Animal Farm: 7 Commandments

“Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings is a friend. And remember also that in fighting against man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever live in a house or sleep in a bed or wear clothes or drink alcohol or smoke tobacco or touch money or engage in trade. All the habits of man are evil. And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.”

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These are the words of Old Major, a system of thought that is adopted by the animals and coined “Animalism”. In this system of thought, animals are to be totally different from man, whom they consider their oppressor.

This anti-human rhetoric is later condensed into seven commandments that the animals have to adhere to after they successfully chase Mr. Jones away from the farm. Accompanying the seven commandments is the song the Beasts of England, which acts as a national anthem for the animals in their newly acquired freedom.

Here are the seven commandments:

  • Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  • Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  • No animal shall wear clothes.
  • No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  • No animal shall drink alcohol.
  • No animal shall kill any other animal.
  • All animals are equal.

Initially, everything goes as planned. However, pigs take advantage of their leadership role and bend all the rules to suit their extravagant style of living. The first rule to be broken is “All animals are equal”. It becomes apparent that the two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon (together with other pigs and dogs) enjoy special treatment at the expense of others.

When other animals are toiling hard from morning till evening in the farm, pigs assume supervisory roles dishing out orders for them to work harder. Strong animals like Boxer do most of the work, sometimes waking up earlier than usual to ensure everything is completed on time. The weak ones like ducks and hens also do as much as their feeble bodies allow them to.

As the other animals let the pigs to call the shots and do the thinking. As other species waste away on hard labor, social classes develop with the pigs becoming the ruling elite and the other animals turning into their slaves or subjects. With this unwarranted power, the pigs can do whatever they wish.

They set aside the harness room for their own convenience, where they learn important trades, such as blacksmithing and carpentry, as the other animals are taught only basic reading and writing. It is also discovered that milk, which is always disappearing mysteriously is mixed with the pigs’ mash, while all the apples are forcefully taken away from other animals for the pigs’ consumption.

The second commandment to be broken is “No animal shall kill any other animal”. There is a battle of supremacy between Snowball and Napoleon evidenced by constant arguments, disagreements and debates between them. The animosity between the two stems from ideological differences.

While Snowball is an innovative and visionary leader always looking for ways to better the lives of all animals, Napoleon is pro status quo. He supports the old order and is afraid of change. Napoleon feels that the idea of a windmill, though very noble, will make Snowball a more popular leader and decides to attack him using nine canines he has been secretly breeding.

With his canines, Napoleon is able to consolidate all the power to himself. He uses fear to intimidate everyone into submission, without question. He uses the same instrument that Mr. Jones used to inspire fear among the animals – a pack of dogs that are only subservient to him alone. When the hens oppose Napoleon’s order to sell their eggs to Whymper, they are met with such cruelty from Napoleon’s dogs that it results in nine dead hens.

The lie propagated is that the hens died of coccidiosis. Napoleon further warns that any animal found helping the hens’ revolt will be sentenced to death. There is also a series of deaths of all animals believed to be working with Snowball from outside, which results in a pile of dead corpses in the animal farm – a phenomenon that had never happened even during Mr. Jones times. The sixth commandment was the first to be amended to “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause”.

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Although not part of the seven commandments, Old Major’s edict that all animals should not engage in commerce is also broken by Napoleon. When it becomes apparent that the animals will lack the necessary materials for the construction of the windmill – an idea he initially opposed, Napoleon orders there be trade to exchange wheat crop, hay and eggs for the scarce materials. This is a complete violation of all their rules that forbade any human interactions with animals.

He also engages in business dealings with Frederick, despite his reputation for being too cruel towards animals in his Pinchfield farm. Subsequently, the pigs move into the farmhouse and break the fourth commandment, which forbids them from sleeping in beds. To put the matter to rest, the pigs make some slight adjustment to the rule to meet their obligation. It finally states that “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.”

In the farmhouse, the pigs stumble upon a case of whiskey in the cellars and they are unable to resist the temptation of getting drunk, including Napoleon and his propagandist Squealer. After their night of drinking and singing, Napoleon asks Whymper to procure for him booklets on brewing and distilling liquor. He further takes away the paddock area that was used as grazing ground for animals to plant barley. The sixth commandment, which states that “No animal shall drink alcohol” gets another addition to it in the end – No animal shall drink alcohol ‘to excess’.

However, the biggest shock to the animals comes when the pigs begin walking on two legs like humans. The bleating of the sheep that “Four legs good, two legs better” makes it clear that Napoleon and his allies have fully adopted human ways. The first rule – “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy” is now a distant memory to the animals.

Napoleon soon begins inviting humans from neighboring farms to take a tour of his farm, as other animals toil away in the grounds ruled by the treacherous pigs. Napoleon and his comrades also begin wearing clothes that belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, just to ensure that all the commandments are broken. Eventually, all the commandments are thrown aside and one permanent rule appears in their place on the wall of the big barn: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

Animal Farm is a critique of the communist system adopted by the Soviet Union, under the stewardship of Joseph Stalin. Two revolutionaries Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin overthrew the Russian Czars and converted the Soviet Union into a communist state. Just like in the book, Stalin (the dominant political figure – Napoleon) expels Trotsky (Snowball) from the state and establishes a dictatorship form of government. He abandons all the principles of the revolution and adopts all the traits of their former rulers. Under his tyrannical regime, scores of deaths are reported.

Communism is a system that opposes capitalism in every sense and may be considered an ideal system by many. However, as is evident in Animal Farm, most of these ideals are only used to serve a purpose and once that purpose is achieved, most rulers revert to the systems that they initially fought against. In this case, it is animals/humans fight against class stratification that they associate with capitalism. Once they expel Mr. Jones/ Czars, they adopt animalism/communism, which they believe is a system that will cater to all the needs of everyone in society.

Ironically, the leaders who are bestowed the duty of safeguarding the unifying principles that led them to victory against a common oppressor, are the ones abusing their power. They twist rules against the backdrop of peoples’ naivety to have a strong grip on power. What initially starts out as mere propaganda to manipulate the masses, is replaced by sheer use of force to propagate fear and total submission. The ones who suffer the heaviest are the working class. All the burden of the economy lies on their shoulders, but they get nothing for their efforts. The ruling elite enjoy most of the resources with only a few scraps left for the majority of people.

This new system turns out to be worse than the previous one. While people are made to believe that they are free, the reality is that they are in bondage. Their situation is now worse because they have been brainwashed to believe that they are far better of this way than in the old system, where they were slaves.

Eventually, the social classes of the previous regime slip back to society and there is obviously no difference between the old regime and the new one. What remains is a theorized form of the new system, but a practice of the old system. The new hybrid system is therefore the old system disguised as the new system.