Comrades, our fairy tale is beginning to draw to a close. We have lots to talk about. Discussion questions to consider as we near the end: in light of the pigs’ behavior, is eating bacon a moral necessity? How much bacon should we eat? Hickory-smoked or classic? State your reasoning.
Honestly, turn back now. If you, like me, have a problem with getting emotionally attached to fictional animals, you are not going to like this chapter.
Boxer is in pain after the attack the humans launched, but he’s determined to keep working. Besides, he’ll retire soon: old animals will get to spend the rest of their days in a cozy corner of the field, eatin’ corn and chillin’. Boxer is going to spend the rest of his life learning the alphabet. So exciting!!!
Image credit: NBC
As with the last chapter, all the animals are working hard. They are often cold and hungry, because rations have been cut (again), partly because there are 31 new piglets. Still, Squealer is announcing on the daily that everybody actually has more food than before. Wait, what’s that tasty smell?! Is it pizza bagels, the crowning achievement of bagel-based foods?????? Almost— it’s the smell of the pigs cooking barley (to make beer). The common animals, of course, don’t get any—but the pigs now get to have a beer every day. While everyone else is hungry, the pigs are getting fatter.
Also, a new fun thing at the farm is “Spontaneous Demonstrations.” These are weekly parades where everyone has to march around in the cold and listen to speeches and sing and wave the flag. Some people complain about it, but not where the dogs and pigs can hear them. Mostly, everyone’s just happy to be free and living on Animal Farm!
HOLD UP A SECOND. Maybe you’re sitting there, grinding your teeth, yelling out loud to the book characters that they need to WAKE UP and start FIGHTIN’ BACK (it’s totally normal to yell out loud at a book, btw. Those people edging away from you at Starbucks are just uptight). To understand why Orwell is writing farm lyfe this way, even when it seems impossible or infuriating, let’s look at….HISTORY!
~* Upbeat montage of moments throughout history, set to peppy ukulele music*~
Welcome to the latest installment of HISTORY.
So, in communist Russia, even when the trickery of the government became obvious, there was never any revolt of the working class. Even as leaders got richer and meaner, people just sort of ate their potatoes and got on with their lives. This happened for a few reasons.
One reason was the purges. Not the horror movie franchise—something even WORSE. In the 1930s, Stalin (i.e., Napoleon), who was paranoid and also a huge jerk, began having fake trials for people he thought were his enemies. People would confess to things they didn’t do—mostly because they were undergoing torture—and then they’d be executed. In the book, Orwell represents this in Chapter 7, when he has his pet guard dogs kill a bunch of geese and sheep after “confessing” that they’d collaborated with Snowball (who, remember, represents Trotsky. HISTORY BONUS ROUND: In real life, after Trotsky was exiled, he bounced around a lot until finally being assassinated in Mexico with an ice axe. History = savage).
Another way the communist leaders kept people quiet was by basically gas-lighting the entire country. Just like on Animal Farm, leaders kept announcing cheerful lies: everyone has more food, they live longer, their children live longer, etc. By making sure people/animals can’t get any other info (no Google in Communist Russia or Animal Farm), and condemning anyone who contradicts them to a dog-induced death, the leaders are in charge of what everyone thinks. Besides, isn’t it nicer to believe that life is good? Wouldn’t you rather think that the grass is sweeter and the apples apple-ier than they used to be—if the alternative is knowing that you are an enslaved sheep, hungry and cold all the time, at risk of being eaten by dogs while a pig gets drunk on his throne of lies?!?! Me too.
Finally, fun fact! I live in Bulgaria right now. Back in the 1980s, near my apartment, they would have “Manifestations,” just like on Animal Farm. People were “required to volunteer,” which is kind of like saying “jumbo shrimp” or “friendly DMV employee.” Same deal: they’d march around, wave flags, sing songs, etc., even when they were bored and cold, while the big leaders watched from the sidelines. Then one rainy day in 1986, the leaders didn’t show up to cheer. Any guesses why? It was because this was the week after the Chernobyl disaster, and the rain was radioactive! But—as in Animal Farm—the regular people weren’t told the truth, so they marched anyway, and now literally everybody here is Spiderman.
Thanks for tuning in to HISTORY!
~*Ukelele music transition*~
Anyway: One afternoon, Moses, the raven, shows up and preaches again about Sugarcandy Mountain. Everybody just sort of lets it slide. New terrible things are discovered about Snowball. A presidential election is held, and Napoleon (the only candidate) wins. Finally, one day, Boxer collapses.
The animals all rush to his side. It seems one of his lungs has given out. He is very sick, but he’s looking forward to his retirement. Squealer comes and says that they’ll be sending him to the finest vet around, which makes everyone a little nervous—a human vet?—but pigs know best. A couple days later, Benjamin the Donkey runs over to tell everyone working in the fields that they’re taking Boxer away! Everyone runs to say goodbye. But what’s this painted on the side of the cart?! “Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler”! Everyone cries out and yells for Boxer to escape. Boxer kicks at the wagon a few times, but he’s old and exhausted and can’t get out. They drive him away.
All the animals:
Image credit: Pixar Animation Studios
Image credit: NBC
A few days later, Squealer explains that that actually was the vet. They just had the wrong thing painted on the cart! Boxer, Squealer claims, died happily, and his last words were “Napoleon is always right.” The pigs say they’ll have a banquet in his honor, and they do—feasting and laughing it up until late at night, with a crate of whiskey. I wonder where they got the money for that. :(((