Orwell’s Animal Farm is an allegory of the situation in Russia during the communist years and a satire of the political situation at that time. The story is about political ideals and what can happen to them, as well as what happens to ordinary people when other people have power over them, and what happens to people when they get complete power over others as shown in the behaviour of the pigs. Orwell chose to create a character that would represent the common people of Russia at the time of the Revolution. This character was Boxer, who not only represented the Russian peasant, but also the idealized worker, someone ordinary, decent and totally necessary to the success of any social system. He is the type of person who is a revolution, is inevitably exploited and it is this that comes through in the story.
Boxer’s name suggests a strong but stupid animal, which proved to be true, as he was unable to read or write: “Boxer could not get beyond the letter D” because of his short memory. Orwell points this out to the reader to warn him of the danger of illiteracy in society. Despite this lack of intelligence, however, Boxer plays a very important role in the success of the farm. Many things would not have been accomplished, such as the building of the windmills or the general farm work, had it not been for Boxer. The pigs depended on him for his seemingly never-ending source of strength: “nothing could have been achieved without Boxer, whose strength seemed equal to that of all the rest of the animals put together”. It is this strength and simplicity of the lower working class that was exploited by Stalin in real life.
The pigs also used him to persuade the other animals to not question their authority or the decisions that they made. Boxer does this subconsciously by the use of his own mottos and as he puts them into action: “Squealer made excellent speeches on the joy of service and the dignity of labour, but the other animals found more inspiration in Boxer’s strength and his never-failing cry of ‘I will work harder!'” But by doing this Boxer is unwittingly acting as Napoleon’s tool and is encouraging his dictatorship. The other animals on the farm follow Boxer’s lead because of their respect for him, Orwell highlights this to remind the reader that everyone has a responsibility as a role model for others and that this will affect their behaviour.
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Although it may seem, on the surface, as if Boxer is purely fanatical about work, as he continually repeated his motto “I will work harder”, an underlying reason may be that it enables him to avoid making decisions for himself. Another motto Boxer frequently used that served the same purpose was: “Napoleon is always right” and the pigs used this to quash opposition to Napoleon’s rule, even after Boxer’s death. It was this overgeneralization in Boxer’s mind that would cancel out any disagreements he may have had in his mind and made it dull. These excuses for not thinking continually stopped Boxer from seeing the reality of the situation on the farm and it blunted his sensitivity to his surroundings. In the end, it left Boxer was a robotic being because his mind had been left to waste away. But it was only by his maxims that Boxer was able to survive the hardship of the farm, for to him they seemed to be “a sufficient answer to all problems”.
More often than not when Boxer was faced with a situation that he didn’t understand his solution was to work. It was a security blanket to him, something to lean on no matter what he encountered. An example of his dependency on work is shown after the confessions and executions: “I do not understand it…The solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings”. A Boxer cannot face the future without work and without the ability to work he faces death. This is just so with the Russian peasants. They would seek their work in times of trouble, as it was the one thing that was sure. Later on, Stalin like Napoleon cultivated this and used it for his own purposes.
At the beginning of Animal Farm Boxer and Clover are shown to be the personification of the normal, everyday married couple. Towards the other animal’s Boxer is kind and gentle, he even shows a caring nature towards the man whom he kicked down, but this eventually changes as time goes on. This change in his nature is shown when he pinned one of Napoleon’s dogs to the ground after they had turned on him: “Boxer looked at Napoleon to know whether he should crush the dog to death or let it go.” Boxer is prepared to take away a life in an instant and without remorse. Orwell shows us this change in Boxer’s nature so that we might see how much influence the pigs have had on his character, as well as the way in which work has blunted his sensitivity to his surroundings and to others. Also, the fact that Boxer looked to Napoleon to instruct him at this point shows the extent that he will go to if asked by Napoleon, but he doesn’t realise that he himself is a target.
Also, at this point, Orwell is revealing the potential power of Boxer, which was shown to us earlier in the book before democracy had ended, in the Battle of Cowshed. Boxer’s might is shown to us for an instant when he disagrees with Snowball and kicks over the man. The importance of education is revealed to us at this moment, for if the only Boxer could read he would be a formidable opposition to Napoleon, unfortunately, though his memory lets him down time and again. Boxer’s relationship with Benjamin is that of a silent friendship: “the two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small paddock beyond the orchard, grazing side by side and never speaking”. Their devotion to each other never wavered. Boxer had the same affection for him at his death, as he did at the beginning of the story. But the difference in their natures is obvious.
Boxer is trusting and believes in others and up to the executions he even believes in the morality of the other animals. Unfortunately, Boxer’s trusting nature becomes his downfall. Benjamin, on the other hand, trusts no one and believes in no one except for Boxer and himself. Another difference between these two is that Boxer talks in a simple manner which reflects his character, whereas Benjamin often talks in riddles if he talks at all suggesting a mysterious, complex and unknown mind and character: “When asked whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only “Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey,” and the others had to be content with this cryptic answer”. Benjamin represents the intellectual of the time. He knows so much more about the truth than the others and yet he refuses to accept or acknowledge it.
Boxer’s death is the most moving scene in the book. Orwell has formed a sentimental attachment between the powerful character of Boxer and the reader. Therefore, the reader becomes emotionally involved with Boxer as the injustice of how he is treated is shown so openly. The sheer scale of the corruption of the pigs and their total self-interestedness is revealed in this chapter. Orwell chooses to express this by using irony and the naivety of Boxer’s character, an example of this is after he has fallen: “I had only one month to go in any case … to my retirement. And perhaps, as Benjamin is growing old too, they will let him retire at the same time and be a companion to me.” Of course, as the story unfolds, we see that there will be no retirement for Boxer or the rest of the animals in the future. It was for the pigs that he had devoted his life to the cause, and it would be because of them that he would die.
Orwell constructed this situation so that the figure of Boxer and the reader’s attachment to him clarify the reader’s hatred for injustice; this is the effect that Orwell seeks. Also, it gives us an insight into the lives of the Russian peasants of the time. They were being worked to their deaths and the promises of a better future that they clung to, were empty. After Boxer’s death, the reader is informed that “The pigs have acquired the money to buy themselves another case of whiskey”. The reader immediately understands that the source of this money is from the sale of Boxer’s body even if the animals (apart from Benjamin) do not, and we begin to hate the pigs for the animals, as they are blind to what is happening. Orwell adds this point to show the pigs total lack of regard for life and the lengths that they will go to, to satisfy their alcoholic addiction.
It also ironic as it causes the reader to think back to the time of Jones and the consequences of his addiction to alcohol. The allegory is that Stalin was no different to the Tsar before him. Nothing had changed; he was still using the people to serve his own purposes. We see that Old Major’s warnings are to come to pass. The irony is that when Boxer was alive, he believed that he was working towards a better, more comfortable future for the animals. In reality, his life of work had strengthened the dictatorship of Napoleon and had had the effect of making life far worse for the animals than they had ever known. For the windmill which Boxer had devoted so much of his time was used for the pigs, not the working animals as he had been fooled into thinking: “The windmill had been successfully completed at last … the windmill, however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power.
It was used for milling corn, and brought in a handsome profit … but the luxuries of which Snowball had once taught the animals to dream … were no longer talked about … the truest happiness, he (Napoleon) said, lay in working hard and living frugally”. Boxer had lived his life for a lie. His life was used against the animals rather than for them as he had always thought. In conclusion, Orwell uses Boxer’s character to illustrate the reality, the harshness of the life of the Russian peasant. Not only this, but their determination and their overwhelming sense of loyalty to the Russian Revolution and to their leaders. This is the allegory’s underlying meaning of the character’s role.
Orwell’s overall purpose in his treatment of the character of Boxer is to firstly arouse the reader’s sympathies for him by making him strong, honest, loyal and devoted to the cause of Animalism. Although he is not very clever and it irritates the reader that he simply accepts everything the pigs tell him without question, we become attached to his character. Secondly, Orwell cleverly converts the reader’s feelings of affection for Boxer into anger against the pigs, and the injustice that they personify, by the way in which they so cruelly dispose of him. It is for these reasons that Boxer is vital to the structure of the reader’s sympathies in the story. This is what makes him such an important character.