March INP Post #1: Character Analysis – Spotlight on Boxer

In George Orwell’s renowned book “Animal Farm”, which tells the tale of a farm taken over by its poorly treated animals, there is a character named Boxer – a horse – who poses as a model for hard work and loyalty. With the multitude of physically demanding jobs on the animal-run farm, Boxer has established two personal motifs that the self-proclaimed leader, Napoleon, encourages every animal to take to heart: “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.” Possessing bulging muscles that provide his gargantuan strength capable of matching an elephant’s, Boxer has lent many a helping hand (or hoof) in the construction of the windmill and ordinary farmwork in general. Besides taking on additional voluntary work after the normal working hours, he also wakes himself up earlier than any other animal to get more work done. Needless to say, Boxer is very devoted in contributing the maximum amount of effort he can provide to the development and prosperity of the farm. However, in the book, he can be interpreted as a symbol of innocence and naiveté.

Before this character analysis goes into the flaws of Boxer’s ideology and beliefs, let us first consider how he has changed throughout the progression of the plot. Physically, he has changed: as old age catches up to him, his once awe-inspiring strength deteriorates, finally collapsing with a damaged lung. However, when we go deeper than his appearance, his beliefs and dogma have not changed the slightest bit: until his end, he still vehemently believed that “Napoleon is always right”, revealing his childlike dependence on a powerful and seemingly all-knowing leader. Furthermore, he is also mentally wired to accomplish as much work as he can throughout the entire story, illustrated by his first motto “I will work harder.” In a sense, Boxer is both a “flat”(non-changing) and a “round” (changing) character, both changing and not changing in certain senses. However, in the context of the storyline, which revolves mainly around the ideology of Napoleon, one’s mindset is more important than one’s physical appearance, establishing Boxer as a “flat” character.

Boxer also provides us with a stunning example of a character who is extremely devoted to other animals’ well-being, not thinking about the potential consequences the workload he assumes unto himself could possess. In the book, George Orwell has cast Boxer as the somewhat “unintelligient” animal, proven by his inability to learn more than the first four letters of the alphabet. As soon as Boxer contacts Animalism, he throws himself into the cause, proving to be a valuable soldier in the Rebellion and struggles with humans seeking to regain control of the farm. Along with being a valuable soldier, he is a valuable worker, his massive strength finishing many jobs in little time. But what is his motivation for his strenuous daily work that leaves him worn-out and fatigued? The driving factor is his belief that all his efforts aid the expansion and prosperity of the farm.

However, Boxer’s devotion and unintelligience is “harvested” by the cruel pigs. Acknowledging that Boxer is a “hope” and a sort of “role model” that is holding the farm’s animals together (during the harsh winter days with little food, the animals looked up to Boxer, thinking his hard work will bring them more food), the pigs used him as an individual not only to influence the thoughts and decisions of others, but also help themselves achieve their goals. When the pigs issue an order and Boxer throws himself wholeheartedly into the cause, any doubts other animals secretly possessed about the justification of the decision instantly vanishes. In fact, I believe Boxer is even more effective than the propaganda-broadcaster Squealer: the animals believe that since Boxer is helping the farm in so many ways, his decisions must be justified and right. Alas, that is not always the case.

Old Major has previously warned Boxer that he was “disposable” towards the beginning of the book: “‘The very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will send you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the fox-hounds.'” When the animals take over, Boxer naïvely believes that that prospect is no longer tangible, that he will live out his old days in the small field set aside for retired animals, happily learning the rest of the alphabet. However, the pigs taking control only meant that he had a new species to fret about, although he couldn’t figure it out himself due to his unintelligience. When Boxer finally collapsed, I believe that the pigs saw Boxer as a depleted battery that is no longer of any use, with the possibility of driving other animals sad, lowering productivity. In other words, he was now useless. As the pigs send him to the knacker’s to be slaughtered, he served as an example of how dramatic the pig’s betrayal was, and to what extent their wickedness could stretch.

Now it’s time to analyze who Boxer represented in the Russian Revolution, an event that this book’s plot was modeled upon. Boxer didn’t represent a particular individual; he represented the exploited Russian working-class (proletariat) during the time of the Russian Revolution. Boxer suffered from the same flaw Orwell had identified as a weakness in the proletariats: an inability to think deeply about their current situations and failure to recognize even the most obvious and glaring instances of government corruption. Boxer was not smart enough to ponder the possibility that Napoleon was corrupt, and that he was simply being exploited; the proletariats were too brainwashed to comprehend their current situations. Boxer’s work and dedication was a force that held Animal Farm together; the proletariats’ mostly invisible labor held the Communist nation together economically and financially. In the Russian Revolution, the proletariats were also viewed by the leaders as “disposable” people, since there were so many of them and they were so easily brainwashed with Communist ideology, translating to many people working for the benefit of the leaders. It is striking how similar Boxer is to the proletariats; as mentioned earlier, he was viewed as “disposable” as well, and was too stupid to think for himself.

Alas, after the analysis, it can be concluded that Boxer is the genial and benevolent individual (or class) that cares for the farm (or nation), but is unfortunately exploited by the pigs (or Stalin) due to how easily brainwashable he was. Corrupt, cruel, and atrocious leaders were something Boxer couldn’t work harder to overcome.

MLA Citation:            Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.