Chapter VII

Life continues to be hard for the animals. Food shortages and a brutal winter mean that their lives are more miserable than ever: “For days at a time the animals had nothing to eat but chaff and mangels. Starvation seemed to stare them in the face.” The animals try to conceal this hardship from the outside world. When Mr Whymper visits the farm, the storage bins are filled with sand and a thin layer of grain on top.

Napoleon is more dictatorial than ever. He rarely appears in public and, on these rare occasions, he is surrounded by fierce guard dogs: “When he did emerge, it was in a ceremonial manner, with an escort of six dogs who closely surrounded him and growled if anyone came too near.” Angered at the unrealistic quotas that Napoleon introduces, the hens protest by laying their eggs in the rafters so that they smash on the floor below. Napoleon reacts brutally: “Napoleon acted swiftly and ruthlessly. He ordered the hens’ rations to be stopped, and decreed that any animal giving so much as a grain of corn to a hen should be punished by death. The dogs saw to it that these orders were carried out.”

Napoleon continues to use Snowball as a scapegoat for the farm’s problems: “Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well.” Snowball is also turned into an evil figure that inspires fear in the animals who, in turn, look towards Napoleon for protection: “The animals were thoroughly frightened. It seemed to them as though Snowball were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them and menacing them with all kinds of dangers.”

In this chapter, Squealer convinces the animals that Napoleon played a far more heroic role in the Battle of Cowshed. He also convinces the animals that Snowball was in league with Farmer Jones from the beginning and his wound during the battle was part of an elaborate ruse to let Farm Jones win the battle. Napoleon awards himself “Animal Hero First Class” and “Animal Hero Second Class”.

Napoleon holds very public trials of animals accused of aiding Snowball. Interestingly, they are the same pigs that protested when Napoleon abolished the Sunday meetings. The dogs promptly execute them. The animals are left shocked, confused and frightened.

Towards the end of the chapter, Napoleon also bans the song ‘Beasts of England’ and replaces it with a song called ‘Animal Farm’.

COMMENTARY

Nikolai Yezhov
After his execution, Nikolai Yezhov was erased from this photograph of Joseph Stalin.

In Chapter VII, Napoleon strengthens his grip over the farm using a number of techniques that put him in the same league as dictators like Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.

In the USSR, the Great Purge was a series of trials, executions and murders organised by Joseph Stalin to put an end to his political opponents. Although figures vary, it is estimated that Stalin was responsible for killing 20 million people and many of these people were killed during the Great Purge. During this time, there were a number of high profile show trials where well-known people were executed after confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. These confessions were a result of brutal beatings, torture, sleep deprivation and the threat of violence against their families. After the trials, despite the promise that they would be spared, many of the defendant’s families were murdered.

After the Great Purge, one of the senior figures in the NKVD – the name of the Russian secret police – fell out of favour with Stalin. Nikolai Yezhov was arrested, brutally tortured and forced to confess to a number of crimes he didn’t commit. Historians believe that he was executed because he knew what happened during the Great Purge. After his death, Yezhov became an ‘unperson’. In George Orwell’s 1984, an unperson is not only someone who has been executed by a country but also erased from history. A famous photograph of Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov was doctored after his death to remove him from the photograph. In Animal Farm, there are several instances where Napoleon essentially rewrites history, awarding himself a number of medals and changing the official account of The Battle of Cowshed.

ACTIVITIES

1. What are the living conditions like for the animals now?

2. How has Napoleon changed by this chapter? Under what conditions does he appear in public?

3. How does Napoleon deal with the hens’ protest?

4. How does Napoleon use fear of Snowball to his advantage?

5. What is a cult of personality and how does this relate to Napoleon?

6. Why does Napoleon replace Beasts of England?