Animal Farm makes heavy use of foreshadowing. Most of the plot’s main events are foreshadowed in the opening chapter. This foreshadowing emphasizes the inevitability of what happens, suggesting that violent revolution is doomed to fail, and that power always corrupts. Animal Farm’s foreshadowing also serves to place particular emphasis on the events Orwell saw as central to the failure of the Russian Revolution, and revolutions generally. The events most heavily foreshadowed are the different stages of the farm’s collapse into violence.
Napoleon’s decision to execute other animals is foreshadowed in Chapter 1, when Old Major says: “You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within a year.” This prophecy comes true, but instead of being killed by Mr. Jones on the butcher’s “block,” the porkers are killed on Napoleon’s orders on the executioner’s “block.” By using an example of Mr. Jones’s cruelty to foreshadow Napoleon’s, the novella argues that the two regimes, human and pig, are essentially the same.
Boxer’s death is foreshadowed in Chapter 7, when Napoleon’s dogs “go quite mad” and attack Boxer. Although Boxer is unharmed, this incident foreshadows Napoleon’s decision to have Boxer killed. Boxer’s death is also foreshadowed by the novella’s many references to the pasture that will be set apart for retired animals. As the pigs’ treachery unfolds, it becomes clear to the reader that the retirement pasture will never exist. As a result, every reference to Boxer’s retirement becomes an ironic foreshadowing of his betrayal and death. When Boxer himself looks forward to retiring, he is unwittingly foreshadowing that Napoleon will betray him, which emphasizes the cruelty of Napoleon’s deception.
Animal Farm strongly foreshadows that Napoleon and the other pigs will betray the ideals of the rebellion. From the beginning of the novella, the pigs take control of Old Major’s ideas and twist them into new shapes: first “Animalism,” then the simplistic slogan of the sheep: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” The manipulation of Old Major’s ideas foreshadows the ultimate betrayal of the rebellion’s goals, when the commandments of Animalism are replaced by the slogan: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (Chapter 10). Napoleon’s treachery begins with small deceptions, like taking all the cows’ milk for the pigs, which foreshadow the bigger deceptions to come, such as the lie that Boxer has been taken to hospital. Napoleon’s dogs are threatening from the moment they appear, which foreshadows their role in the violent oppression that follows.