Study Guide

Animal Farm Cunning and Cleverness

By George Orwell

Cunning and Cleverness

Chapter 2

This was early in March. During the next three months there was much secret activity. Major's speech had given to the more intelligent animals on the farm a completely new outlook on life. They did not know when the Rebellion predicted by Major would take place, they had no reason for thinking that it would be within their own lifetime, but they saw clearly that it was their duty to prepare for it. The work of teaching and organising the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals. (2.2)

This is really subtle—so subtle that we almost can't tell where Orwell is going with it. Is that "naturally" supposed to ironic, implying that the pigs actually took control rather than naturally getting it? Is that "generally recognized" meant to imply that the pigs aren't so smart—they just use the power of seeming smart?

Chapter 3

The pigs had set aside the harness-room as a headquarters for themselves. Here, in the evenings, they studied blacksmithing, carpentering, and other necessary arts from books which they had brought out of the farmhouse. Snowball also busied himself with organising the other animals into what he called Animal Committees. He was indefatigable at this. He formed the Egg Production Committee for the hens, the Clean Tails League for the cows, the Wild Comrades' Re-education Committee (the object of this was to tame the rats and rabbits), the Whiter Wool Movement for the sheep, and various others, besides instituting classes in reading and writing. On the whole, these projects were a failure. The attempt to tame the wild creatures, for instance, broke down almost immediately. They continued to behave very much as before, and when treated with generosity, simply took advantage of it. (3.6)

Here's another tricky passage: it seems like the pigs really might start out with good intentions. They're trying to learn "necessary" arts and Snowball is super into helping the animals improve themselves. So, what goes wrong? (Aside from that fact that having someone else try to improve you is super annoying.)

Sometimes the work was hard; the implements had been designed for human beings and not for animals, and it was a great drawback that no animal was able to use any tool that involved standing on his hind legs. But the pigs were so clever that they could think of a way round every difficulty. (3.2)

Since this cleverness mostly consists of the pigs bossing the animals around, we're not sold on it. But it seems to work, at least at first: the harvest is bigger than it ever has been before. So far, so good. Right?

Snowball (a pig)

"A bird's wing, comrades," he said, "is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The distinguishing mark of man is the HAND, the instrument with which he does all his mischief." (3.10)

The birds are a little worried about the whole "four legs good, two legs bad" thing, because of their two-legged situation, but Snowball is clever enough to sort that out: wings are actually legs. In principle. Whew! But we see a problem: if a rule has to be explained, then it can't really be that simple, right? And doesn't it become a little too open to manipulation and revision? (Orwell's answer: yes.)

Chapter 5
Boxer (a horse)

In spite of the shock that Snowball's expulsion had given them, the animals were dismayed by this announcement. Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments. Even Boxer was vaguely troubled. He set his ears back, shook his forelock several times, and tried hard to marshal his thoughts; but in the end he could not think of anything to say. (5.17)

In the land of the dumb, the half-brained man (pig) is king: the pigs may not be mechanical (or agricultural) geniuses, but they're smarter than the rest of the animals. And, in the end, that's all that matters. So stay in school, Shmoopers!

Snowball (a pig)

Within a few weeks Snowball's plans for the windmill were fully worked out. The mechanical details came mostly from three books which had belonged to Mr. Jones– 'One Thousand Useful Things to Do About the House', 'Every Man His Own Bricklayer', and 'Electricity for Beginners'. Snowball used as his study a shed which had once been used for incubators and had a smooth wooden floor, suitable for drawing on. He was closeted there for hours at a time. With his books held open by a stone, and with a piece of chalk gripped between the knuckles of his trotter, he would move rapidly to and fro, drawing in line after line and uttering little whimpers of excitement. Gradually the plans grew into a complicated mass of cranks and cog-wheels, covering more than half the floor, which the other animals found completely unintelligible but very impressive. All of them came to look at Snowball's drawings at least once a day. Even the hens and ducks came, and were at pains not to tread on the chalk marks. (5.10)

Oh boy. We've tried to replace our pipes with a similar set of books, and, guys, just take it from us: hire a plumber. Being clever enough to google "how to build a windmill" doesn't really give you the practical know-how to actually do it.

Chapter 7

Now when Squealer described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the animals that they did remember it. At any rate, they remembered that at the critical moment of the battle Snowball had turned to flee. (7.18)

Boy, we're lucky that none of our politicians ever try to rewrite the past, right? Right?? Luckily we have recording devices to make it just a little bit harder.

Chapter 8
Boxer (a horse)

"What victory?" said Boxer. His knees were bleeding, he had lost a shoe and split his hoof, and a dozen pellets had lodged themselves in his hind leg.

"What victory, comrade? Have we not driven the enemy off our soil— the sacred soil of Animal Farm?"

"But they have destroyed the windmill. And we had worked on it for two years!"

"What matter? We will build another windmill. We will build six windmills if we feel like it. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground that we stand upon. And now— thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon— we have won every inch of it back again!"

"Then we have won back what we had before," said Boxer.

"That is our victory," said Squealer. (8.26-8.33)

Squealer can make black into white, and he can also make "not being utterly destroyed" into "victory." But we still think that having to take our shoes off at the airport means that the terrorists have already won.

Chapter 9
Squealer (a pig)

Here Squealer's demeanour suddenly changed. He fell silent for a moment, and his little eyes darted suspicious glances from side to side before he proceeded. (9.27)

Uh oh. We're pretty sure this is a sign that it's about to get clever up in here—and indeed, it does. Squealer manages to convince everyone that Boxer was just carted off to the vet, rather than to the glue boiler. Nice. We could use that kind of skill next time we break curfew.

Chapter 10

Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, when Jones's expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except Squealer's lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better. The animals found the problem insoluble; in any case, they had little time for speculating on such things now. (10.6)

If Squealer is clever enough to come up with figures that make everything look great, it's too bad that he can't figure out how to actually make things better. (To be fair, it probably doesn't take much to fool these animals.)

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