Character Appreciation: Snowball
'Four legs good, two legs bad.'
Not every story has a happy ending, and not all incredible characters are victorious. In the case of this particular farm pig, this could not be more true. His story does not stretch the entirety of George Orwell’s novella nor does he stand out as purely good in his time within the pages but that does not mean his part in the plot should be dismissed.
Animal Farm is not short of honourable characters, from the brave hens who lead an ultimately failed rebellion against the cruel domination of the pigs, to the likes of horses like Clover. Loyal, kind and hard-working Boxer may actually deserve an appreciation dedication all to himself! However, Snowball’s characteristics and deviation from his fellow pigs are far more intriguing and truly must be considered first.
Snowball’s backstory before the novella’s opening consists of growing discontentment of living on a farm under the control of a drunkard human who, as all the animals believe, should not be allowed to continue his neglect. Propelled into powerful positions of leadership at the death of boar Old Major, Snowball and his friend Napoleon step up together and rally the animals to stage a revolt against the farmer. They are successful in driving the farmer away and bringing the farm into a new era for them all.
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Animal Farm is not short of honourable characters, from the brave hens who lead an ultimately failed rebellion against the cruel domination of the pigs, to the likes We should spare a moment to recognise that whilst Snowball demonstrates early on his resilience and determination to do what he believes to be right, he is not alone in this notion. Credit where credit it due, he is raised to believe in a better world on their farm and he required the power and conviction of others to revolutionise their home. However, it is what follows, as the farm instigates a new way of life and seeks clarity on how to proceed, that set Snowball apart.
Snowball has many talents, but one in particular can be claimed to be his downfall – his way with words and his ability to sway ‘the people’. He was admired and believed by the other animals from the way he spoke. His rousing words conveyed his intelligence, determination, and most importantly his compassion. Other animals put their trust in him when he spoke and given more time it is implied he would have won the support of the farm to be the solo leader. It is this fact which makes him a genuine threat to greedy co-leader Napoleon, who not only disagrees with Snowball’s stance on equality for all animals but also is profoundly angry that he stands in his way.
The question of whether Snowball’s vision for the future or his ideologies are morally sound or void of sense cannot be completely answered: he is not portrayed as a perfect character but rather one who would rather see change that will benefit the whole farm than garner the privileges himself. It is this fact which incites respect: no matter how his beliefs would have impacted, the motivation behind it was honourable. This is a stark contrast to his ex-friend Napoleon whose actions and beliefs are purely selfish, self-seeking and prejudiced. Two young pigs who were raised with revolution in their hearts proved that those hearts will not always stay on the same path. Napoleon embraced newfound powers which were now within reach, Snowball readied himself to continue the revolution as the world was not yet ‘right’.
When an individual gains the trust of those less intelligent or without the ability to comprehend difficult concepts, it is tempting to use their aptitudes to your advantage – as Napoleon later goes on to do once he has Snowball chased from the farm. He seeks to manipulate in order to establish a mentality in which pigs are the superior being. Snowball would have physically benefitted from this, but he instead chooses to simplify his message so those less able would still be able to comprehend. He proposes that the farm animals build a windmill in order to generate electricity, which he suggests will ultimately lead to a three-day workweek. He also comes up with a variety of other schemes and groups aimed at improving the animals’ lives and education status, and he also promotes spreading news of the rebellion far and wide. He is not void of elements of selfishness, though, as he stays quiet when Napoleon’s handiwork offers him additional comforts. His inactivity is a stain, but his actions are positive.
His weaknesses aside, the leader the farm deserved after its neglect was Snowball. His intelligence is clear from the outset, as he is the best writer among the pigs. Orwell also shows, subtly, that Snowball is willing to work hard in a way Napoleon is not. For example, it is Snowball who climbs the ladder and paints the Commandments on the side of the barn. Snowball also creates Animal Farm's flag and energetically organizes the many animal committees. His path to leadership was clear and logical, and he took the role very seriously, going as far as trying to educate himself on good military action by finding and reading a book on Julius Caesar’s campaigns. He uses what he learned to organize an effective defence when Farmer Jones and the humans attack Animal Farm. Without his clever strategy, Animal Farm might have been defeated almost as soon as it began.
It is easy to imagine that had Snowball's intelligence, ability to plan, and dedication won the day, Animal Farm would have become a much better place.