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Chapter 6

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 6 of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

Animal Farm | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

In their first year under Napoleon's rule, the animals work 60-hour weeks; however, they are consoled by the belief that they are still working for their own benefit, even when Napoleon announces "voluntary" working time on Sunday afternoons. Despite the long hours, the harvest is less successful than the previous year, and the animals miss planting some supplementary root crops that would have fed them through the winter. The reduced yield results from the windmill construction project, which presents many unforeseen problems. For example, even though the farm has a large store of sand and cement, the animals lack the ability to use tools for building. While the farm also has a quarry with plenty of stone, the only way the animals can break the large stones into pieces suitable for construction is to drag each boulder to the top of the quarry, drop it back to the bottom, and hope it breaks.

Boxer makes the entire windmill project possible by working tirelessly to drag stones from the quarry, even getting up early and staying late in addition to his other duties. His belief in the project, in Animalism, and in Comrade Napoleon is unshakable.

At the same time, the animals discover they need other items the farm cannot produce, such as fuel oil, nails, horseshoes, and machinery for the windmill. These needs force the farm to engage in trade with humans so the animals can earn money to buy the necessary items. At a meeting, four young pigs question this plan, but they are quickly silenced by growling from Napoleon's dogs and chanting by the sheep. Napoleon announces that he will make the sacrifice of dealing with the human lawyer, Mr. Whymper, who will handle the trade affairs. While this arrangement makes them nervous, the animals also find they enjoy watching one of their own give orders to a human.

The pigs move into the farmhouse. Muriel and Clover question whether this act is permitted by the Seven Commandments because they seem to recall the commandment prohibiting animals sleeping in beds. Squealer points out that the full commandment only prohibits animals from sleeping in beds with sheets, since all animals have beds but a sheet is a human invention. This explanation seems to settle the matter.

By November the windmill is finally near completion, but the animals must pause construction because the weather is too damp and windy to mix concrete and set stones into place. One night the animals awaken to a loud cracking sound, which turns out to be the windmill collapsing. Napoleon blames the failure on Snowball, saying he must have sneaked into the farm and sabotaged the project. As proof, he sniffs some footprints, declaring them to be Snowball's. He then offers the honor of Animal Hero, Second Class to any animal who finds and kills Snowball. He additionally offers a bushel of apples to any animal who brings Snowball in alive. He then announces they will begin rebuilding the windmill immediately.

Analysis

The so-called voluntary Sunday workday is actually mandatory. Animals who do not participate in the Sunday work time have their rations cut in half. This reduction is so substantial that the apparent choice is not a real choice at all. However, the illusion keeps the animals happy. The animals are also content because they believe they have at least the same amount of food as they had before the rebellion, and they do not have to support five humans as well. This consolation distracts them from the fact that they are supporting many more than five pigs who have now moved into the farmhouse to live like humans. Squealer takes advantage of the animals' poor memories and complacency when he covers up the first change of the Seven Commandments with his explanation about animals not being allowed to use bedsheets. They other animals still trust the pigs because they believe "four legs good," meaning no animal would ever lie to them. Their belief in Animalism means the prospect of deception does not even cross their minds.

Even if questioning Napoleon did cross the animals' minds, they have little recourse at this point. Napoleon tolerates no challenges to his edicts and decisions. When the four young pigs hesitate over the trade issue, Napoleon threatens them with his dogs and allows the sheep to drown out their questions. The threat of force and the use of propaganda, such as slogans, are common strategies totalitarian leaders use to maintain power. This incident shows that even other pigs are not immune to Napoleon's tactics. At the same time, Napoleon needs to pacify the animals, so he deploys Squealer to explain that the Seven Commandments do not prohibit trade. Unlike the earlier interpretation of the commandment regarding sleeping in a bed, Squealer is technically telling the truth here. The Seven Commandments do not explicitly prohibit trade. However, they do say that creatures who walk on two legs are the animals' enemies, so not doing business with them is certainly implied.

In the context of history, the pigs' decision to do business with humans on other farms parallels the Soviet decision to form alliances with European nations and the United States prior to World War II. At different times during the 1930s, Stalin considered allying himself with both Germany and the United Kingdom. The uncertainty of where Stalin would place his country's considerable military might caused unrest on all sides.

Given the weather conditions, it is more likely the windmill collapsed due to design flaws and forces of nature than sabotage. At the same time, Napoleon does not want the animals to question the feasibility of the design, the quality of the construction, or especially his own decision to proceed, so he must find another source on which to fix the blame. Snowball is the obvious scapegoat here, the one to blame when anything goes wrong, whether or not he is actually responsible. With a clear, common, identifiable enemy trying to stop the windmill, not nature itself, Napoleon knows the animals are more likely to buy into rebuilding it. They can believe they are defying a threat, not engaging in a futile task.

Documents for Chapter 6

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Questions for Chapter 6

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