Within the pages of Animal Farm, there exists a couple of characters that are two of the most in depth characters you’ll ever meet even though they are pigs. It’s amazing what a talented author can do with such creatures. In Animal Farm, Orwell brings to life simple farm animals to create a complex system representative of the day and could be representative of all time.
The two most prominent characters in the book are Napoleon and Snowball. These are the pigs that rise up and become the leaders of the rebellious lot. It is undisputed that they are the ones to lead the animals after Major, the leader of the initial rebellion, passes away. They were already respected and known for their minds and great leadership skills. They were the logical choices. Who can argue against logic? From reading the book, you’ll notice few did. (Sound familiar?)
Why the pigs? What was it about the pigs that had them rising to the top of the social ladder? It has been proven a scientific fact that the pig is one of the smartest animals in the barnyard (source) Maybe the other animals recognized this in the pigs.
But There Can Be Only One
Once the ‘race’ was chosen that would lead them, it was a matter then of who from the pig race would be the ultimate leader. Napoleon and Snowball were not going to let it be easy. The ideal concept of equality and community was already fading before Major was cold.
What prompted them to have such rivalry? After all they had had such a successful revolution to oust their oppressors It appears that as soon as the revolution occurred, they were not practicing what they preached. Already, they had lost their way. The attraction of power was too strong.
Let’s take a closer look at Snowball. He is described in the book as “more vivacious than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character.” (16) Seems like someone who we might enjoy being around at a party but not someone you see leading a nation, or a farm. It could be said that “the animals are fooled by Snowball’s appearance: because he’s friendly and lively, they assume that he’s a ditz” (http://www.shmoop.com/animal-farm/snowball-pig.html) Yet is he completely innocent?
Snowball does want some degree of power. He is after all trying to lead the animals even if it is with teamwork from Napoleon. He has ideals. he has charisma. He is so much like Leon Trotsky.
In history, Trotsky was one of the main leaders in the Russian Revolution. He also was shoved out of the political machine by Stalin and banished from Russia. Sounding familiar? Grand ideas got him run out in Russia and as a pig. He can’t even win in fiction.
In a way you can’t help but sympathize with the poor thing. He was only trying to do good and share the news to other animals that they didn’t have to live in servitude. What he didn’t plan on was his co-ruler to not follow along. He was so blinded by the triumph and bright future that he could not see the hidden agenda of his ‘partner.’
Napoleon takes the cake. His ideals are completely self-centered. He wants freedom for all but only to the point where he has the freedom to rule over all the other animals. His goal is firmly focused on complete power and he will do anything to get it.
Anything means literally anything. He creates his own successful “combination of propaganda and terror that none of the animals can resist” (http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/a/animal-farm/character-analysis/napoleon) From the very beginning he shows his true nature but he does it with such finesse that the animals don’t quite realize what is going on. He even has Snowball going along with it because it makes sense and will support Snowball’s plans as well.
What does Napoleon do? Steals milk and puppies, changes the laws, turns everyone against Snowball, runs Snowball off the farm, and commits murder by taking the most loyal animal on the farm and has him killed. But was his worst crime becoming the very person he condemned in the beginning — Farmer Jones?
Maybe Jones wasn’t so bad after all? Gives one something to think about.
Between the Two
Who was the best leader for the animals after the revolt? One would have to argue that neither one was the ideal leader as they each had their faults which tended to be self-centered. Snowball wanted his ideals and the revolution to spread without thinking of how it affected the others. The perfect example of that is the windmill. Yes it would benefit the farm, but at what cost? The life of the most loyal follower. Napoleon wanted complete control. At what cost? The loss of his own soul to the very institution he despised in the beginning. Or did he really despise it?
Was Napoleon’s goal all along to become Jones or even one up him? Everything about his actions point to the ultimate destination of complete dominance of the animals and possession of all things of an ‘upper class’ lifestyle. He was not out for the good of all. He was only focused on what was good for him.
Snowball and Napoleon were flawed. Each would have failed at their theoretical rule. But of the two, Snowball would have been kinder leader. Sometimes the stronger leader is not the best choice.