Summary and Analysis Chapter 8



The following year brings more work on the windmill and less food for the workers, despite Squealer's lists of figures supposedly proving that food production has increased dramatically under Napoleon's rule. As Napoleon grows more powerful, he is seen in public less often. The general opinion of him is expressed in a poem by Minimus that lists his merits and virtues. More executions occur while Napoleon schemes to sell a pile of timber to Frederick — who is alternately rumored to be a sadistic torturer of animals and the victim of unfounded gossip.

After the completion of the new windmill in August, Napoleon sells the pile of timber to Frederick, who tries to pay with a check. Napoleon, however, demands cash, which he receives. Whymper then learns that Frederick's banknotes are forgeries, and Napoleon pronounces the death sentence on the traitorous human.

The next morning, Frederick and 14 men arrive at Animal Farm and attempt to take it by force. Although the humans are initially successful, after they blow up the windmill, the animals are completely enraged and drive the men from the farm. Squealer explains to the bleeding animals that, despite what they may think, they were actually victorious in what will hereafter be called "The Battle of the Windmill."

Some days later, the pigs discover a case of whisky in Jones' cellar. After drinking too much of it, Napoleon fears he is dying and decrees that the drinking of alcohol is punishable by death. Two days later, however, Napoleon feels better and orders the small paddock (which was to have been used as a retirement-home for old animals) to be ploughed and planted with barley. The chapter ends with Muriel rereading the Seven Commandments and noticing, for the first time, that the Fifth Commandment now reads, "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess."


The number of executions occurring at the farm naturally raises some concerns among the animals, who recall the Sixth Commandment of Animalism: "No animal shall kill any other animal." However, as he has done many times already, Napoleon revises the past to suit his present aims and alters the painted Commandment to read, "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause." The addition of two words gives Napoleon free rein to kill whomever he wishes (since he determines all "causes"), and these two words echo the other additions to the commandments: "with sheets" to the Fourth and "to excess" to the Fifth. In all three cases, a minor grammatical revision permits major revision of a law that legitimizes and excuses Napoleon's tyranny.

As the work on the windmill continues, the animals do begin to starve, as Napoleon originally said they would in his debates with Snowball. Ever the happy sycophant, however, Squealer readily provides lists of figures to prove to the animals that they are not starving. Benjamin Disraeli, the former Prime Minister of England, once remarked, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics" — a remark that Squealer's actions here prove true. Like many people, the animals are dazzled by numbers as indicative of scientific sampling and concrete information, despite the fact that "they would have sooner had less figures and more food." Official sounding "evidence" thus convinces the animals that their own rumbling stomachs must be in the wrong.

Now that he is in total and undisputed control of Animal Farm, Napoleon becomes a paranoid egomaniac, and Orwell stresses this new phase of Napoleon's character in several ways. First, he virtually vanishes from public; when he is seen, he is first heralded by a black cockerel. Second, he lives in separate rooms from the other pigs and only eats from Jones' Crown Derby dinner service. Third, he orders the gun to be fired on his birthday and is referred to with flattering epithets, such as "Protector of the Sheep-fold." Fourth, he orders Minimus' poem about himself to be inscribed on the wall of the big barn, surmounted by a painting of his profile. Fifth, he has a pig named Pinkeye taste all of his food to be sure it is not poisoned. Sixth, he names the completed windmill Napoleon Mill and, after selling the timber, has the animals slowly walk past him as he lies on a bed of straw next to his piles of money. Again, Orwell displays a politician's image as a powerful means of controlling his subjects.

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