Commandments, Communism & Animalism in Animal Farm

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Animal Farm' by George Orwell, the philosophy surrounding Animalism seems solid, but once it is put into practice, power-hungry leadership twists it into something unrecognizable.

Old Major's Dream

Have you ever thought of something that seems like a great idea, but once you actually try to apply your idea to real life, it doesn't work out quite the way you expected? In George Orwell's Animal Farm, Old Major's idealism doesn't turn out the way the animals expected it to. In this lesson, we will learn more about Animalism, why it didn't work out for the working class animals, and how it compares to Communism.

The Philosophy

In Animal Farm, Animalism is based on the ideologies of Old Major. Old Major was a well-respected pig who cared for his fellow animals. He believed that Man was the problem, but if the animals stuck together, they could all reap rewards. Under Old Major's philosophy, the animals equally own the farm, everyone works to the best of their ability, and everyone benefits by receiving the rations they need. Old Major's beliefs are broken down into Seven Commandments, which are placed on the barn wall:

'THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.

2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.

3. No animal shall wear clothes.

4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.

5. No animal shall drink alcohol.

6. No animal shall kill any other animal.

7. All animals are equal.'

What Went Wrong?

At first, Animalism seems wonderful. The animals own the farm, feel free, and don't mind working hard for the benefit of everyone...most of them, anyway. Mollie, the beautiful white mare, doesn't really do her fair share of the work. She's also less satisfied with liberty than she was with some of the luxuries she enjoyed when Mr. Jones was running the farm, but she doesn't stay for long.

The real problems begin as the pigs rise to power. Being smarter than the rest of the animals, they feel better than equal to the other animals. This imbalance begins early with the pigs reserving the milk and apples for themselves, and soon Old Major's ideas are completely thrown out the window as Napoleon, the head pig, assumes complete control of the farm. By the end of the story, the Commandments have all been changed:

  • 'Four legs good, two legs better.'
  • 'No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.'
  • 'No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.'
  • 'No animal shall kill any other animal.'
  • 'All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.'

The pigs even begin wearing Mr. and Mrs. Jones's clothes as they rise in status while the other animals live in fear of execution. No one dares speak up to complain about the long work hours and limited food provided to the working animals while the pigs enjoy a life of luxury in the farmhouse.

Symbolism

Karl Marx's vision of Communism is similar to Animalism. Under Communism, the people mutually own property that everyone works according to his/her ability. The benefits go back to the workers after the government takes what it needs to provide services to the people. Thus the Marxist philosophy intends to diminish the differences in social classes. Of course, those who are accustomed to very little would benefit, while those who are used to luxuries (like Mollie) would have to give some of them up.

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