“What methods does Napoleon use in order to gain absolute power and why is he successful?”
In the novel Animal Farm, Napoleon uses cunning, treachery, propaganda and a number of other skills to gain, create and maintain power. His efforts to manipulate with lies and powerful vocabulary – in the form of Squealer – are successful, as they confuse the simple-minded animals. When the animals protest, Squealer’s eloquence, combined with the threat of violence makes the animals stop questioning and believe in Napoleon’s leadership. The loyalty and trust the animals have in Napoleon make it easy for him to take advantage of them and rise to absolute power.
One of the most important methods Napoleon uses in Animal Farm is propaganda and the spreading of lies. Because Napoleon is not a very good speaker, he uses Squealer, as well as the sheep, to manipulate and convince the other animals whenever they have doubts. With Snowball his competition as leader, Napoleon struggled to make speeches that successfully portrayed his ideas. So, Napoleon trained the sheep to break into their favourite slogan of ‘four legs good, too legs bad’ whenever Napoleon felt the animals needed reassurance. The sheep, however, were not enough support for Napoleon in his efforts to gain control. His main ally was fellow pig Squealer, whose eloquence and ability to ‘turn black into white’ proved the biggest aid in fooling the other animals. With Squealer by his side, it became easy for Napoleon to get exactly what he wanted at the expense of the other animals, who believed the entire time that everything that happened was in their best interest.
For example, at the beginning of Animal Farm, the three pigs Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer start to become greedy by taking all the milk and apples for themselves and they justify this act by saying it’s for the common good of the entire farm. Squealer twists the truth and uses statistics to convince the other animals that it is necessary for the pigs to have these things because “the whole management and organization of the farm depends on” the pigs. The animals soon come to believe that the pigs are actually being selfless, and not at all greedy. Throughout the novel, Napoleon broke several of the seven commandments of Animalism. When this happened and animals became suspicious, Napoleon had the commandments altered by adding extra words that would make his actions guiltless.
When the pigs moved into the farmhouse and took up residence there, the animals became concerned at the news they were sleeping in beds – which they believed one of the commandments to forbid. When the animals went to check the seven commandments inscribed on the barn wall, it now read “No animal shall sleep in a bed _with sheets_”. Although no one remembered the commandment had mentioned sheets and the animals were quite puzzled, they accepted these changes to be true. This is an example of Napoleon re-writing history to gain privileges and justify his dictatorial role. He managed to change facts and make the animals believe because they could not remember or think for themselves.
Another method Napoleon used to gain control was fear tactics. Napoleon threatened the animals in various ways, both physically and verbally without them realising.
The team of vicious dogs that Napoleon had trained to be his “secret police” were used as an easy way for him to scare the animals on the farm. Whenever another animal questioned Napoleon or even wanted to stand up to him, the simple presence of the dogs would leave them silent and terrified. The mixture of Squealer’s strong words and the growls of his three-dog team were so threatening that the animals would accept any explanation or lie without questioning. For those who even attempted to turn against Napoleon, there were severe punishments. Through the killings and show trials Napoleon eliminates anyone who is likely to threaten his leadership. The others who are killed have angered him in some way and he uses their death as a warning to the other animals not to disobey him.
The verbal threat that is made several times throughout the novel is mostly said by Squealer. He constantly threatened the animals that if they didn’t co-operate, “Jones would come back” and that thought alone scared them into doing anything Napoleon asked. The animals were constantly told how much better things were with Napoleon around and they were so terrified that Jones would come back and make their lives miserable. They did everything Napoleon wanted because they were fearful of the consequences and what would happen to the farm if they didn’t do as they were told.
Napoleon gained complete power through the exiling of Snowball and elimination of competition. When, early on, despite Napoleon’s efforts, Snowball managed to get most of the animals support on the matter of the windmill, Napoleon knew Snowball was a threat to his position. If Napoleon did not do something, Snowball would soon become the unquestionable leader of Animal Farm. So, he god rid of this danger. Using the dogs he had trained in secret, he banished Snowball from the farm. Without Snowball in the picture, Napoleon became the undisputed leader. During the novel Napoleon would turn every situation to his advantage, regardless of whether it hurt others or not.
For example, when the windmill topples, he tells the animals that Snowball is the cause and turns every animal against him. From then on he makes Snowball a scapegoat. Whenever something goes wrong, it is immediately blamed on Snowball. This makes the animals feel that they are lucky to have Napoleon instead. It is also an easy way out for Napoleon as it keeps the animals from finding out where the blame really lies. This secures Napoleon’s leadership position as he will not be blamed for anything that goes wrong and this creates the illusion that Napoleon’s ruling is perfect, making him indispensable. Through killing any animals that appose him or threaten his leadership role on the farm, Napoleon strengthens his power over the animals.
Napoleon was able to gain such control because he and the other pigs were a lot more intelligent than the other animals on the farm. Because the animals could not read or write, they were very naïve and Napoleon took advantage of their trust. The animals so desperately wanted the idea of Animalism to work that their commitment and loyalty blinded them to what was really happening. Napoleon’s charisma and intelligence fooled the animals into believing everything he said, although their lives were changing for the worse everyday.
In the novel Animal Farm, Napoleon uses any means necessary to fool the naïve animals surrounding him. His intelligence and charisma made it easy for him to use propaganda, sneakiness and fear tactics to manipulate his way into power and maintain control over the farm and animals. In the end of the novel, the animals ended up in basically the same position they started because of Napoleon’s ‘reign of terror’.