Discuss how the seven commandments are the key to understanding Animal Farm.

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timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Seven (7) is a "magic" number.  In the teaching of the Catholic church, there are seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy:

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy are:

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm

There are also 7 Capital Sins (Anger, envy, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth and covetousness) and 7 Cardinal Virtues and oppose them (Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence).

While interesting, I don't think this has anything to do with the Commandments in Animal Farm.  There may have been 3, 4, 7 , 10 or 12 (other numbers often called magic).  Their importance is that they refer to behaviors that at first seem beneficial to the people but which, through the addition or subtraction of a couple words, could be used to support the position of the dictators (pigs).

Orwell shows how uncertain "truth" is, and vigilant we must be to protect our knowledge, and how easy it is for manipulate the past (especially with animals whose life span is much shorter than ours so that very few of the "original" animals were alive at the end to recall what the original commandments were).


dalepowell1962 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't agree with the concept that the seven commandments are the key, but I think I can answer you anyway. The Commandments were meant to keep the animals equal and to insure that all animals were true to their own nature- specifically, they were not to adopt that habits of man, whom Old Major had said was the sorce of all their problems.  Over time, the commandments begin to change:  the commandment that the animals shall not sleep in a bed has the line "with sheets" added to it.  Similarly more commandments have more addendums unexplainedly added to them.  The animals see what the commandments say and question their own memories and come to the conclusion that maybe they only thought they knew what it had said previously.

The venture of the farm has failed because in the end, there is no equality for the animals.  The pigs have assumed the role that the humans earlier filled.  The final commandment is changed to:  All animals are equal but sime animals are more equal than others.  This is, of course, an oxymoron since there can be no such thing as more equal.

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can see the commandments as related to the 7 deadly sins, but I don't see any further conjecture. They may be important but not vital to the story. It does add afurther allusion to Christian theology.

  I didn't mean to point out a relationship ... I just used a couple of the religious groupings to point out the significance of the number 7 which plays an interesting role in the Christian religion.

krishna-agrawala | Student

It would not be entirely correct to say that the "seven commandments" is a key to understand animal farm. These commandments were formulated by Napoleon and Snowball to contain the essence of the principles of animalism developed by Old Major. However these commandments can at best qualify as a highly simplified version of the thinking of Old Major rather than a true representation of his thoughts.

The seven commandments are more like basic constitution of a country intended to guide the animals in daily conduct of the farms. For example, the seven commandments which proclaims equality of all animals is very similar to provisions in constitutions of many countries proclaiming equality of humans. But unlike constitution of well established countries, the Seven Commandments of animal farms are changed frequently.

The changes in the seven commandments is not really made to correct the shortcoming in the original commandments to serve as a guide to achieve common good of animals but to serve the selfish goals of the pigs gradually emerges as the elite class among the animals, use power, deceit, and every other means available to suppress other animals. In this process one by one they amend all the seven commandments.

The end result of all these developments is that animals fail to achieve their ideal and dream of free animals. Instead , just the class ruling and oppressing them changes from humans to pigs.

epollock | Student

I can see the commandments as related to the 7 deadly sins, but I don't see any further conjecture. They may be important but not vital to the story. It does add afurther allusion to Christian theology.

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Animal Farm

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