One of the main tenets of Animalism, the ideology that Napoleon and Snowball develop, is that all animals are equal. However, it doesn’t take long for the pigs to begin to refer to themselves as “mindworkers” to distinguish themselves from the other animals, who work as physical laborers. Through this, Animal Farm shows how differences in education and occupation lead to the development of a class hierarchy, which leads inevitably to class warfare, in which one class seeks to dominate the other. Though Animal Farm suggests that the “mindworking” or intellectual class will almost always prevail in this struggle, it also goes to great lengths to suggest that whether because of ignorance, inaction, or fear, this is something that the working class allows to happen.
Even as early as Old Major’s speech, it’s possible to detect that there are class divisions at play on Manor Farm. It’s telling, for one, that it’s a pig who’s giving the speech, and that the other pigs sit closest to the platform while the other animals fill in behind them. The respect that all animals have for Old Major, and the seating arrangements, suggest that pigs as a species already occupy a special and revered place on the farm. Following the rebellion, the pigs prey on this structure by using their literacy to catapult themselves to positions of power as “mindworkers,” or those in charge of figuring out how to run the farm (rather than doing the manual work of running the farm). Because of the pigs’ literacy, they’re able to effectively take control over every aspect of the farm and subjugate those they believe to be less intelligent or less powerful than they are. They do so in part by making it extremely scary and dangerous to stand up to them, which Napoleon does by training nine attack dogs and sending them out with the pigs when they spread news. With the dogs— known killers—around, no one dares ask too many questions that might betray their dissatisfaction with their lives.
As objectively successful as the pigs may be in this endeavor, Animal Farm goes to great lengths to show that especially at the beginning, the pigs are only able to achieve superior status by tricking others into thinking they’re less powerful. This is especially apparent in the case of Boxer, a good-hearted but unintelligent carthorse. Boxer throws himself into the work of cultivating the farm—his personal motto becomes, “I will work harder”—and he fully supports Napoleon and Napoleon’s rule, even when at times, Boxer recognizes that Napoleon isn’t actually acting in Boxer and the other workers’ best interests. The fact that he’s not a mindworker, however, means that Boxer never pushes back on this much. This all comes to a head during Napoleon’s trials and executions of “traitorous” farm animals, when Napoleon sets his dogs on four young pigs, and three of the dogs attack Boxer. Boxer sends two dogs flying and pins the third under his massive hoof—it’s clear, through the dog’s terrified reaction, that if Boxer were so inclined, he could do away with Napoleon and Napoleon’s brutal dogs with a couple of kicks. Napoleon’s power as a mindworker, however, means that he’s created an environment in which Boxer isn’t aware of his own physical strength. Part of being part of the lower class, Animal Farm suggests, is not being aware of one’s power to effectively fight back against rulers like Napoleon, even if just physically. This state of not recognizing even one’s physical power to fight back, furthermore, isn’t unique to Boxer; if the non-pig farm animals were somehow able to band together, it’s possible they could’ve ousted Napoleon through force.
On the other end of the spectrum, the novel offers Benjamin, the jaded donkey who believes that no matter what, life will be difficult, and everyone will work against him. Notably, Benjamin, unlike Boxer, becomes completely literate within a few months and seems to alone in his awareness of the pigs’ corruption and attempts to manipulate the animals. Benjamin, however, stubbornly refuses to read the ever-changing Commandments to others and never sees a reason to enlighten his fellow working animals as to what’s going on. As a result, when Benjamin finally does speak up about Napoleon’s betrayal of Boxer and reads that Boxer is headed for the glue factory rather than the vet, it’s too late to do anything: the animals don’t have enough time to trap the van containing Boxer on farm property, and Boxer is too ill and weak to break out of the van. Through this, the novel illustrates how willful inaction and ignorance of all sorts work together to keep the lower classes oppressed: those who know what’s going on never alert those who might be able to fight, while those capable of fighting never figure out who their true enemy is, and therefore are never able to do anything but support the state that oppresses them.
Through this, Animal Farm paints a picture of class struggle in which once class divisions are established, it’s very difficult to change them or break them down, even in light of guiding principles like the Seven Commandments that would theoretically suggest that class shouldn’t exist in the first place. However, even more damning is the novel’s assertion that this is something that the repressed lower classes allow to happen to them when they’re unable to identify their oppressors or refuse to speak out when they do see what’s going on. The novel ultimately suggests that silence—especially when combined with fear and a lack of education—is the primary reason for oppression and the reason why the upper classes are able to maintain their power so effectively.
Class Warfare ThemeTracker
Class Warfare Quotes in Animal Farm
“Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings.”
“Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”
“Remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.”
THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak [...] Instead - she did not know why - they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.
Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer—except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.
“Four legs good, two legs better!”