Getting to Know the Tyrant – Ethan, Grade 9 IB

This literary essay is written by one of my grade 9 IB students. In his thesis, he has clearly stated the reasons why Napoleon can be classified as a tyrant. He has included very clear quotes from the novel and provided accurate explanations and conclusions. Finally, he makes a connection to the real world in his concluding paragraph.


Getting to Know the Tyrant

In the book Animal Farm by George Orwell, the animals of Manor Farm force Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm, to leave. The rebellion, under the leadership of the pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, is successful, and the animals decide to manage the farm by themselves. Snowball takes more of the leadership in the beginning, playing the role of a wise leader. However, unfortunately, he is chased away by the loyal dogs of Napoleon, who puts an end to the animals’ happiness. From then on, Napoleon plays a role similar to that of a tyrant, making all the decisions of the farm by himself, scapegoating to cover up his failures, and forcing or misleading the animals to be his zealous adherents.

The first reason why Napoleon can be seen as a tyrant is the fact that he has the power of putting all his decisions into effect immediately without considering others’ views. Debates or votes are not seen as a necessity, so they do not occur. He is the one who makes all the decisions. For example, “[o]ne Sunday morning when the animals [assemble] to receive their orders, Napoleon announce[s]  that he [has] decided upon a new policy.” The animals’ opinions on his new policy are insignificant, and Napoleon only needs to declare and dictate the new policy. Furthermore, when Napoleon announces that the pigs would wake up an hour later and have bigger food rations, while the animals would have to work on Sunday afternoons, he does not consider other animals’ reactions to his plans and decisions. Therefore, his power of implementing his plans instantly disregarding animals’ opinions hints at his role as a dictator.

Apart from his unlimited power, Napoleon scapegoats others for his failures or, in other words, blames all his mistakes on Snowball. A scapegoat is crucial to the success of tyrants since they certainly make incorrect decisions from time to time. If the failure is always considered to be the tyrant’s fault, loyal supporters will turn away, which can undermine the power of the tyrant. In the story, the inciting conflict, which is the obliterated windmill, is entirely blamed on Snowball. Next, stolen corn, broken eggs, and lost objects are all the fault of Snowball regardless of the fact that Napoleon’s ignorance and selfishness is the cause of all these horrible failures. Napoleon’s successful scapegoating becomes evident when “[c]uriously enough, [animals] [go] on believing that Snowball had thrown the key of the store-shed down the well after it was found under a sack of meal,” and ultimately “[w]henever anything [goes] wrong it [becomes] usual to attribute it to Snowball.” This shows that despite the cause of the problem, it is always Snowball that is accused, leaving Napoleon free of responsibility or blame.

Another critical factor that renders Napoleon as a dictator is his use of force and propaganda to turn the animals into loyal followers of his. He is so successful that hardly any of them disobeys or disagrees with him. The animals never speak up either due to fear or ignorance. For instance, when Napoleon declares that interaction with human beings would occur, even though “… some animals [are] conscious of a vague uneasiness,” they do not show any signs of complaint. Others go along with whatever their tyrant demands, thinking that he is always right and are easily convinced that whatever Napoleon declares is true. An example in the story is when Napoleon constantly changes the Seven Commandments. Although some of the animals clearly remember what the commandments stated, they continue to be tricked by Napoleon and believe nothing has ever been changed. What’s more, even Boxer comes up with the motto of “Napoleon is always right!” which is quite unjustified, as he is wrong from time to time. Therefore, Napoleon, just like other dictators, has many loyal, faithful supporters, who are either afraid to speak up or are ignorant of the truth.  

As a result, Napoleon’s unlimited power, his tendency to scapegoat, and his loyal supporters can justify regarding him as a tyrant. This kind of tyranny and dictatorship still occurs in our world today in several countries. The dictators have the authority to put any law they want into effect, be it right or wrong, and just like the animals in the story, the majority of the citizens are ignorant and disregard the decisions made by the tyrant, which in almost all cases, are meant to benefit the tyrant and harm the people.