Animal Farm | Study Guide

George Orwell

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Chapter 8

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 8 of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

Animal Farm | Chapter 8 | Summary



After the executions, the animals question (away from the pigs and dogs) whether these events fall in line with the Seven Commandments; they think they remember one of the commandments stating that no animal shall kill another animal. After some investigation, Muriel the goat reads the commandment on the wall aloud, and they discover it actually reads, "No animal shall kill another animal without cause." The animals decide these two words justify the executions of the apparent traitors since their actions gave Napoleon cause.

The general conditions for the animals continue to be harsh, as the workload of rebuilding the windmill and regular farm duties requires additional effort. Although the animals believe they are getting no more food than they did under Mr. Jones, Squealer presents weekly numbers that seem to prove they are actually getting more food and are better off. At this point Squealer is doing most of Napoleon's public speaking. Napoleon has isolated himself in the farmhouse, away from even the other pigs, and rarely appears in public. When three hens confess to plotting to assassinate Napoleon in summer, he becomes even more isolated, adds more guard dogs, and gets a food taster. The hens are executed. The pigs circulate poems and songs praising Napoleon as the savior and protector of all the animals.

Napoleon's negotiations with the other farms become more complicated as he plans to sell a pile of timber to either Pilkington or Frederick. Frederick wants the timber but won't meet Napoleon's price, so Napoleon announces plans to sell to Pilkington and spreads rumors about Frederick's plans to attack the farm. Other rumors circulate about Frederick's cruelty to his animals, which makes the animals want to attack his farm and overthrow him, but Squealer advises them against "rash action."

More misfortunes, including the appearance of weeds in the wheat crop, continue to be blamed on Snowball, still said to be hiding on Frederick's farm. A gander who says he knew that Snowball mixed weed seeds in with the wheat confesses and commits suicide. The pigs revise the story of the Battle of the Cowshed again, this time to reveal Snowball's active cowardice.

After all of these rumors and stories, the animals are shocked to learn that Napoleon has sold the timber to Frederick and has been negotiating with Frederick in secret all along. He spread the stories about selling to Pilkington only to get Frederick to meet his price. The rumors about Frederick's farm likely came from Snowball, who apparently is actually hiding on Pilkington's farm. Once they hear the whole story, the animals are proud of Napoleon's negotiating prowess and also impressed that he is savvy enough to demand cash payment instead of a check.

With the windmill finished and the timber sold, the machinery for the windmill can be purchased, and all their dreams can come true. However, three days after the sale Mr. Whymper tells Napoleon that Frederick's money is counterfeit and he has cheated them all. Napoleon pronounces a death sentence on Frederick and prepares for an attack the next morning. The animals are outmatched, and the men have guns. The animals send a message to Pilkington, who refuses to help. The battle culminates when Frederick and his men blow up the finished windmill. The animals, who have retreated, are outraged by this act and counterattack vigorously, suffering casualties but driving the humans from the farm. The pigs declare a victory and hold a ceremony celebrating what they call the Battle of the Windmill.

The animals, however, are crushed by the loss of the windmill and don't understand why the pigs want to celebrate. Squealer convinces them the battle is a triumph because the animals held on to the farm, but they are not fully convinced until Napoleon speaks to them. The fallen animals are given a funeral, and the rest of the animals receive extra rations.

A few days after the battle, the pigs discover whisky in the farmhouse and drink it. The morning after, the pigs announce Comrade Napoleon is dying, but he seems to feel better by evening. That night the animals hear a noise in the barn and find Squealer unconscious on the ground next to a ladder and a paint can. One of the Seven Commandments now reads, "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess."


The animals fail to remember their own history, and the pigs take advantage of this fact. Squealer's weekly presentations of numbers regarding the food supply do not reflect the truth. Numbers can be manipulated to prove different results, so having the capacity to question the sources and methods of creating statistics is important. Of course the animals don't have this capacity. The changes to the commandments and the faulty statistics illustrate how blind trust, a lack of education and attention to detail, and apathetic participation in government all combined can result in ongoing exploitation and the abuse of power. The animals do not have much recourse toward the pigs at this point, anyway. After they discover Squealer in the barn, they may guess what the pigs have been up to with the commandments, but with the dogs at the pigs' beck and call, the animals are too intimidated to do anything.

As if to add insult to (literal) injury, the pigs declare the Battle of the Windmill a victory worth celebrating in spite of the losses the animals have suffered. This characterization negates the months of hard labor and deprivation the animals have endured to build and then rebuild the windmill. Boxer, the most steady of them all, has even suffered a serious injury in the battle. Now the animals know they will have to construct the windmill again. When Squealer's arguments don't work to convince the animals of the victory, Napoleon buys them off with meager treats: an apple for each animal, an ounce of corn for each bird, and three biscuits for each dog. These are small rewards for such a heavy loss. As for the pigs, they celebrate by drinking themselves sick, breaking another of the Seven Commandments; then they revise it behind the animals' backs to fit their own behavior. No matter how egregious and obvious the pigs' hypocrisy becomes, the animals do not react. Here Orwell underscores just how dangerous a combination passive citizens and unscrupulous dictators can be.

The negotiations with Frederick and Pilkington illustrate the strength of propaganda in manipulating public opinion. When Napoleon leans toward doing business with Frederick, he puts out negative publicity about Pilkington. When he inclines toward Pilkington, he maligns Frederick, playing each side off against the other to get his way. Furthermore, saying each man's farm is harboring Snowball creates only more hostility among the animals. The changing stories about Snowball's location reveal that no one knows where Snowball is, or the pigs have killed Snowball already and are using him as a kind of bogeyman for their own purposes. Given the shady way Napoleon deals with both farmers, it should not come as a shock that Frederick betrays him and Pilkington refuses to come to his aid during the Battle of the Windmill. The two farmers have been opposed to Animal Farm from the beginning, anyway. If the pigs had adhered to their own purported belief system—"Four legs good, two legs bad"—they might have avoided the trouble. The entire episode illustrates how Napoleon is really more interested in his own advantage than he is in animal power.

Napoleon's dealings with Pilkington and Frederick parallel Stalin's negotiations with Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and then Winston Churchill, Britain's prime minister, in the 1940s. Stalin entered an alliance with Hitler in 1939 just as Napoleon entered an agreement with Frederick. Hitler nullified his pact with Stalin when he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 just as Frederick betrayed the terms of his deal with Animal Farm. The Soviet army suffered massive casualties repelling the German advance just as the animals suffered heavy losses in the Battle of the Windmill. Both the Soviets and the animals were ultimately successful in keeping what they had.

During the 1940s, Russia and Britain were official allies in World War II, but Stalin and Churchill kept secrets from each other. Stalin did not let the extent of his vindictive purges, such as his extensive killings of kulaks (members of the rich Russian peasant class) be known. Churchill, on his side, did not tell Stalin that he and Roosevelt had decided not to open a second front against Hitler in France in 1942, which they earlier had led Stalin to believe and which would have helped Russia defend itself better.

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