Why were changes made to the Seven Commandments in Animal Farm?

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The Seven Commandments are intended to guide the animals’ behavior following the revolution that overthrows Farmer Jones. They are derived from the key points that Old Major makes in his rousing speech. Unfortunately, Old Major dies soon thereafter, and the other animals must take charge of spreading his egalitarian message and educating the young. It seems especially important not to imitate the humans and thereby fall into the error of their ways.

The pigs secretly acquire literacy, and their command of the written word gives them some power. They paint the commandments on the wall for all to see; however, the other animals cannot read them. This prompts the literate few to organize classes, and they soon acquire basic literacy. Another issue soon develops, which is that many animals cannot memorize things by rote. If they cannot recite the commandments, they are not proper revolutionaries. To encourage all to adhere to the revolution’s basic message, the leaders decide to shorten the commandments. While this makes perfect sense in terms of the plot, it is also Orwell’s foreshadowing of the ultimate betrayal. The most fundamental tenet to which all should adhere is now “four legs good, two legs bad.” In the end, the pig leaders walk upright.

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In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the animals of the farm rebel against Mr. Jones. After taking over the Manor Farm, the animals (led by Snowball and Napoleon) begin to make the laws which the animals are expected follow. The original Seven Commandments of the Animal Farm are:

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.

Unfortunately for Snowball and Napoleon, many of the animals are illiterate (meaning that they do not know how to read). Therefore, the commandments become somewhat of a challenge for them to uphold.

Snowball, realizing that the commandments have become hard for other animals to read (let alone memorize), decides that the rules of the farm need to be changed. Snowball, realizing that one idea is, by far, most important, decides to eliminate all of the original commandments. The new, and more easily memorable, commandment is "four legs good, two legs bad."


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