DID BOXER HAVE A NAME?
This is an ongoing discussion [February 2004], the latest at the bottom:
To Orwell Today:
Who is Boxer? My teacher is giving extra credit if we can get the name of the actual person; the person the award in Russia was named after. I know he represents the worker, but which worker in particular?
I don't know who Boxer is supposed to represent other than a combination of the proletariat and peasant (working man and farmer). But I'd certainly be interested in hearing who your teacher thinks he is and share it with the readers.
If you want to impress your teacher with your knowledge of the historical facts upon which Orwell based Animal Farm then I highly recommend that you read the following three articles . They were written by a journalist from England (Gareth Jones) who studied the Russian language at Cambridge University and then travelled to the Soviet Union in 1930 and was the first westerner to report what life was really like there thirteen years after the Communist Revolution.
The Rulers and Ruled. Below the Surface & Fanaticism and disillusion. Open discontent & Strength of the Communists. War Propaganda
Maybe after reading those articles you'll be able to put a name to Boxer. Please keep me informed on how it goes.
All the best,
To Orwell Today,
Hello again,this is Zak, :)
I went out on the internet and found out who boxer could also represent.
Aleksey Grigorevich Stakhanov was a Russian miner and had the Stakhanovism movement named after him. This movement was aimed at increasing the production of products but ended up just lowering the quality of the production. hope this helped you and thank you for the links.
Hi again Zak,
Three weeks ago, when you first emailed me (Feb 4, 2004) I hadn't heard of Stakhanov and so could not argue one way or the other as to whether or not that is who Orwell had in mind when he chose the character "Boxer" in Animal Farm. But since that time I have come across a website that overviews Russia from 1917 to 1939, and it mentions Stakhanov in its section entitled Russia under Joseph Stalin. Here's the excerpt:
"...Rewards were given to the best workers. Groups of workers were encouraged to compete against each other. The most famous worker was Alexei Stakhanov. He was said to have mined 102 tons of coal in one shift. This was fourteen times the amount expected from one person. Logically if he could do it, so could others. To be rewarded for hard work meant that you were a Stakhanovite. In fact, Stakhanov was not a popular man with the workers - for very good reasons, as this put the burden on them of working harder. Stakhanov, in fact, was frequently not mining after this record. He was allowed to tour Russia to be greeted as a hero and to give lectures on how to work hard and there is no clear evidence that he did what was claimed."
It seems apparent that Boxer DID have some attributes of Stakhanov, ie he was "the most famous worker", but there the resemblance ends. In Boxer's case he DID do the work, whereas Stakhanov's work feats were nothing but Communist propaganda. Also, unlike Stakhanov, Boxer had earned his medal not for hard work in the collective but for heroic actions during battle, ie the "Battle of the Cowshed". Also, unlike Stakhanov, Boxer never stopped working but always "tried harder". And most importantly is the fact that Boxer, unlike Stakhanov, was very popular with the other animals and led by example and never became a shirker.
Here's the excerpt from Chapter 4 in Animal Farm where Orwell describes Boxer's medal:
"...Early in October, when the corn was cut and stacked and some of it was already threshed, a flight of pigeons came whirling through the air and alighted in the yard of Animal Farm in the wildest excitement. Jones and all his men, with half a dozen others from Foxwood and Pinchfield, had entered the five-barred gate and were coming up the cart-track that led to the farm. They were all carrying sticks, except Jones, who was marching ahead with a gun in his hands. Obviously they were going to attempt the recapture of the farm."
"This had long been expected, and all preparations had been made. Snowball, who had studied an old book of Julius Caesar’s campaigns which he had found in the farmhouse, was in charge of the defensive operations. He gave his orders quickly, and in a couple of minutes every animal was at his post."
"...But the most terrifying spectacle of all was Boxer, rearing up on his hind legs and striking out with his great iron-shod hoofs like a stallion. His very first blow took a stable-lad from Foxwood on the skull and stretched him lifeless in the mud. At the sight, several men dropped their sticks and tried to run...At a moment when the opening was clear, the men were glad enough to rush out of the yard and make a bolt for the main road. And so within five minutes of their invasion they were in ignominious retreat by the same way as they had come, with a flock of geese hissing after them and pecking at their calves all the way..."
"The animals decided unanimously to create a military decoration, ‘Animal Hero, First Class,’ which was conferred there and then on Snowball and Boxer. It consisted of a brass medal (they were really some old horse-brasses which had been found in the harness-room), to be worn on Sundays and holidays. There was also ‘Animal Hero, Second Class,’ which was conferred posthumously on the dead sheep."
"There was much discussion as to what the battle should be called. In the end, it was named the Battle of the Cowshed, since that was where the ambush had been sprung. Mr. Jones’s gun had been found lying in the mud, and it was known that there was a supply of cartridges in the farmhouse. It was decided to set the gun up at the foot of the Flagstaff, like a piece of artillery, and to fire it twice a year—once on October the twelfth, the anniversary of the Battle of the Cowshed, and once on Midsummer Day, the anniversary of the Rebellion."
Based on the above readings it can be concluded that Boxer, like other of Orwell's characters, was a combination of more than one person. Boxer was part Stakhanov for his working abilities and part some other person famous for his integrity toward his fellow workers. Who that other person is, at this particular time, I do not know.
All the best,
PS. Here's a good overview of Russia from 1917 to 1939
BOXER AND THE PROLES and WAS FARMER JONES GARETH JONES? and ANIMAL FARM and WAS WINSTON SMITH GERALD SMITH?
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