L'homme invisible


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H.G. Wells

Based on Joseph Stalin, Napoleon is one of the two pigs that vie for leadership of Animal Farm after the death of Old Major. He is a Berkshire boar, which means that he is larger than the other pigs on the farm. Berkshire boars are also an intimidating-looking species. Napoleon does not speak a lot of the time, which leads some of the animals to perceive him as a deep thinker, though his behavior belies that characterization. When he does speak, he is persuasive, but he prefers to use others to speak on his behalf, most notably Squealer.

While the animals may view Napoleon’s quietness as a sign of depth, it is actually a sign of his plotting. Napoleon is incredibly secretive, and plots against some of the animals. He withholds information because that information gives him power, and he relies upon the fact that the other animals will forget some of his actions. For example, he takes the puppies to educate them, and the other animals literally forget about the puppies, which Napoleon has been training as attack dogs. He also uses small-group settings to persuade animals to adopt his point of view. For example, he is able to create significant opposition to Snowball’s windmill idea before Snowball can even present it to the animals and without Snowball realizing that Napoleon has been trying to create opposition to his ideas. These behaviors help illuminate that Napoleon is very jealous of anyone else exercising power or authority on Animal Farm and uses his position of power to remove potential threats. It would be fair to characterize Napoleon’s approach to the other animals at Animal Farm as brainwashing, which was one of the terms used to describe dictator regimes in the period surrounding World War II, whether those regimes were Communist or fascist.

It is not clear in the book when Napoleon decides to use the Rebellion to enhance his personal position on the farm. Early in the book, Napoleon, along with Snowball and the other pigs, develops the philosophy of Animalism. At that point in time, it appears that Napoleon intends to benefit all of the animals, though his intentions, at that point, are not revealed by the narrator. However, immediately after the Rebellion, it becomes clear that Napoleon is motivated by self-interest. He takes the milk from the cows and diverts it to the pigs for their use, so that, even from its very beginning, Animal Farm is marked by continued inequity among the animals.

Of course, one cannot ignore the implications of Napoleon’s name. Napoleon was not a figure in the emergence of Socialism or Communism, but like Socialists and Communists, Napoleon enjoyed a significant amount of popular support because he espoused democratic ideals. Once in office, he betrayed those ideals and became a dictator. Therefore, Napoleon’s name is a reference not only to a tyrant, but to a tyrant that betrayed the idea of democracy. Therefore, it is critical for the reader to remember that even if Napoleon most closely resembles Lenin, he also represents the danger of any type of tyranny. In fact, once in power, his behavior is virtually synonymous with that of any despot; he takes the best for himself, kills those who oppose him, threatens people, and causes a decline in standard of living for the other animals. Moreover, Napoleon proves very adept at using propaganda; he seems to convince the animals that he has brought about positive changes in their lives. Moreover, he is able to turn Snowball into a scapegoat, which some of the animals accept, even though Snowball clearly had no involvement in some of the events for which he is blamed.

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