Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Animal Farm: Chapter VI - Analysis



In Chapter VI, the animals begin working tirelessly to complete the windmill. In this case, we can see the windmill as the first of Stalin’s Five Year Plans. The Five Year Plans had the same aim as Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which was to stimulate Russian industry and help bring it into the 20th century. Unlike the NEP, which left some control of industry in the people’s hands, Stalin’s Five Year Plans brought Russian industry under complete government control. Orwell mirrors this pattern in Napoleon’s tightening of the reigns on the animal workforce. Napoleon’s supposedly “voluntary” but actually compulsory Sunday labor sets him even farther apart from Snowball, who advocated a shorter workweek.

This episode also reflects Stalin’s reliance on tactics of deception. Although Stalin was clear with industry leaders about the goals of the Five Year Plans, he continued manipulating the public to foster increased—albeit successful—labor. As in history, the animals of Animal Farm are able to achieve great productivity but do not benefit personally from their efforts. They suffer shortages because for all their work, the windmill (like the heavy industry on which Stalin focused Soviet efforts) cannot yet provide them with energy, much less the basic things they need.

Unlike Napoleon, who opens trade relations with neighboring farms, Stalin was conservative about foreign trade. Rather than representing a specific event in history, Napoleon’s decision to conduct business with other farms is another opportunity for Orwell to point out Stalin’s hypocrisy and revisionism by means of the pigs’ rejection of the original principles of the Rebellion. The very basis for Animalism is the idea that humans are the enemy and not to be trusted—“four legs good, two legs bad.” By negotiating with humans, Napoleon undermines Animalism completely at the same time he is reminding the animals that the windmill should be their first priority. By having Napoleon show such disregard for Animalism’s tenets, Orwell suggests that Stalin was more a proponent of his personal interests than he was of the cause of Communism. Like Napoleon, Stalin did not seem to believe in the greater good for which he forced his people to work so tirelessly.

Orwell mirrors Stalin’s caution in dealing with foreign nations in Napoleon’s procurement of an intermediary, Mr. Whymper. Additionally, Whymper represents those countries that traded with the Soviet Union while turning a blind eye to Stalin’s abuses. Whymper (whose name suggests whimpering or docility) works purely for profit and never interferes in Animal Farm’s affairs.

Orwell also expands his critique of Stalin’s revisionist propaganda. The pigs break another of the Seven Commandments when they begin living in the farmhouse and sleeping in beds. Clover and Muriel investigate, only to discover that the commandment has been changed to suit the pigs’ desires. Through his smooth talking, Squealer convinces Clover and Muriel that the commandment has always concerned the use of sheets and not beds. In this revision, the allegory serves Orwell particularly well. Stalin and his propagandists plastered the Soviet Union with propaganda in the form of posters, songs, art, and countless other media. Squealer’s version of this pattern is to continually re-paint the Seven Commandments to reflect Napoleon’s changes in policy. Orwell humorously suggests a Soviet agent going around the Soviet Union, personally scratching out and rewriting the slogans on posters. The point is that the propaganda changes to suit those in power and to keep a controlled acquiescence among the rest.

Chapter VI also continues Orwell’s critique of the tactic of intimidation. When Clover and Muriel question the Seven Commandments’ accuracy, Squealer threatens them (as usual) with Jones’s return. In this chapter, Napoleon’s fear tactics culminate with the windmill’s destruction. Though natural forces are to blame, Napoleon blames the disaster on Snowball in the same way Stalin considered Trotsky a threat even in exile. In the novel, Napoleon sentences Snowball to death, but we never find out whether his orders are carried out, or if Snowball is even still alive at the time of his sentencing. In history, Stalin eventually did have Trotsky assassinated by a Soviet agent in 1940. Whether Snowball is a true threat to Animal Farm or not, Napoleon makes sure the animals believe Snowball is. In this sense, Snowball represents the nebulous foreign threat of which Stalin kept his people wary. There are now two terrorist enemies to fear, Mr. Jones (even if he has left town, other men remain to be afraid of) and Snowball.

Orwell makes the connection between fear tactics and economic strategy very clear at the end of Chapter VI. Napoleon moves directly from accusing Snowball of destroying the windmill to urging the animals, “Forward, comrades! Long live the windmill! Long live Animal Farm” (83). Napoleon remains a leader the animals are willing to follow—they cannot see another choice, anyway, especially with Mr. Jones and Snowball cast as enemies—but the legitimacy of Napoleon’s authority is becoming more and more suspect to the reader.

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