GCSE Animal Farm – Character Profile: The Sheep, Hens & Moses
The sheep in the story live up to their stereotype. They can’t think for themselves and are happy to follow the crowd. They are very easily led and easy for the pigs to manipulate. This is first shown when the sheep are trained by Napoleon to bleat any time Snowball starts to discuss his windmill ideas, so that the other animals can’t hear what he is saying. “Their usual bleating … put an end to the discussion.” By interrupting Snowball, Napoleon managed to undermine his ideas and undermine some of the animals beliefs that the windmill could work. He also urinated on the windmill plans, to show his disagreement of them.
Surprisingly, it is the sheep who manage to put silence to all opposition. Their constant support of all that Napoleon says helps with the propaganda which Squealer says. At the end of the story, they even announce the final betrayal of animalism, when they start chanting “four legs good, two legs better.” There is an idea, that the sheep don’t really understand what they are chanting about and how profound it is. They are merely doing what they have been asked to do.
Thus, the sheep are like the Communist party ‘yes-men’ that Stalin packed meetings with and who would vote together for whatever he asked. He had full power and control over them.
The sheep have no ability to challenge or question what Napoleon and the pigs are doing and instead follow him and whatever he asks them to do.
The hens are like the peasants of the Soviet Union who were forced to give up their produce. Millions of Soviet peasants died of famine in the 1930s.
Orwell conveys this in the story when Napoleon tells the hens that they must give up their eggs for sale. Napoleon tells them that they need to supply 400 eggs a week, which the hens consider to be “murder.” The hens are opposed to this and begin to have their eggs up in the rafters, so that they fall to the floor and are smashed.
This is one of the few times when any of the animals stand up to Napoleon and the other pigs. However, Napoleon is ruthless with them and cuts off all their food. Nine of the hens die before the others give in.
Later, when egg quotas are raised again, there is no outcry or protest. The hens are too frightened to even raise their voices. Napoleon and the other pigs have shown how brutal and ruthless they are and the hens know that their food would be cut again. They feel powerless and so have to do what Napoleon has demanded.
Moses is a raven who tells the animals stories of a wonderful SugarcandyMountain, a paradise where animals go when they die. He tells lies and is described as a spy, but many of the animals believe him because they have nothing else to look forward to. The pigs are happy for Moses to stay, as the hope he creates keeps the animals obedient and unquestioning. Moses promise of a paradise whichgives the animals something to look forward to again. Their daily grind is challenging, so to believe that there is a paradise after they die is of comfort to them.
Orwell uses Moses to introduce Karl Marx’s idea that religion is the ‘opium of the people’. Marx believed that religion deceived people into believing in a happy afterlife. If they had this happy afterlife to look forward to, they were less likely to challenge authority and cause problems.