At the beginning of Animal Farm Chapter 9, Boxer’s hoof takes a long time to heal after the Battle of Windmill. He tries not to let the other animals see that he’s in pain as they start to rebuild. Before his retirement, Boxer aspires to see the windmill “well under way”. It is rumoured that on retirement, animals will be allowed to graze in a corner of the large pasture where they will be well-fed and receive a carrot or an apple on public holidays. Life continues becoming more miserable for the animals, winter is cold and rations are reduced, except for the pigs and the dogs. Squealer once again convinces the animals that they are much better off than they were under Farmer Jones: “They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out.”
The sows give birth to thirty-one pigs who are discouraged from mixing with the other animals and attend a schoolroom that is built in the farmhouse garden. Further exceptions and privileges are made for the pigs: “About this time, too, it was laid down as a rule that when a pig and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand aside: and also that all pigs, of whatever degree, were to have the privilege of wearing green ribbons on their tails on Sundays.”
One afternoon, the delicious scent of cooking barley waft across the farmyard. The animals hope the pigs are preparing mash for their supper but nothing appears. The pigs announce that all barley will be reserved for them.
When Boxer is injured hauling stone for the windmill, the pigs arrange medical treatment. In a panic, Benjamin realises that the van carrying him away is marked “Horse Slaughterer”. Squealer assures the animals that the van had merely been purchased by a veterinary surgeon who had yet to paint over the sign. “And when Squealer went on to give further graphic details of Boxer’s death-bed, the admirable care he had received, and the expensive medicines for which Napoleon had paid without a thought as to the cost, their last doubts disappeared and the sorrow that they felt for their comrade’s death was tempered by the thought that at least he had died happy.” After his death, a rumour circulates the farm that the pigs have somehow found the money to buy another case of whiskey.
Animal Farm Chapter 9 Commentary
Napoleon promotes nationalism, a strong belief in the superiority of one’s country, through the use of songs, speeches and ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ which give the illusion of rebellion: “There were more songs, more speeches, more processions. Napoleon had commanded that once a week there should be held something called a Spontaneous Demonstration, the object of which was to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of Animal Farm. At the appointed time the animals would leave their work and march round the precincts of the farm in military formation, with the pigs leading, then the horses, then the cows, then the sheep, and then the poultry.” These marches and celebrations help to keep the animals unified under Napoleon. They are also used to help the animals keep believing that they are “their own masters”.
Another way dictators maintain control is by not having democratic elections. In dictatorships, mock elections are often held where the result is already decided in advance. When Animal Farm is declared a republic, Napoleon holds election where he is the only candidate. Unsurprisingly, he is elected unanimously.
In this chapter, Squealer continues to manipulate the other animals into believing that the pigs are acting in their best interests. His use of euphemism, talking about the “readjustment” of rations rather than their “reduction”, illustrates Orwell’s concern that language can be twisted and abused by totalitarian states.
Moses returns to the farm and continues telling the animals his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain. This time the pigs, however, put up with him: “A thing that was difficult to determine was the attitude of the pigs towards Moses. They all declared contemptuously that his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain were lies, and yet they allowed him to remain on the farm, not working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day.” Although the Russian Orthodox Church was persecuted during Stalin’s reign, he revived the church in 1941 to generate patriotic support for the USSR’s battle with Nazi Germany. Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses” and said it gave people an “illusory happiness”.
The betrayal of Boxer is the most heartbreaking moment in the novel. He tries desperately to escape the horse slaughter’s van. As he’s being driven away, Benjamin is the only animal who can read the words on the side of the van. Throughout the novel, Benjamin has remained steadfastly cynical and passive when it comes to politics. The death of his dearest friend is the price of his inaction and cynicism.
Boxer’s death is the ultimate betrayal of key beliefs of Animalism. Do you agree?
When you’re writing a response, use a TEEL paragraph.
- Topic sentence. Explain your stance on the topic. Do you agree that Boxer’s death is a betrayal of Old Major’s vision for the farm?
- Explanation. Explain which aspects of Animalism the murder of Boxer betrays. What is it about Boxer that makes this the ‘ultimate’ betrayal?
- Evidence. Make reference to specific events throughout this and other chapters to support your discussion. More than any other piece of writing we’ve done on the novel, this one is asking you to make links with other chapters.
- Link sentence. Close off the paragraph with a sentence that links back to the topic.