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The news of what has happened on Animal Farm spreads over half the country. A flight of pigeons tells the story of the Rebellion and teaches the song, 'Beasts of England' to other animals. The neighboring farmers talk with exaggeration about what has happened to Manor Farm, but fail to unify themselves into a cohesive group. Mr. Pilkington spends his time fishing and hunting, and Mr. Frederick is always busy with his lawsuits. Farmer Jones is seen in the taproom, complaining and grumbling to anyone who cares to listen to his tale of woe and injustice.
Early in October, a flight of pigeons announce the approach of Jones, with his gun. He has with him a battalion of half a dozen men, all armed with sticks. They have come to recapture the farm. This action is not unexpected, and the animals are prepared. Snowball give orders, and the animals are soon at their assigned posts. When the farmers are close, Snowball launches his first attack. Murriel, Benjamin, and all the sheep rush, prod, and lash out at the farmers. Pigeons and geese rush at and peck them, but it is all in vain. The animals are not strong enough, and the animals, signaled by Snowball, take flight.
The men shout in triumph and chase the animals as they leave. This is just the moment Snowball has been waiting for. As soon as they are inside the Yard, three horses, three cows, and the pigs emerge and cut them off. Snowball dashed for Jones, who fires his gun. Snowball is injured, and a sheep is killed. Snowball retaliates and hurls Jones into a pile of dung. The panic-stricken men are kicked, bitten, and trampled. All the men fled except the stable boy, who has been unintentionally injured by Boxer. The vain Mollie is found hiding in the manger.
A celebration of their victory begins immediately and spontaneously. The flag is hoisted and the 'Beasts of England' is sung a number of times. The dead are given a solemn funeral, and the heroes are conferred with honors and medals. Snowball and Boxer are named 'Animal Hero first Class'; the dead sheep is named 'Animal Hero Second Class.'
After a discussion, the fight is called the Battle of Cowshed. Mr. Jones' gun is to be fired twice a year, once on October 12, the anniversary of the 'Battle of Cowshed' and once on Midsummer Day, the anniversary of the Rebellion.
The Battle of Cowshed described in this Chapter is told in an amusing way. There is much more detail about the animals' strategy, discipline, and success here than there was about the initial rebellion, which was unplanned and accidental. Orwell tells how the animals are prepared for this human attack, fight nobly, and lure the enemy into a trap. They act almost like a trained army, without regard to individual safety. The battle of Cowshed reflects the troubles Russia had with Germany in 1918; warfare was averted only by the signing of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk..
Use of propaganda by both humans and animals is seen in this chapter. Snowball and Napoleon incite the animals to fight, calling the men tyrannous. Farmers malign the animals by spreading rumors of their imagined excesses, like cannibalism, torture, lawlessness, and immorality. In Russia, the same kind of propaganda was used; and the special demonstrations, celebrations, and conferring of medals clearly is a satire on Russian behavior.
The selfishness of human beings is clearly shown in the chapter. Even though the neighboring farmers come to Jones' aid in the battle, their purposes are not pure. Both the men from Foxwood, representing England, and the men from Pinchfield, representing Germany, are concerned about what they will gain from the fight. They want to turn Jones' misfortunes to their own advantage.
Orwell is equally critical of the animals. Napoleon is most interested in gaining power from the battle, as from every situation. Most of the animals join the fight without any clear idea as to why; they do not understand its purpose or meaning. Later the animal "masses" will realize that they have been duped by their leaders, but it will be too late to take any meaningful action.