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Benjamin is Animal Farm’s donkey. He is intelligent and able to read, but he “never exercised his faculty. So far as he knew, he said, there was nothing worth reading” (Chapter 3). He is the only animal who never really believes in the rebellion, but he doesn’t oppose it, and he doesn’t oppose Napoleon’s rise to power either. When the animals ask him to help them by reading the Commandments which have been changed on Napoleon’s orders, Benjamin refuses “to meddle in such matters” (Chapter 8).
Within the novella’s allegory of Soviet history, Benjamin represents the intellectuals who failed to oppose Stalin. More broadly, Benjamin represents all intellectuals who choose to ignore politics. Benjamin pays a high price for his refusal to engage with the Farm’s politics. When he finally tries to take action and save his best friend, Boxer, it is already too late.
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