Curriculum Vital

    The Education Umbrella Guide to Animal Farm 
    Chapter seven summary and analysis

    This chapter summary and analysis are part of the Education Umbrella Guide to Animal Farm, which contains a summary and analysis of every chapter, as well as character profiles, clasroom activities and an introduction to George Orwell's life and work. 

    Chapter summary

    The animals work hard to rebuild the windmill, despite the freezing weather. They believe that the windmill fell down because of Snowball, not any structural flaws, but decide nevertheless to build the walls three feet thicker.

    Food becomes scarce and the animals come close to starvation. Napoleon conceals the lack of food, and tricks Mr Whymper into thinking that the farm is doing well. Mr Whymper then reports to the outside world that there is no food shortage on Animal Farm.

    Napoleon orders the hens to surrender their eggs, which will then be traded for grain. The hens refuse and go on strike. Napoleon orders their rations be stopped and any animal who feeds the hens be executed. After five days the hens relent, though nine of them die from hunger.

    Meanwhile, the paranoia about Snowball intensifies. Every problem on the farm is attributed to him, and Napoleon claims that he has been coming to the farm secretly at night. Squealer then announces that Snowball has become an agent of Frederick on Pinchfield Farm and that he was an agent of Jones all along. He claims that they have found documents that prove that Snowball deliberately tried to defeat the animals in the Battle of the Cowshed, and that it was only thanks to Napoleon that the animals were victorious. The other animals are at first puzzled, but Squealer eventually convinces them.

    Four days later Napoleon summons the animals to a meeting. Four pigs are brought forward and confess that they have been in contact with Snowball and that he (Snowball) has admitted to being an agent of Jones. The dogs then kill the pigs. Other animals confess to similar crimes, all involving Snowball, and are all brutally executed.

    The other animals are horrified by the pile of bodies. Boxer decides that the fault must be with themselves, and resolves to work harder. The animals sing 'Beasts of England' to boost their morale, but as they finish, Squealer appears and tells them that by order of Napoleon the song is now banned. Instead, Minimus has composed a different song, called 'Animal Farm'. The animals sing it, but do not find it as moving as 'Beasts of England'.

    Analysis of key passages and events

    The Harvest of Sorrow – The animals go hungry

    In January food fell short. The corn ration was drastically reduced, and it was announced that an extra potato ration would be issued to make up for it. Then it was discovered that the greater part of the potato crop had been frosted in the clamps, which had not been covered thickly enough. The potatoes had become soft and discoloured, and only a few were edible. For days at a time the animals had nothing to eat but chaff and mangels. Starvation seemed to stare them in the face.

    In 1928 Stalin launched his Five-Year Plan for collectivisation of farms and increased industrial output. In 1932-33 this radical overhaul of countryside society, combined with harsh weather ('a bitter winter'), led to millions of deaths from starvation. In Ukraine, the main farming region of the USSR and where the policies were enforced with particular brutality, this famine is known as Holodomor — the 'killing by hunger'. In his definitive history of the 'terror-famine', The Harvest of Sorrow, the historian Robert Conquest writes:

    Fifty years ago... the Ukraine and the Ukrainian Cossack and other areas to its east — a great stretch of territory with some forty million inhabitants — was like one vast Belsen. A quarter of the rural population, men, women and children, lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength to bury their families or neighbours. At the same time, (as at Belsen), well-fed squads of police or party officials supervised the victims.

    We will never know the exact casualty figures because the Soviet authorities repressed information and did not allow outsiders to visit the worst affected areas. Conquest estimates that in the western Soviet Union at least seven million peasants died of starvation, of whom more than five million were in Ukraine. In Animal Farm the humans spread rumours that the animals have resorted to cannibalism. This, too, was based on reality.

    Read the full summary and analysis of this and every chapter, as well as character profiles, classroom activities and more, in our guide.

    Further reading