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Napoleon (Animal Farm) Notes Chapter by Chapter

By Roseisaginger Oct 24, 2012 3760 Words
Napoleon

Overview

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.’ He takes away from nine puppies away from the rest of the farm saying ‘he will make himself responsible for their education.’ This early indoctrination is a technique used by many dictators down the ages and is very effective as the young have no exposure to different opinions, so will accept whatever Napoleon tells them and will obey him without question. It is also very ominous for the future.

In the Battle of the Cowshed Napoleon is noticeably absent. It is Snowball not Napoleon who is willing to live out the ideals of the farm and is prepared to die protecting it. This shows very early on Napoleon’s true interests are only for himself not the greater good.

Chapter 5

All farm policies are now decided by the pigs which might have actually turned out ok if Snowball and Napoleon didn’t ‘disagree at every point when disagreement was possible.’ This spilt between the two leaders’ turn the animals into two warring fractions, one side on Snowball’s side for the windmill and the three day week whilst Napoleon’s side campaign for an increased food supply. Snowball’s strength is his ideas and visions for the farm as well as his powerful and rhetorical speaking style whereas Napoleon is more effective at ‘canvassing support for himself between times.’ He drills the sheep into heckling during crucial moments of Snowball’s speeches and refutes the likelihood of success with Snowball’s schemes of improvement. Moreover, he condemns the plans for the windmill and shows his utter contempt of his rival’s plans when he eventually deigns to look at them by, ‘he lifted his leg, urinated over the plans and walked out.’ However note that he ‘looked closely at every detail of the plans.’ This is important later when he changes his mind about the windmill.

In the final public meeting which marked the heated campaign between Snowball and Napoleon, Napoleon pulls his ace out of the hole, ‘nine enormous dogs’ which ‘dashed straight for Snowball’ who only just manages to escape through a hole in the hedge and is ‘seen no more.’ Thus Napoleon has removed his one real opponent and has established his means of terror through the puppies which have very much grown up. This behaviour has been paralleled to that of Stalin and his implementation of the secret police, which helped eliminate opposition through their sheer intimidation of perceived dissidents. Thus with this expulsion Napoleon’s reign begins. The denouncing of Snowball achieves two things, it blackens Snowball’s name whilst taking the attention off Napoleon and any of his less scrupulous deeds.

It is clear from the first appearance of the dogs that Napoleon is both father figure and master of the dogs. ‘They wagged their tails to him in the same way the other dogs used to do to Mr Jones.’ At the meetings before they are done away with the pigs sit on a raised platform facing the other animals. This deliberate physical separation reflects the way the pigs believe they are above everyone. However Napoleon decides to do away with the meetings saying that they were ‘unnecessary…and wasted time.’ All decisions are now to be made by a select committee of pigs with Napoleon presiding over them. The majority of pigs support this decision as it means even more unquestionable power but four young porkers in front row ‘uttered shrill squeals of disapproval’ but the dogs ‘let out deep, menacing growls and the pigs fell silent.’ Napoleon later sends round his propagandist, Squealer to explain and clarify the new arrangement to the other animals. It’s a clever tactic as Squealer is well known for being able to ‘turn black into white.’ Squealer makes it sound as though Napoleon has made the decision about the meetings for the common good though in reality this is far removed from the truth. There is no longer any discussion about the work allocation. Napoleon’s power is total- ‘Napoleon is always right’ the new maxim adopted by the industrious but naively loyal Boxer.

On the third Sunday after Snowball’s expulsion Napoleon changes his mind about the windmill and announces that the windmill is to be build after all. The animals are told that a special committee of pigs has been at work on the plans for weeks now. He warns them that it will be hard work and it maybe necessary to ‘readjust’ their rations. He doesn’t give any explanation for his change of heart but Squealer comes round to the barn later and explains Napoleon’s earlier apparent opposition had just been clever tactics. ‘Tactics comrades, tactics.’ Referring back to earlier when Napoleon studied the plan closely then urinated over them we can see that he was memorising details to be used in the future. He didn’t want to be seen as supporting Snowball however so he didn’t inform anyone of this decision until Snowball was gone and denounced as a traitor. (The windmill represents the industrialism of the USSR.)

Chapter 6

In august Napoleon announces that there is to be work on Sundays of top of the animal’s sixty hour working week in order to speed up the building of the windmill. The work is ‘strictly voluntary but any animal who absents himself would have his rations cut by half.’ This is completely ridiculous and a complete oxymoron. If there is punishment for not doing a task then it’s clearly not voluntary. Napoleon is realising his complete power over the working lives of the animals and is exploiting it to his own insatiable ends. We can also see this in Boxer’s new maxim, ‘Napoleon is always right.’ This blind faith in Napoleon is almost tragic in its naivety.

On a Sunday soon after this, once the animals have received their orders Napoleon announces that Animal Farm is now to engage in trade. It is of course ‘not for commercial purpose but simply to obtain certain materials.’ Napoleon shall bear the burden alone and has arranged for a certain solicitor, Mr Whymper to be their connection to prospect buyers. This complete turn about of Old Major’s founding teachings of animalism shows how Napoleon thinks he is above the laws of society. No-one will dare to contradict him as when the four young porkers ‘raised their voices timidly’ to try they are ‘promptly silenced by a tremendous growling from the dogs.’ This use of fear to terrify the animals into cowering submissives means that there will never be a second rebellion against Napoleon’s reign. After all which animal would try come up against those dogs?

The next breach of animalism occurs when the pigs move into the farmhouse and sleep in the beds. The Seven Commandments now state that ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.’ Does it really make very much difference if there are sheets on a bed or not? A bed is a bed after all. Squealer says that it is more ‘suited to the dignity of our leader to live in a house rather then a mere sty.’ Pigs have managed to live in sties for years happily enough there are no need for this sudden change. Squealer as always though manages to clarify the situation in his customary fashion by reasoning that as brain workers of the farm the pigs need their rest. However if anyone truly needs more rest it’s surely the manual workers to rest their weary limbs.

November gales blow the windmill over one night and the next morning the animals are horrified to find that the windmill ‘was in ruins.’ Napoleon sniffs about the wreckage of the foundations and when he is quite satisfied with what he finds, ‘he suddenly roared in a voice of thunder’ condemning Snowball for this calamity and pronounces the death sentence upon him. The windmill was clearly not built strong enough to resist the winds as it should have been. Although it is a fault in the plans Napoleon as usual uses Snowball as the convenient scapegoat. In the final paragraph of this chapter Napoleon gives an inspirational speech urging the animals forward to rebuild the windmill. ‘We will build all through the winter.’ This ironical use of the word highlights the dictatorship Napoleon is running, for Napoleon is hardly likely to help with the manual labour, for that would be beneath him.

Chapter 7

Winter is bitter and by January food for the animals is short- ‘starvation seemed to stare them in the face.’ Again parallels can be drawn with actualities under Stalin’s rule. Napoleon is aware of the negative propaganda outside of Animal Farm and stoops to trickery to counter this, filing the feed bins with sand then covering with the reminders of the grain. Whymper is lead past these and duly misreports what he has seen.

By late January Napoleon rarely appears in public, choosing to distance himself from his fellow creatures. Any appearances are largely ceremonial, even the Sunday morning orders are mostly relayed via Squealer. Squealer is being used by Napoleon to deliver the dictate that the hens ‘must surrender their eggs’-notice the use of the word ‘must.’ Napoleon has negotiated a contract based on the sales of the eggs- there is to be no negotiation. In protest ‘something resembling a rebellion’ followed but Napoleon brutally starved the hens into submission: nine hens have died in this protest- their deaths were attributed to ‘coccidiosis.’ Napoleon’s ruthlessness is all but absolute.

Napoleon contains to sow mistrust and discord through his propaganda. Suddenly it is discovered that Snowball has been visiting the farm under the cover of darkness and creating mischief. This farce is perpetuated by a number of trivial events reported by various different animals- a collective form of hysteria. Napoleon capitalises on events by a public show- an inspection of the farm and its buildings, claiming ‘Snowball! He has been here! I can smell him distinctly!’ As communal fear spreads throughout the animals Squealer is used to tell that Snowball has been aligned with Frederick from Pinchfield Farm. Moreover the propaganda becomes more complex and elaborate as Squealer openly accuses Snowball of treachery from the start and as a final coup Napoleon rewrites the history of the Battle of the Cowshed- ‘do you not remember how Snowball suddenly turned and fled?...And do you not remember too, that Comrade Napoleon sprang forward with a cry of ‘Death to humanity!’’

Thus the truth is lost as Napoleon’s propaganda persuades many animals of the ‘reality’ of historic events: such is the power of propaganda in any society- Squealer can make black appear white just as surely as Hitler rendered inhumanity humane. That capacity for inhumanity becomes clearly evidenced as he orders the animals to assemble in the yard, just four days after Squealers powerful and erroneous rhetorical. Festooned in his phoney self appointed medals, he sets his dogs on four of the pigs-they are publicly singled out and then ‘almost inexplicably’ the dogs suddenly attack the loyal Boxer. Boxer repels their attack, pinning one to the ground while he seeks Napoleon’s approval to ‘crush the dog or let it go.’ Napoleon has ordered this attack on the farm’s most faithful member as he suspects Boxer’s belief in his newly fabricated history and therefore his loyalty. This attack speaks volumes about Napoleon’s determination to have ultimate power at all costs.

His obsession for absolute power is further evidenced as he publicly interrogates the four pigs urging them to ‘confess their crimes.’ It’s important to note that ‘these are the same four pigs that protested when Napoleon ended the Sunday meetings.’ Such is the level of fear and intimidation that Napoleon has created, the pigs ‘without any further prompting’ they confess to crimes that they have not and could not of commit. They are brutally executed in full view of the other animals and mass hysteria ensues. Animal by animal comes forward, falsely confessing to ludicrous ‘crimes’ they have committed- ‘they were all slain on the spot…until there was a pile of carnage lying before Napoleon’s feet.’ Such carnage has not been seen since Jones time and the effect upon the animals is profound- they are thoroughly ‘shaken and miserable.’ As each animal struggles to come to terms with this event they collectively begin to sing ‘Beasts of England.’ They sing it though 3 times as it somehow seems to ‘be a substitute for words’ for they cannot find. After these renditions Squealer comes and announces that ‘Beasts of England’ is now ‘abolished…it was forbidden to sing it.’ Any form of protest the animals might pose the sheep drown out with their customary chorus of ‘four legs good, two legs bad.’ Napoleon’s reasoning behind this ban is that it is no longer needed as it was the song of the revolution which is now past and it is replaced by a song composed by Minimus. Napoleon had banned the song in case it fires up the animals too much and undermines his authority.

Chapter 8

In the days after the ‘terror’ Napoleon again rewrites the laws of Animalism- ‘No animal will kill any other animal without cause,’ thus justifying his brutality. He removes himself yet further away from his ‘subjects’ and when he does put in an appearance, it’s became more and more farcical; ‘attended not only by his retinue of dogs but by a black cockerel’ who precedes him announcing his coming. Napoleon’s increasing sense of self-importance is now megalomaniac: referred to as ‘our leader Comrade Napoleon,’ he has Minimus’s poem inscribed on the barn wall, along with a portrait of him. As he spirals into self obsession, rumours circulate of plots to murder him and overly extensive measures are taken to ‘protect his safety.’

Propaganda and counter propaganda is circulated concerning Frederick so that animal feeling runs high against dealings with him- Napoleon emphatically states that ‘he had never at any time contemplated selling the pile of timber to Frederick.’ By autumn ‘Napoleon Mill’ is completed. Two days later at a special meeting, Napoleon announces that he has sold the timber to Frederick- the popular slogan is now ‘Death to Pilkington’ the change about is explained as counter-measure- a deliberate tactic by Napoleon. All relations with Foxwood/Pilkington are broken off: this action has serious implications in the short term and creates dramatic irony. Furthermore Napoleon assures the animals that rumours of an impeding attack on the farm were untrue- probably generated by Snowball and his accomplices.

Napoleon’s ignorance and lack of business acumen is strongly evidenced when he refuses a cheque from Frederick believing that he was outwitting man in his insistence of cash payment before allowing the timber to be removed. He used the occasion as a public relations exercise- publicly putting the ‘bank-notes’ on show for all to view/witness. The sense of outrage and humiliation would have been immense for Napoleon when he discovered ‘the bank-notes were forgeries!’ However any embarrassment is rapidly avoided as the rumoured attack on Animal Farm occurs, ‘the very next morning.’ A last minute appeal to Pilkington from Napoleon is refused: Pilkington openly appears to enjoy the opportunity for revenge- saying ‘serves you right.’

Thus Napoleon’s manoeuvring and attempts at political posturing back fires: the animals stand alone in what is to be known as the Battle of the Cowshed. There is to be no easy victory, the men are better organised this time and have a specific aim: the destruction of the windmill. They achieve this rapidly through the use of explosives and it is with the demise/fall of this symbol that ‘the animal’s courage returned to them.’ Even Napoleon is involved in the conflict this time, though in directing operations’ from behind and as a consequence, suffered a minor injury. Undoubtedly, this was a major blow to the animals but Napoleon is quick to swing into counter propaganda and turn defeat into victory. He has the guns fired and Squealer publicly announces, ‘to celebrate our victory!’ His words are lost on the animals- the loss of the windmill is deeply felt. Squealer’s propaganda continues as he highlights how ‘the enemy’ has been driven off their land ‘thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon’- however the growing sense of disillusion is evident in Boxer’s response ‘then we have won back what we had before.’ This is the obvious truth as it is indeed a hollow victory.

However, a continuance of propaganda, including a ‘speech that Napoleon made,’ helped convince them that they had, after all ‘won a great victory.’ Rewards are given out by Napoleon and a new decoration is made by him ‘the order of the green banner’ which is immediately conferred upon him. A disturbing incident occurs just a few days later. Having found a case of whiskey, the pigs seemingly held a private party- the sound of ‘loud singing’ came from the farmhouse but was Napoleon’s ‘gallop…round the yard’ wearing an old bowler hat of Jones the causes the consternation. Yet further commandments have obviously been broken and will have to be ‘airbrushed’ by careful propaganda. Orwell creates humour rather then pathos (misery/suffering) in Squealer’s appearance and melodramatic announcement the following day: ‘Comrade Napoleon was dying!’ Of course this is gross exaggeration. Napoleon, whilst he might feel like death is upon him is just in the grips of a mammoth hangover caused by his overindulgence in alcohol the previous night. Orwell creates irony in Napoleon’s last act- ‘a solemn decree: the drinking of alcohol was to punish by death.’ Napoleon’s hypocrisy in this is overt- he is saying to the animals, do as I say not as I do. Moreover Napoleon has quickly acquired a taste for alcohol- ‘brewing and distilling’ materials are purchased and the ‘small paddock’ that was originally intended to be a retirement place is to be sown with barley: order of Napoleon.

Again Orwell creates black humour in Squealer’s accident. It is ‘midnight’ the animals exhausted from work are sleeping in their stalls but are rudely awoken by ‘a loud crash.’ By ‘moonlight’ they can see the Seven Commandments, a broken ladder and a stunned Squealer. A pot of paint lies nearby, however the animals are prevented from closer investigation as the dogs surround the hapless Squealer. Benjamin realises what has happened: Squealer has been carrying out Napoleon’s order to ‘amend’ the Seven Commandments. Benjamin doesn’t disclose but ‘a few days later’ Muriel reads the two ‘forgotten’ words ‘to excess.’ Thus the chapter finishes with Napoleon’s rewriting of the 5th Commandment: ‘no animal shall drink alcohol to excess’- and with this the moral corruption intensifies.

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