announces a banquet in Boxer’s honor in a few days. On the day of the banquet, the pigs receive a crate at the farmhouse and spend the night singing. Rumors circulate that the pigs came up with the money to buy whiskey.
Once again, there’s no way for the illiterate animals, who have no connections to the outside world, to confirm that Squealer is telling the truth here—but because they trust that Napoleon is looking out for them and because of Squealer’s grasp of language, they’re tricked into believing this lie. The speech Napoleon gives in Boxer’s honor is simply lip service designed to make the animals believe he feels sorry for Boxer—while the cask of whiskey suggests that selling Boxer to the glue factory actually just gave the pigs the cash to keep profiting.