Benjamin in Animal Farm

Still of Benjamin the donkey looking shocked, from the 1954 film
Benjamin is a pessimistic donkey

Benjamin is an old and pessimistic donkey. No one on the farm knows exactly how old he is but it is hinted that he has been around for a very long time. He is never enthusiastic when things go well for the animals; likewise, he is never surprised or upset when things go wrong. He often gives vague answers. Some might say that he is a realist.

He is close friends with Boxer and plans to spend his retirement with him. He calls all the other animals to help when Boxer is being taken away by the horse slaughterer.

How is Benjamin like this?Evidence from the textAnalysis
VagueBenjamin is often vague with the other animals. For example, when they ask if he is happier now Mr Jones has gone he doesn’t give a straight answer."Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey."It is not until we have finished the novel that it becomes clear that Benjamin has seen rebellions come and go in the past and he knows that the happiness they feel after the Rebellion will be short-lived. His comment that they have never seen a ‘dead donkey’ is a hint that he has seen similar events in the past and so he is not as excited as the other animals.
PessimisticBenjamin’s responses are often negative, he doesn’t share in the enthusiasm of the other animals even in their victories.He said, life would go on as it always had gone on - that is, badly.Benjamin’s suggestion that life ‘always’ goes on ‘badly’ reveals that he has a pessimistic view on life, he does not see the Rebellion, the windmill or victories in battle as being positive things – he sees them as struggles.
RealisticIn the end, it turns out that Benjamin was right to be so negative about the Rebellion. Although conditions seemed better initially – they soon went back to ‘normal’. Benjamin was not negative, just realistic.Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse – hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life.By this point in the novel it becomes clear that Benjamin was realistic when he was negative about the Rebellion. He is right to believe that things will never change, they are 'unalterable' this explains his attitude toward the changes on the farm and why he is never as enthusiastic as the other animals.
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