What are the principles of Animalism in Animal Farm?

In Animal Farm, the principles of Animalism are a distillation of Old Major's vision of a utopic future after the animals overthrow their human owners. The pigs boil Animalism down to Seven Commandments. One commandment, for example, is that "no animal shall kill any other animal."

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The principles of Animalism derive from the words of Old Major, the boar based on Karl Marx who animates the animals at night with his dreams of a better life for them after a revolution in which they overthrow "Man." He says to them,

Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.

Like Marx, Old Major dies before the revolution. However, the pigs, who quickly take charge as intellectual leaders of the new Animal Farm, distill his words down to seven maxims, which are then called the Seven Commandments of Animalism. They are painted on the side of the barn as follows:

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

As we can see, the principles come from Old Major's stirring vision of a better world. They are meant to give animals a culture very distinct from human culture and to pull the animals together in solidarity. The ban on alcohol also addresses the animals' awareness that they suffered neglect due to Farmer Jones' excessive drinking.

However, as the story unfolds, we witness how boiling a story down to a set of rules can create problems for two reasons. First, Animalism is a spirit of being, a utopic and joyful way of rethinking the world. A set of principles, in contrast, becomes legalistic, losing the larger picture. Second, the pigs can and do gradually change the wording of the principles over time so that Animalism loses all its real meaning. Orwell thus warns of the dangers of "dumbing down" ideas.

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Animalism is a communist philosophy of all of the animals being treated equal and sharing equally in both the responsibilities and rewards of the farm.

Communism is defined as follows:

Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless,stateless and revolutionary socialist society structured uponcommon ownership of the means of production. (enotes reference, communism)

The principles of Animalism are espoused by Old Major in his speech to the farm and then modified by the pigs as they see fit.  The pigs tell the other animals that “by their studies of the past three months the pigs had succeeded in reducing the principles of Animalism to Seven Commandments” (ch 2).  These commandments are intended to keep all of the animals equal.

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. (chapter 2)

The pig said that everyone would follow the commandments and “they would form an unalterable law by which all the animals on Animal Farm must live for ever after” (ch 2). Of course, it does not quite work out this way.  Soon the pigs began changing the commandments.  For example, commandment 4 is changed to forbid not beds, but beds with sheets.  Some animals realize the commandments are being changed. 

Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so. (ch 6)

This commandment is changed when the pigs begin to live in the house.  It is significant both because they are re-writing history and because they are beginning to set themselves apart from the other animals and act more human.

Another commandment that the animals “ remembered wrong” (ch 8), meaning it was changed, was commandment 5.  It is changed to say that animals cannot drink alcohol “to excess” after the pigs begin to like it.

Commandment 6 is changed to add “without cause” (ch 8) so the pigs can kill animals that disagree with them.  Finally, commandment 7 is changed.

There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL

BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS (ch 10).

With this change, the pigs cement their power and control over the farm.  The pigs become more cruel, and begin to act exactly like humans because “after that it did not seem strange when next day the pigs who were supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters” (ch 10). 

The pigs use the so-called principles to justify anything they have to say. When the pigs want more food, they suggest that “a too rigid equality in rations … would have been contrary to the principles of Animalism” (ch 9).  Whatever the pigs say, the other animals have to go along with because they have the dog security force to back up their will.

Ultimately, the change seems to be physical also as the animals "peek in the windows of the farmhouse as this meeting progresses and are stunned to discover that they cannot tell the difference between the men and the pigs at all" (enotes summary).  The pigs have become exactly like the humans.

Citation:

Orwell, George. Animal Farm;. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.

 

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