Summary and Analysis Chapter 4



As summer ends and news of the rebellion spreads to other farms (by way of pigeons released by Snowball and Napoleon), Jones spends most of his time in a pub, complaining about his troubles to two neighboring farmers: Pilkington and Jones; Frederick.

In October, Jones and a group of men arrive at Animal Farm and attempt to seize control of it. Snowball turns out to be an extraordinary tactician and, with the help of the other animals, drives Jones and his men away. The animals then celebrate their victory in what they call "The Battle of the Cowshed."


Snowball and Napoleon's decision to send pigeons to neighboring farms to spread news of Animal Farm is — like their creation of "Animal Hero, First Class" at the end of the chapter — an attempt to heighten the gravity and scope of the rebellion. By informing other animals about Animal Farm, the pigs hope to instigate rebellions elsewhere and eventually live in the world depicted in old Major's dream.

The scene of Jones commiserating in the Red Lion with Pilkington and Frederick portrays the humans as exactly the greedy self-centered beings that the animals wished to overthrow. Although the two neighboring farmers sympathize with Jones "in principle," Orwell states that each is "secretly wondering whether he could somehow turn Jones' misfortune to his own advantage." Note also that Pilkington's farm, Foxwood, is in a "disgraceful condition" and that Frederick is "perpetually involved in lawsuits" and has a "name for driving hard bargains." In direct contrast to the principles of Animalism, the humans live by a credo of self-interest and desire for material gain. (Of course, the reader has already seen how Napoleon is betraying the principles of Animalism, as he becomes more and more like these men in the pub.)

According to Frederick and Pilkington, the animals are "rebelling against the laws of nature," with "nature" in this context referring to a world where humans control all aspects of animals' lives and use them for their own material gain. Of course, what seems "natural" to the humans is not what seems "natural" to the animals, and it is worth noting that all attempts in the novel to change the natures of both humans and animals fail.

Driven by fear and their perception that other animals at neighboring farms are beginning to become inspired by the rebels' example, Jones attempts to take back what is his — but his attempt at military prowess in this case only further depicts him as impotent and inept. After being muted upon by the pigeons, Jones is knocked into a dung heap — a fitting place for him, in the eyes of his animal enemies. His running from the farm concludes a scene obviously serious for the characters but — with its panic and application of Caesarian tactics to a barnyard melee — comic to the reader.

Boxer's teary-eyed concern over the possible death of the stable-lad reinforces his simple-mindedness and foreshadows the fact that he will be unable to survive in a place as harsh as Animal Farm is soon to become. The image of the great horse trying to turn the boy over with his hoof while he laments, "Who will not believe that I did not do this on purpose?" contrasts the one of Snowball, with the blood dripping from his wounds, stating, "War is war. The only good human being is a dead one." Unlike Boxer, who wishes no real harm even to his enemies, Snowball cares little for the possible regrets one of his soldiers may face. To him, death is an inevitable by-product of revolution, as he remarks during his funeral oration for the dead sheep.

The chapter ends with the implication that Animal Farm is becoming a place grounded more in military might than agrarian industry. The creation of military decorations, the naming of the battle, and the decision to fire Jones' gun twice a year all suggest the animals' love of ceremony and the slow but sure transformation of Animal Farm into a place governed by martial law more than the Seven Commandments of Animalism.