Study Guide

Animal Farm Violence

By George Orwell

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Chapter 1
Old Major (a pig)

"And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones. I am twelve years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the natural life of a pig. But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end. You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within a year. To that horror we all must come—cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone. Even the horses and the dogs have no better fate. You, Boxer, the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds. As for the dogs, when they grow old and toothless, Jones ties a brick round their necks and drowns them in the nearest pond." (1.10)

Um. Suddenly that BLT we were planning on having for lunch doesn't sound so appealing. (To be fair, we never drown our old dogs—we just take them to a vet to be put down… oh. Hm.)

Chapter 4
Boxer (a horse)

"He is dead," said Boxer sorrowfully. "I had no intention of doing that. I forgot that I was wearing iron shoes. Who will believe that I did not do this on purpose?" (4.10)

At least some of the violence is accidental: Boxer didn't mean to kill the stable-boy. But who's going to believe him? (Also—it's easy to believe that Boxer didn't mean to kill a boy; it's a lot harder to believe that Tsar Nicholas II and his kids weren't executed on purpose. That's kind of the definition of an execution.)

Without halting for an instant, Snowball flung his fifteen stone against Jones's legs. Jones was hurled into a pile of dung and his gun flew out of his hands. But the most terrifying spectacle of all was Boxer, rearing up on his hind legs and striking out with his great iron-shod hoofs like a stallion. His very first blow took a stable-lad from Foxwood on the skull and stretched him lifeless in the mud. At the sight, several men dropped their sticks and tried to run. Panic overtook them, and the next moment all the animals together were chasing them round and round the yard. They were gored, kicked, bitten, trampled on. There was not an animal on the farm that did not take vengeance on them after his own fashion. Even the cat suddenly leapt off a roof onto a cowman's shoulders and sank her claws in his neck, at which he yelled horribly. (4.8)

Yikes. No wonder the pigs start oppressing the animals almost immediately; Boxer sounds pretty scary. But, really, all the animals do—the only weapons humans have, really, is their brains. (Although, sheesh, what did the cowman ever do to the cat?)

Chapter 5
Snowball (a pig)

He was running as only a pig can run, but the dogs were close on his heels. Suddenly he slipped and it seemed certain that they had him. Then he was up again, running faster than ever, then the dogs were gaining on him again. One of them all but closed his jaws on Snowball's tail, but Snowball whisked it free just in time. Then he put on an extra spurt and, with a few inches to spare, slipped through a hole in the hedge and was seen no more. (5.14)

Apparently pigs can run fast? Who knew. Anyway, this is the first instance of animal-on-animal violence—but it's just about the last animal-on-pig violence we see, since pigs quickly make themselves bulletproof with their escort of attack dogs. Hey, if you can't beat them… hire some dogs to do it for you.

Chapter 7

To the amazement of everybody, three of them [the dogs] flung themselves upon Boxer. Boxer saw them coming and put out his great hoof, caught a dog in mid-air, and pinned him to the ground. The dog shrieked for mercy and the other two fled with their tails between their legs. Boxer looked at Napoleon to know whether he should crush the dog to death or let it go. Napoleon appeared to change countenance, and sharply ordered Boxer to let the dog go, whereat Boxer lifted his hoof, and the dog slunk away, bruised and howling. (7.24)

After the dogs get a taste for blood during the first of the show trials, they turn on Boxer—but Boxer quickly puts a stop to that. So why doesn't he put a stop to Napoleon, too? Why does he let all this violence happen?

And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon's feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones. (7.26)

Well, here's your descriptive horror: Orwell doesn't linger on the action, but he lingers on the result—the visual (pile of bodies) and olfactory (the smell of blood). Gross.

Napoleon (a pig)

When they had finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess. (7.25)

Yikes. You would have thought Orwell would spend a little longer with this, but instead he just tosses it out there: "the dogs promptly tore their throats out." It's as though he wants us to experience this violence as shocking—and shockingly matter-of-fact.

Chapter 8

This time they did not heed the cruel pellets that swept over them like hail. It was a savage, bitter battle. The men fired again and again, and, when the animals got to close quarters, lashed out with their sticks and their heavy boots. A cow, three sheep, and two geese were killed, and nearly everyone was wounded. Even Napoleon, who was directing operations from the rear, had the tip of his tail chipped by a pellet. But the men did not go unscathed either. Three of them had their heads broken by blows from Boxer's hoofs; another was gored in the belly by a cow's horn; another had his trousers nearly torn off by Jessie and Bluebell. (8.23)

Compared to being gored, having our pants pulled off doesn't sound so bad. Still, this is a brutal, bloody battle. The animals win—but it's not much of a victory.

They had won, but they were weary and bleeding. Slowly they began to limp back towards the farm. The sight of their dead comrades stretched upon the grass moved some of them to tears. (8.24)

Why only some of them? Are they just so used to violence and destruction that these dead bodies don't both them—as if they've been playing too much Halo?

Mr. Frederick

Moreover, terrible stories were leaking out from Pinchfield about the cruelties that Frederick practiced upon his animals. He had flogged an old horse to death, he starved his cows, he had killed a dog by throwing it into the furnace, he amused himself in the evenings by making cocks fight with splinters of razor-blade tied to their spurs. The animals' blood boiled with rage when they heard of these things being done to their comrades, and sometimes they clamoured to be allowed to go out in a body and attack Pinchfield Farm, drive out the humans, and set the animals free. (8.8)

Um. Is it just us, or are Frederick's cruelties almost exactly like what the pigs do to the animals? (Okay, we don't remember any razorblades, but there is the whole starving the hens and ripping out the throats of the pigs business.)

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