Napoleon in Animal Farm

Napoleon, featuring labels that highlight him as threatening, a tyrant and hypocritical

Napoleon is a threatening and 'fierce looking' Berkshire boar. He is one of the three pigs that take Old Major's ideas and turn them into 'Animalism' - a system of thought that encourages the animals to rebel. He is not a gifted speaker but is known for getting his own way. He also manages to get the support of the sheep, he encourages them to chant 'four legs good, two legs bad' during debates, preventing others making their points.

He takes two litters of puppies from their mothers and brings them up himself. Once they have grown up he uses them to take control of the farm. After he has done this, he and the other pigs start to break the Seven Commandments that the animals agreed to live by. He eventually becomes as much of a tyrant as Mr Jones ever was and exploits the other animals.

How is Napoleon like this?Evidence from the textAnalysis
ThreateningThe way Napoleon makes his point during meetings carries threat.He said very quietly that the windmill was nonsense and that he advised nobody to vote for it, and promptly sat down again.The sense of threat in the way Napoleon speaks 'very quietly', is sinister and menacing, there is a hint that he is planning something and he does not need to raise his voice.
HypocriticalNapoleon often contradicts himself or 'Animalism' in the messages he puts out through Squealer.Napoleon announced that there would be work on Sunday afternoons as well. This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal that absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.Napoleon uses the word 'voluntary', yet the fact that it will result in reduced rations means that there is no choice for the animals - he is contradicting himself.
TyrantNapoleon abuses his power to the point where he even kills some animals.The dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess.Napoleon has become a tyrant. He is capable of having his 'comrades' put to death to protect his position. When he 'demands' to know of more confessions we can imagine the other animals cowering in fear.

Social and historical context

Photo of Joseph Stalin, Soviet communist leader.
Joseph Stalin, Soviet communist leader

Napoleon is based on the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was involved in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and came to rule Soviet Russia after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924.He ruled until his death in 1953. During his time in power, the country was gripped by famine and fear, millions of people starved to death and those who opposed him were imprisoned or killed.

The name also evokes the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (1776-1821), who seized power after the French Revolution, crowned himself Emperor and ruled France until 1815.

Analysing the evidence

quote
Napoleon himself was not seen in public as often as once a fortnight. When he did appear, he was attended by not only his retinue of dogs but a black cockerel that marched in front of him and acted as a kind of trumpeter, letting out a loud ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ before Napoleon spoke. Even in the farmhouse, it was said, Napoleon inhabited separate apartments from the others.
Question

Looking at this extract from the book, how does Orwell make Napoleon seem more tyrannical as the novel goes on?

How to analyse the quote:

'Napoleon himself was not seen in public as often as once a fortnight. When he did appear, he was attended by not only his retinue of dogs but a black cockerel that marched in front of him and acted as a kind of trumpeter, letting out a loud 'cock-a-doodle-doo' before Napoleon spoke. Even in the farmhouse, it was said, Napoleon inhabited separate apartments from the others.'

  • 'not seen in public' - this gives an ever-increasing air of mystery and distances him from the other animals.
  • 'retinue of dogs' - a further sense of fear as the animals are aware of what the dogs have done at Napoleon's behest.
  • 'black cockerel' - the blackness of the cockerel adds a sinister presence.

How to use this in an essay:

In the extract we see how Napoleon was 'not seen in public'. This will help to create an atmosphere of mystery around him, and it makes him seem different to the other animals. The use of the 'retinue of dogs' and the 'black cockerel' adds a sense of fear to that mystery - the animals have seen the terrible acts that the dogs have committed on Napoleon's orders. The fact that the cockerel is 'black' gives it a sinister presence. All of these factors combine to make Napoleon seem more tyrannical.