Who came up with the seven commandments in Animal Farm?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his speech to the animals in the big barn, Old Major expounds certain principles which the animals are to live by if their rebellion should succeed. Most of these propositions have to do with the animals treating one another as equals and not adopting human characteristics or behavior. Old Major feels that everything about humanity is evil and that the animals, once they have gained their freedom, should never become like their abusive, exploitative, and tyrannical masters. 

After Old Major's death, Squealer, Snowball, and Napoleon, the three leading pigs on the farm, develop Old Major's teachings into a complete system of thought that they call Animalism. After the Rebellion, the animals are in complete control of the farm. The pigs, through their studies over a period of three months, reduce the principles of Animalism to Seven Commandments. These laws will be the foundation on which the animals' lives are based and are unalterable. Snowball then inscribes the list of rules on the barn wall where they can be clearly seen. 

The information above makes it clear that the Seven Commandments are the result of a joint effort by all the pigs. The formulation of the Commandments is the result of the pigs' investigation and study of all the concepts contained in the theory of Animalism and is an expression of its practical application.  

It is ironic, however, that the very same animals who develop the Commandments are the first ones to alter them to suit their wants and their greed in spite of the fact that they have said that the rules must be unalterable and permanent. In fact, by the end of the novel, all the commandments have been replaced by a single, paradoxical instruction that: 

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

This equivocal statement becomes a symbolic testament to the unequal equality that the majority of the animals on the farm are exposed to, and it is a damning indictment of the pigs' manipulation and greed. Old Major would have been ashamed. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a good question.  The basic idea of the seven commandments came from Old Major, even if he did not call them the seven commandments. To put it another way, the spirit of the commandments came from Old Major's teaching from chapter one. We can see this, because some of the commandments were taken directly from Old Major's teachings. For example, in Old Major's speech he said:

No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.

 

The idea that all animals are equal is foundational to Animalism.  Later on, when Old Major died, Snowball and Napoleon expanded the teachings of Old Major and made it into a system called Animalism. When Animalism was completed, there were seven commandments.  Snowball, the one with the best handwriting, put up the commandments after the rebellion. 

These three had elaborated old Major’s teachings into a complete system of thought, to which they gave the name of Animalism. 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial