After celebrating their so-called victory against Frederick, the animals begin building a new windmill. Their efforts are again led by Boxer who, despite his split hoof, insists on working harder and getting the windmill started before he retires.
Food supplies continue to diminish, but Squealer explains that they actually have more food and better lives than they have ever known. The four sows litter 31 piglets; Napoleon, the father of all of them, orders a schoolroom to be built for their education. Meanwhile, more and more of the animals’ rations are reduced while the pigs continue to grow fatter. Animal Farm is eventually proclaimed a Republic, and Napoleon is elected President.
Once his hoof heals, Boxer works as hard as he can at building the windmill — until the day he collapses because of a lung ailment. After he is helped back to his stall, Squealer informs them that Napoleon has sent for the veterinarian at Willingdon to treat him. When the van arrives to take Boxer to the hospital, however, Benjamin reads its side and learns that Boxer is actually being taken to a knacker, or glue-boiler. Clover screams to Boxer to escape, but the old horse is too weak to kick his way out of the van, which drives away. Boxer is never seen again. To placate the animals, Squealer tells them that Boxer was not taken to a knacker but that the veterinarian had bought the knacker’s truck and had not yet repainted the words on its side. The animals are relieved when they hear this. The chapter ends with a grocer’s van delivering a crate of whisky to the pigs, who drink it all and do not arise until after noon the following day.
Boxer’s death in this chapter marks him as the most pathetic of Orwell’s creations. Completely brainwashed by Napoleon, he lives (and dies) for the good of the farm — a farm whose leader sells him to a knacker the moment he becomes unfit for work. His naivete in looking forward to his retirement and pension fulfills the promise of the white line down his face, which Orwell tells the reader in Chapter 1 gives him a “somewhat stupid appearance.” Even when stricken and unable to move, Boxer can only consider what his ailment will mean to the windmill, and his pipe dream of retiring with Benjamin and learning “the remaining twenty-two letters of the alphabet” is as far-flung as Snowball’s utopia and Moses’ Sugarcandy Mountain.
The scene in which Boxer is taken to his death is notable for its depiction of a powerless and innocent figure caught in the gears of unforgiving tyranny. (Note that the van’s driver wears a bowler hat — a symbol throughout the novel of cruel humanity.) Although Boxer tries to kick his way out of the van, his previously incredible strength has been — through days of mindless hard work in the service of his tormentors — reduced to nothing. Only in his last moments does Boxer begin to understand what is happening to him, but the knowledge comes too late for anything to change.
This chapter also continues to display Squealer’s manipulation of language for the pigs’ political ends. In his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language” (1946), Orwell discusses the many ways that our language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish,” but also argues that “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts.” In other words, any corruption of the language can (and will) have a corrupting influence on the ways in which we think about the very things that language struggles to describe. This process is illustrated in Squealer’s announcements to the animals about their shortages of food: “For the time being,” he explains, “it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations.” His use of “readjustment” instead of “reduction” is a subtle attempt to quell the animals’ complaints about their stomachs — “reduction” is a word implying less of something, but “readjustment” implies a shifting of what is already there. (Thus one hears politicians speak of “the need to increase funding of government programs” instead of “tax hikes” or the invasion of another country as a “police action” instead of a “war.”) In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell contends that such euphemisms are used because they prevent listeners from conjuring mental pictures of what is being described, which in turn lessens the amount of horror listeners can feel when considering the topic.