In chapter six of George Orwell's Animal Farm, we begin to understand just how hard the animals are working to make a go of things on Animal Farm. They are working hard, not only on the regular jobs which must be done on the farm but also to finish the windmill. To make matters worse, Squealer implements a cut in the animals' rations, though of course he couches it as a simple "readjustment" rather than the cut, which it obviously is. The building is a long, slow, laborious process, and without the mighty strength of Boxer, progress would have been virtually impossible. Despite the many hardships, the animals still believe that what they are doing will benefit them and are therefore willing to continue their hard and thankless labor.
Several changes happen on the farm in this chapter. First, Napoleon decides to begin trading with neighboring farms, and Mr. Whymper is now a regular presence on the farm. Even more significant, at least for now, is that the pigs take up residence in the farmhouse, something which was forbidden from the beginning, of course. What we see clearly but what is still hidden from the animals is that the pigs are growing more corrupt and human-like in their behaviors. This is not going to bode well for the animals, but for now things are relatively calm. Hard, but calm.
When November comes, the windmill is nearly half finished, and the animals feel good about their progress. One night there is a terrible storm. Tiles are blown off the roof, chickens are frightened by what sounded like a gunshot, a huge tree is uprooted, and the flagstaff has been knocked over. It was a mighty storm, and when the animals survey the damage, they are horrified to discover that "the windmill was in ruins."
All the animals are dismayed, and even Napoleon moves a little more quickly than usual to see what has happened. He immediately begins sniffing the ground around the base of the windmill, and soon he announces that Snowball is the one who has destroyed the windmill. Here is his claim:
In sheer malignity, thinking to set back our plans and avenge himself for his ignominious expulsion, this traitor has crept here under cover of night and destroyed our work of nearly a year. Comrades, here and now I pronounce the death sentence upon Snowball.
This is an obviously outrageous statement that is not in the least true; however, Napoleon knows he has to blame someone so that no one will blame or turn on him. It takes a little time, but eventually most of the animals reluctantly accept Napoleon's claim. He leads the animals in several ceremonial moments, again in an attempt to distract them and rally the weary animals for the daunting and backbreaking task of rebuilding.
We have seen this tactic before. Both Snowball and Mr. Jones are easy targets to be blamed for anything. They are not there to defend themselves, so they make easy scapegoats for Napoleon and his propaganda-master, Squealer. Asking if the animals want Jones back and making Snowball a common enemy serve to divert any blame or suspicion from the true culprits in the animal's difficult lives.
Snowball had nothing to do with the decimation of the windmill and neither did Napoleon; however, in case the animals decided to rebel against him and to ensure they would rally together to rebuild the windmill, Napoleon falsely blames the innocent Snowball for the act of nature.
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At this . . . nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball. . . .
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Mollie becomes an increasing burden on Animal Farm: she arrives late for work, accepts treats from men associated with nearby farms, and generally behaves contrary to the tenets of Animalism. Eventually she disappears, lured away by a fat, red-faced man who stroked her coat and fed her sugar; now she pulls his carriage. None of the other animals ever mentions her name again.
During the cold winter months, the animals hold their meetings in the big barn, and Snowball and Napoleon’s constant disagreements continue to dominate the proceedings. Snowball proves a better speaker and debater, but Napoleon can better canvass for support in between meetings. Snowball brims with ideas for improving the farm: he studies Mr. Jones’s books and eventually concocts a scheme to build a windmill, with which the animals could generate electricity and automate many farming tasks, bringing new comforts to the animals’ lives. But building the windmill would entail much hard work and difficulty, and Napoleon contends that the animals should attend to their current needs rather than plan for a distant future. The question deeply divides the animals. Napoleon surveys Snowball’s plans and expresses his contempt by urinating on them.
When Snowball has finally completed his plans, all assemble for a great meeting to decide whether to undertake the windmill project. Snowball gives a passionate speech, to which Napoleon responds with a pathetically unaffecting and brief retort. Snowball speaks further, inspiring the animals with his descriptions of the wonders of electricity. Just as the animals prepare to vote, however, Napoleon gives a strange whimper, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars charge into the barn, attack Snowball, and chase him off the farm. They return to Napoleon’s side, and, with the dogs growling menacingly, Napoleon announces that from now on meetings will be held only for ceremonial purposes. He states that all important decisions will fall to the pigs alone.
Afterward, many of the animals feel confused and disturbed. Squealer explains to them that Napoleon is making a great sacrifice in taking the leadership responsibilities upon himself and that, as the cleverest animal, he serves the best interest of all by making the decisions. These statements placate the animals, though they still question the expulsion of Snowball. Squealer explains that Snowball was a traitor and a criminal. Eventually, the animals come to accept this version of events, and Boxer adds greatly to Napoleon’s prestige by adopting the maxims “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.” These two maxims soon reinforce each other when, three weeks after the banishment of Snowball, the animals learn that Napoleon supports the windmill project. Squealer explains that their leader never really opposed the proposal; he simply used his apparent opposition as a maneuver to oust the wicked Snowball. These tactics, he claims, served to advance the collective best interest. Squealer’s words prove so appealing, and the growls of his three-dog entourage so threatening, that the animals accept his explanation without question.
This chapter illuminates Napoleon’s corrupt and power-hungry motivations. He openly and unabashedly seizes power for himself, banishes Snowball with no justification, and shows a bald-faced willingness to rewrite history in order to further his own ends. Similarly, Stalin forced Trotsky from Russia and seized control of the country after Lenin’s death. Orwell’s experience in a persecuted Trotskyist political group in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War may have contributed to his comparatively positive portrayal of Snowball. Trotsky was eventually murdered in Mexico, but Stalin continued to evoke him as a phantom threat, the symbol of all enemy forces, when he began his bloody purges of the 1930s. These purges appear in allegorized form in the next chapters of Animal Farm.
Lenin once famously remarked that communism was merely socialism plus the electrification of the countryside, a comment that reveals the importance of technological modernization to leaders in the young Soviet Union. The centrality of the electrification projects in the Soviet Union inspired the inclusion of the windmill in Animal Farm. Communist leaders considered such programs absolutely essential for their new nation, citing their need to upgrade an infrastructure neglected by the tsars and keep up with the relatively advanced and increasingly hostile West. Russia devoted a great deal of brain- and manpower to putting these programs in place. As suggested by the plot of Animal Farm, Stalin initially balked at the idea of a national emphasis on modern technology, only to embrace such plans wholeheartedly once he had secured his position as dictator.