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Bruce Lowery

What are the differences between the Battle of Cowshed and the Battle of Windmill and how those battles impact the animals and the development of the farm?

The novel features two major battles, and Orwell treats them quite differently. The Battle of Cowshed is described in a few short paragraphs, and the description is focused on the outcome, which is the liberation of the farm from the rule of mankind. The Battle of Cowshed features heroic leadership on Snowball’s behalf, which helps reveal his commitment to the principles of Animalism and his willingness to put himself in danger to defend those principles. The Battle of Cowshed is also spontaneous; the animals are not intending a rebellion, but instead are simply trying to get food after Mr. Jones neglects to feed them. In contrast, the Battle of Windmill signifies the animals working together to defeat an outside threat. In it, men do reveal the nature of their brutality by showing their willingness to use weapons against the animals. However, the battle is clearly the beginning of the end of the idealized Animal Farm. It leads to the injuries that will eventually kill Boxer, the symbol of the proletariat. It also highlights that the animals are united by a common fear of man rather than by a positive principle.

How does Orwell’s use of the omniscient narrator impact the reader’s experience of the novel?

Orwell’s use of the omniscient narrator gives the reader a knowing perspective that none of the characters in the book enjoys. Thus, while the reader can clearly see Napoleon’s machinations and predict his eventual betrayals of the book’s characters, these events are surprising for the characters in the book. It also allows Orwell to share the different opinions and points of view of the animals in the novel, making it clear that while the animals may be lumped together as members of the same social class, they did not necessarily share the same perspectives about their situation.

If Snowball had seized control of Animal Farm, would he have fallen victim to the same type of corruption that Napoleon exhibited?

The novel clearly establishes a contrast between Snowball’s virtues and Napoleon’s vices. However, it is important to realize that Orwell did not create Snowball as a perfect character. He is very willing to accept the superiority of the pigs and to enjoy the use of his privilege as a pig at the beginning of the novel. While he certainly does not engage in the same type of overt manipulation of the animals as Napoleon, it would be erroneous to suggest that Snowball fully lived his commitment to truly equal treatment of all animals. Instead, Orwell seems to focus on the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely, leading one to believe that, had Snowball somehow been victorious over Napoleon, he may have engaged in a similar pattern of behavior.

If Mollie could defect from Animal Farm, what kept the other animals tied to the farm even after it was clear that their living conditions would not improve?

One of the more interesting points in the novel is that the animals do not try to flee Animal Farm, even as their conditions steadily decline well below the conditions under Mr. Jones. It would be easy to suggest that Napoleon’s use of violence and intimidation is what keeps the animals on the farm, because Mollie leaves the farm before Napoleon is routinely using violence against the other animals. However, that explanation ignores the animal’s inner motivations. The animals truly believe that their status has changed since Mr. Jones left the farm. They feel as if they are no longer slaves, but free to direct their own activities. This belief may be wrong, but it is the belief that keeps many of them committed to the underlying ideals of the farm.

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