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Haley Zrnchik Mrs. Hawkins Honors English 1, Red 1 13 December 2012 Silence Kills In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Benjamin, a soft-spoken donkey, finds his once peaceful home transformed into a tyrannical dictatorship led by a power-hungry pig named Napoleon. Because of Benjamin’s reserved nature, he ultimately was able to lead Animal Farm into its oppression. Benjamin’s silence, his ability to follow without question, and his inability to share his wisdom with the other animals turned him into one of the main contributors to the tyrannical behavior that occurred and the loss of freedom and equality on Animal Farm.
When someone keeps their thoughts silent, it usually allows wrong to happen; in this case, Benjamin and his reserved nature is what helped to fuel the farm’s oppression. So when: “Benjamin . . . seemed to understand, but would say nothing” (109) he allowed the other animals to go without knowing about Napoleon’s true intentions. Perhaps Benjamin assumed that his silence would protect him, and that by staying silent, he was not creating more drama and instead helping to minimize it. Even though Benjamin is one of the more intelligent animals on the farm, his standoffishness is what helped Napoleon lead as a dictator: “Benjamin . . nodded his muzzle with a knowing air” (109) Benjamin had the ability to share his wisdom with the other animals on the farm. However, instead of spreading the truth about Napoleon, Benjamin kept to himself and refused to meddle in what he considered to be “nonsense”. Benjamin refused to voice his thoughts and because of that, he allowed his friends to die, his home to be destroyed, and his life to be turned into that of a follower. Instead of speaking up, Benjamin quietly followed the orders he was given. So while he never volunteered to do extra work, he never did less than what he was supposed to: “. . . ven . . . Benjamin . . . did [his] share” (60-61) Because Benjamin did not try to overthrow Napoleon, he allowed Napoleon to become a stronger and more influential dictator on Animal Farm. Had Benjamin not allowed himself to be turned into a follower, he most likely would have been able to prevent the farm’s oppression. More often than not, it is the followers that help to fuel a tyranny: “Benjamin was watching . . . [silently and] intently” (102). Followers sit, watch, do what they are told, and they listen. While Benjamin may not have agreed with Napoleon’s rulings, he never objected to any of them either.
Benjamin is a follower and he always will be, because even though he possesses the qualities of a leader, he doesn’t have the strength, the care, or the willpower to speak up. Benjamin was always quiet soul, but when he lost Boxer, the pain in his heart only intensified. Benjamin tried to save his dear friend before he was sent to the “knacker’s” but alas, he wasn’t fast enough: “Come at once! They’re taking Boxer away! ” he shouted . . . Sure enough, there was a . . . van, drawn by two horses . . . And Boxer’s stall was empty . . . “Good-bye, Boxer! ” [The animals] chorused . . . “Fools! Fools! ” shouted Benjamin . . . “Fools!
Do you not see what is written on . . . that van? . . . Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer . . . They are taking Boxer to the knacker’s! ” . . . But the van was already . . . drawing away from them . . . [And] Boxer was never seen again. After losing Boxer, Benjamin recoiled deeper into his shell of silence. Little did Benjamin realize that if he chose to harness his anger and use it as a tool to fight against Napoleon, he probably would have been victorious. Even though he spoke in a condescending and undermining tone before, after Boxer died, Benjamin chose not to speak at all: “Only old Benjamin was much the same as ever . . except . . . since Boxer’s death, more morose and taciturn than ever” (128) Benjamin’s growing silence caused him to become a bigger contributor to the loss of freedom and equality on Animal Farm. At this point, he wouldn’t speak up; Benjamin confirmed his spot as a follower and never as anything more. Sometimes silence is the deadliest weapon. Benjamin proved that by remaining quiet through a time of oppression, one would only be helping to promote a leader’s totalitarianism.
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His stubborn silence, his adamancy towards following his orders, and his taciturn attitude after the death of Boxer only stood to show that a follower sometimes can be the strongest contribution to a tyranny. Napoleon’s dictatorship, while strong, would not have been as successful had it not been for his followers. Benjamin and the others, while they may not have realized it, were key attributes needed to lead to the ultimate removal of freedom and equality on Animal Farm. Works Cited Orwell, George. Animal Farm: With Connections. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1999. Print.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Silence Kills, Animal Farm Essay
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Benjamin (a donkey)
Benjamin is "the oldest animal on the farm and the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did, it was usually to make some cynical remark" (1.3). (Think Eeyore, but smarter.)
Despite his nasty temper, Benjamin knows what's up. After the rebellion, the other animals want to know what Benjamin thinks of the new organization of Animal Farm. The only thing that he'll say is, "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey" (3.4). Later, he rolls his eyes about everyone's windmill enthusiasm. Why? Again, because "donkeys live a long time" (6.17). You could say that Benjamin has long-term vision: unlike anyone else, he remembers the past and thinks about the future, so he doesn't bother getting worked up over what he sees as passing phases or fads.
We Can't All, and Some of Us Don't
Levelheaded, wise, and detached: Benjamin sounds like he'd be a great leader. But he's not. He just refuses to act, even if he thinks (or knows) that the animals are making a really dumb decision. We get the sense that he sees all actions (including his own) as pointless and thinks it's funny. When he realizes that the humans are going to blow up the windmill, the narrator tells us, "Slowly, and with an air of almost amusement, Benjamin nodded his long muzzle" (8.19). Part of Benjamin seems to enjoy the fact that the windmill is going to come crashing down.
But there's a price to all this hipster detachment. After Boxer is injured, you'd think that Benjamin could figure out that "We're going to take Boxer to a hospital" really means "We're going to send Boxer to the glue factory"—but he doesn't, or, if he does, he doesn't bother doing anything about. Only when Boxer is actually being taken away does Benjamin come running to alert the other animals; "it was the first time that they had ever seen Benjamin excited—indeed it was the first time that anyone had ever seen him gallop" (9.16).
Boxer's death doesn't exactly cheer up the old donkey. In fact, he's "more morose and taciturn than ever" (10.2). When the other animals want to know whether things were better before or after the rebellion, he replies with a characteristically cynical answer, "things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse—hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life" (10.6). Does Benjamin blame himself? Does he think that if he'd spoken up sooner, none of this would have happened?
Maybe—especially if you think (like Morris Dickinson) that Benjamin has a touch of Orwell in him. We'd buy it: he's definitely got the philosophical and distant air that Orwell's narrator adopts. But there's a crucial difference. Orwell speaks out against the injustices he sees, instead of just letting them unfold for his own twisted sense of humor.Benjamin (a donkey) Timeline