Guiding Questions

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Animal Farm - Guiding Questions

  1. Clover is heartbroken over what has been happening on the farm. Part A - Why does she (and many of the other lower-class animals) still insist then that the farm is better now than it was under Mr. Jones? Part B - Furthermore, how does the ignorance of the other animals help Napoleon gain (and maintain) power?

Part A:

  • Clover, like nearly all the other animals, has constantly been threatened with the idea of Jones’ return (46), as if he would bring an even worse fate to the workers on the farm. They are afraid of the physical tortures the pigs have meted out on others on the farm (public executions, guard dogs chasing away snowball and tearing out throats, etc.)

  • Clover is still in doubt of the pigs’ motives and actions, and while fear plays a factor in her apathy, Orwell uses her to illustrate the danger of a naïve and ignorant working class. While she suspects that the pigs are violating the maxims, she blames herself for not remembering (or misremembering) the commandments (45-46). Consequently, she even has Muriel—who is literate—read the modified commandments. While he confirms her suspicions, they still remain just that, doubts. Because Clover has little faith in her memory and in herself, she feels the need to remain loyal and will not turn on her leaders unless she can be perfectly certain. Clover has no choice but to be gullible and accept the pigs’ word. What is more, in likeness to Boxer, Clover refuses to give up hope. Like the rebuilding of the windmill, Clover fails to lose heart when they are forced to work even harder after it has been destroyed. Her ignorant trust and lack of judgment play a significant role in the acceptance of the current conditions.

Part B:

  • Having intelligence is the first leveler in the stratification process. The pigs use their intelligence to position themselves as leaders of the farm as soon as Jones has been exiled. The narrator makes it clear to the reader that, “it was natural that they [the pigs] should assume the leadership” because of their superior intelligence (17). They teach themselves to read and write from a children’s book but destroy it before the other animals can have the same chance. Indeed, most of the animals never learn more than a few letters of the alphabet. Thus we understand the phrase, knowledge is power.

  • Ironically, the animals who forcibly removed Jones and his workers off of Manor Farm are not the ones to take control. This reinforces the idea that power lies in education not necessarily in physical strength or size.

  • Memory is so important, as we learn that because of the animals are uneducated they are, consequently, not able to remember what life was like with Jones as their ruler.

  • They aren’t able to discern the fact that food productivity decreased

  • Boxer is a simple-minded yet loyal horse who can’t understand how he is being manipulated by the pigs; he, like the sheep, becomes a tool of Napoleon’s regime. In fact, Boxer takes responsibility for the farm’s inadequacies, and avows to work even harder to make up for any shortfall (57).

  1. Knowing the hardship that has taken place on the animals in the building (and rebuilding) of the windmill, what does the windmill symbolize? Consider the affects that the building process and the destruction of the windmill must have on the animals and the reasons Napoleon wants the windmill when providing your response.

  • Quite literally, the windmill symbolizes Russian industry, specifically, Stalin’s Five-Year Plan (i.e., his attempt to modernize the nation). Stalin’s economic plan was supposed to bring an easier lifestyle to everyone in Russia. Not only would a modernized system promote new industry, it would also improve food production, eventually allowing people to bask in the luxury that it provided, even to the point where workers could actually have shorten work-weeks. Unfortunately, the “plans” were a constant failure, a historical incident cleverly illustrated by Orwell through the constant destruction of the windmill. Stalin brought ever-present hard work to the working class who usually did not get to reap the benefits of their own toils.

  • Orwell, goes beyond the historical allusion and appears to use the actions of the working animals (the slogging over the more difficult and burdening rebuild process of the windmill) to highlight the negative implications of manipulative (mind) control. Through Orwell’s description of all circumstances regarding the creation of the windmill it becomes obvious how sad, cruel, and inhumane manipulation can be considering the common animals agree to backbreaking labour that intensifies each time the windmill is destroyed (walls twice as thick as before; longer work-weeks). They ignored the fact that they were producing little to no food (mainly because Squealer distorted the food production numbers when the animals began to feel as though they were eating no better than when Jones was around) and that the cold weather was moving in making working and living conditions even more unbearable. At no point in time do the animals get to see the fruits of the labour. Ironically enough, they rally and unite on the basis that there is a common enemy (Snowball is the animal sabotaging their efforts). Consequently, it is the emotional aspect of manipulation that creates various forms of physical oppression unto the commoners (indiscreetly, of course).

  1. What is Sugarcandy Mountain? What effect does the notion of this place have on the animals?

  • Symbolically, it represents the role of religion, and more specifically the belief in an afterlife (i.e., heaven.)

  • Moses, the bringer of the new (i.e., the existence of Sugar Candy Mountain), is not trusted or liked by the pigs, for two reasons: he conspires with humans and he doesn’t do any work. However, he can still serve a purpose on the farm. Moses is permitted by Napoleon to tell his stories because the animals believe they will go to Sugar Candy Mountain when they die; this makes them work harder because it is a place where all of their labour and suffering will at some point end.

  1. To “equivocate” means that a person is using ambiguous language or unclear expressions in an attempt to mislead or avoid commitment. Quote at least four sources from the novel that illustrates examples of equivocation (manipulative communication). Do some of the animals seem less influenced than other? Explain. How and why do you think language, i.e., its manipulation and understanding, plays such as pivotal role in the animals’ society?

  • pg. 23 – Pigs justifying the stealing of milk and apples on the grounds that it is “brainfood”, and they must be mentally astute to prevent the return of Jones.

  • pg. 39 – Napoleon was never opposed to the building of the windmill. In fact, he supported it and it was stolen by Snowball. Opposing the idea was really a plot to get rid of Snowball who was a danger to the farm.

  • pg. 83 – The knacker van had not yet been painted by the recent buyer (the veterinary surgeon)

  • pg. 37 – Leadership is a burden that no one else should have to carry. It wouldn’t be fair for everyone to have to think for themselves.

  • pg. 54 – Snowball was not as brave as everyone thinks during The Battle of the Cowshed. In fact, he was conspiring with Jones the entire time, waiting to help him. Napoleon actually saved the day by entering the battlefield, rallying troops to support him.

  • pg. 59 – The song “Beasts of England” was only meant to inspire the animals to work towards a better society, which as now been achieved, so it is no longer needed.

  • Once the pigs cement their status as the educated elite, they use their mental advantage to manipulate the other animals. For example, knowing that the other animals cannot read the Seven Commandments, they revise them whenever they like. The pigs also use their literacy to learn trades from manuals, giving them an opportunity for economic specialization and advancement. Content in the role of the intelligentsia, the pigs forgo manual labor in favor of bookkeeping and organizing. This shows that the pigs have not only the advantage of opportunity, but also the opportunity to reject whatever opportunities they like. The pigs’ intelligence and education allow them to bring the other animals into submission through the use of propaganda and revisionism.

  • The sheep who possess a limited intelligence constantly bleat out the maxim “Four legs good, two legs bad,” which ultimately serves as a controlling device, arises because of the ignorance of the working animals. Its simplicity allows it to be easily memorized, altered, and manipulated. Similarly, the birds don’t understand Snowball’s long words, regarding the difference between birds and man, but they accept his explanation anyways ( 22).

  • Notice the key phrase in this quote: “If she could have spoken her thoughts …. It was not for this that she and the other animals had hoped and toiled …. Such were her thoughts, though she lacked the words to express them” (58-59)). The pigs are extremely reliant on the inability of the animals to articulate their thoughts. In this case, Clover is incapable of doing so because she lacks the knowledge of literacy, of vocabulary.

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