The birds did not understand Snowball's long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD, was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters (3.10, 3.11)
Big words bad, small words good: it's easier to understand rules when they're simple, but simple rules tend to gloss over the complexities of human society. Like, "don't tell lies" is all well and good—right up until your best friend asks if you like her haircut.
At the Meetings Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the sheep. Of late the sheep had taken to bleating "Four legs good, two legs bad" both in and out of season, and they often interrupted the Meeting with this. It was noticed that they were especially liable to break into "Four legs good, two legs bad" at crucial moments in Snowball's speeches. (5.8)
"It was noticed"—LOL, Orwell. In other words, Napoleon has trained the sheep to ignore Snowball's clever and probably half-decent ideas to bleat his simplistic slogan over and over. They probably watch a lot of cable news.
At last the day came when Snowball's plans were completed. At the Meeting on the following Sunday the question of whether or not to begin work on the windmill was to be put to the vote. When the animals had assembled in the big barn, Snowball stood up and, though occasionally interrupted by bleating from the sheep, set forth his reasons for advocating the building of the windmill. Then Napoleon stood up to reply. He said very quietly that the windmill was nonsense and that he advised nobody to vote for it, and promptly sat down again; he had spoken for barely thirty seconds, and seemed almost indifferent as to the effect he produced. At this Snowball sprang to his feet, and shouting down the sheep, who had begun bleating again, broke into a passionate appeal in favour of the windmill. (5.13)
Brain Snack: this is almost literally what happened during the Party Congress in 1927: when opposition leaders tried to speak in front of the Communist Party, Stalin's supporters shouted them down. Just like sheep.
Some of the pigs themselves, however, were more articulate. Four young porkers in the front row uttered shrill squeals of disapproval, and all four of them sprang to their feet and began speaking at once. But suddenly the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and the pigs fell silent and sat down again. Then the sheep broke out into a tremendous bleating of "Four legs good, two legs bad!" which went on for nearly a quarter of an hour and put an end to any chance of discussion. (5.17)
We can't say we've ever tried, but it does seem like having a rational political conversation with sheep would be difficult. Kind of like talking politics with you crazy step-uncle. (We know you've got one.)
Once again the animals were conscious of a vague uneasiness. Never to have any dealings with human beings, never to engage in trade, never to make use of money– had not these been among the earliest resolutions passed at that first triumphant Meeting after Jones was expelled? All the animals remembered passing such resolutions: or at least they thought that they remembered it. The four young pigs who had protested when Napoleon abolished the Meetings raised their voices timidly, but they were promptly silenced by a tremendous growling from the dogs. Then, as usual, the sheep broke into "Four legs good, two legs bad!" and the momentary awkwardness was smoothed over. (6.7)
The animals aren't clever or smart enough to remember the early revolution confidently, so it's easy for Napoleon to twist the situation around. Ha. We'd like to see him try that in a crowd full of smartphone camera users.
Frightened though they were, some of the animals might possibly have protested, but at this moment the sheep set up their usual bleating of "Four legs good, two legs bad," which went on for several minutes and put an end to the discussion. (7.36)
We get the feeling Orwell would have liked the word "sheeple," even if it tends to be used by slightly kooky conspiracy nuts.
Clover (a horse)
As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears. If she could have spoken her thoughts; it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion. (7.30)
"If she could have spoken"—but she can't. She doesn't have the words. In other news, stay in school, Shmoopers.
Boxer (a horse)
I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our farm. It must be due to some fault in ourselves. The solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings. (7.28)
Poor Boxer. We feel sorry for him, but we also want to tell him not to be such a dummy. He's strong enough to overthrow the humans; he'd be strong enough to kick some pig butt, too. Unfortunately, once he gets an idea in his head—like, that he's better off after the revolution—he can't get it out.
But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of-
"Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!"
It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse. (10.13, 10.14, 10.15)
Second verse, same as the first. This is the end of Animal Farm and the return of Manor Farm. We'd like to blame the pigs—but we can't help feeling the sheep are partly to blame, too. And we think Orwell probably agrees with us.
Squealer (a pig)
One day in early summer Squealer ordered the sheep to follow him, and led them out to a piece of waste ground at the other end of the farm, which had become overgrown with birch saplings. The sheep spent the whole day there browsing at the leaves under Squealer's supervision. In the evening he returned to the farmhouse himself, but, as it was warm weather, told the sheep to stay where they were. It ended by their remaining there for a whole week, during which time the other animals saw nothing of them. Squealer was with them for the greater part of every day. He was, he said, teaching them to sing a new song, for which privacy was needed. (10.8)
Not a new song—a new motto. After bleating "four legs good, two legs bad" over and over, no wonder it takes them a whole week to learn a new phrase—even if only one word is different.