In many ways Napoleon represents Stalin the tyrannical ruler of the USSR after the Russian revolution of 1917. However as his name suggests, Napoleon is made up of characteristics of most dictators. One criticism of his characteristics is that is character is slightly 1D as he has not one redeeming feature. But because Orwell wrote this as a political satire it maybe wrong to expect him to be rounded.
Furthermore though Napoleon may not have any redeeming features he has qualities that make him stand out from the other pigs. He and Snowball are described as ‘prominent among pigs’ even before the rebellion. What qualities caused his pre-eminence, contributed to it? Napoleon succeeds in building up support from the other animals even before the machine of propaganda is rolled out and the reign of terror is in place, how does he do it?
Animal Farm focuses on Napoleon’s mercurial rise to power. His character changes for the worst as his power increases. Lacking the idealism of Old Major or Snowball, Napoleon is a political opportunist. His ruthlessness and determinism more than make up for his lack of intellect as is the case with many dictators.
Napoleon the Provider
At first Snowball and Napoleon appear to work in tandem. It is Snowball who leads the animals to destroy the symbols of oppression, the nose rings and castration knives etc however it is Napoleon who assumes the role of provider by giving food to the animals-‘Napoleon then led them to the store shed and gave out a double ration of corn to everyone with two biscuits for the dogs.’ Given their near starvation, which are the animals more likely to remember? This is how Napoleon gets a head start in establishing his superiority and leadership.
In providing a generous allocation of food so soon after the revolution Napoleon achieves several things: he prevents any potential random looting of food as invariably happens in times of political turmoil and sets himself up as a ‘father figure’ provider in the subconscious of the animal’s minds. He is tactical from the outset to set him up for the totalitarian leadership.
With Snowball, Napoleon takes the lead amongst the animals to enter the ‘inner sanctum’ of the farmhouse. The other animals hang back, ‘frightened to go inside.’ However ‘Snowball and Napoleon butted the door open.’ Following breakfast, they call the animals for instructions. It is Napoleon who ‘sent for pots of black and white paint and led the way down to the five-barred gate,’ to enable the seven commandments to be publicised (though Snowball wrote them out).
At the close of chapter two, one of the animals asks what is to be done with the milk just taken from the cows-Napoleon steps in and briskly admonishes the query: ‘Never mind the milk comrades,’ cried Napoleon placing himself in front of the buckets. ‘That will be attended to.’’ From the beginning, Napoleon is dismissive of animal enquiry and his actions suggest covert intent. He cleverly diverts attention elsewhere, the impending harvest. Napoleon already has his own agenda.
Chapter 3 and Chapter 4
The opening paragraphs of this chapter suggest that everyone is working together and there is a sense of collectivism, even an almost utopian feeling. However the pigs are feeling that it is natural for them to assume leadership over the harvest. In the Sunday meetings they similarly dominate as they are always the ones putting forward resolutions. It is also in these meetings particularly during the debates we see the power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball. ‘These two were never in agreement: whatever suggestion either of them made the other could be counted upon to oppose it.’ Dissention is happening within the leadership. They have fiery arguments even over issues that both of them agree on i.e. the retirement ages for the animals. Napoleon takes no interest in Snowball’s committees saying that ‘the education of the young was more important.’...
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