Community corruption: A reader’s take on George Orwell’s Animal Farm

What do pigs and farm animals have to do with real life? A whole lot.

Community corruption: A reader's take on George Orwell's Animal Farm

Kaitlyn Yee, Contributor

The famous novella, Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is an ideal representation of corruption. The starting purpose of the animals’ rebellion was to achieve equality among all animals and to live in peace. To uphold these morals, the animals establish the Seven Commandments, a series of laws that are meant to help the animals maintain proper etiquette. However, as the story progresses, these foundational beliefs change in order to fit what the animals’ leader wants.

The first two commandments fit hand in hand. The first one reads, “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy,” and the second, “Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” To make this easier for the animals to remember, they transformed these laws into the slogan “Four legs good! Two legs bad!”. These ideas are graphically represented throughout the book as violent interactions between man and animal conspire, such as the Battle of Cowshed. But despite what the laws say, the animals’ leader Napoleon decides to take part in business arrangements between Animal Farm and its neighboring farms. According to the text, “Napoleon announced he had decided upon a new policy. From now onwards Animals Farm would engage in trade with neighboring farms”. This clearly contradicts what the first law states. In addition, the second commandment is corrupted throughout the story as Snowball is chased out of the farm, and his reputation is torn apart. Napoleon and Squealer make Snowball into an enemy for the rest of the farm, telling them that he was secretly against the animals the entire time, and blame everything that had gone wrong on him. This contradicts the second commandment, as they are now making Snowball an enemy instead of a friend.

Similarly, in a short amount of time, the third and fourth commandments are also changed. The third commandment, “No animal shall wear clothes”, is violated as Napoleon begins to wear old clothes he has found in Mr. Jones’s wardrobe. Although this in specific does not change the third commandment, this leads up to the third commandment, as well as many others, later being erased or abolished. However, the fourth commandment, “No animal shall sleep in a bed”, was later changed to “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets”. This was a result of the pigs moving into the farmhouse and sleeping in beds without sheets, taking up their residence there.

Furthermore, both the fifth and sixth commandments were changed as well. In chapter eight, the fifth commandment is changed from “No animal shall drink alcohol” to “No animal shall drink alcohol TO EXCESS”. This was a result of Napoleon getting drunk, and being believed to be dying, only to realize it was a hangover. However, the change in the sixth commandment marks a dark turning point for Animal Farm. In chapter eight, Napoleon orders his dogs to promptly rip the throats out of those who claim to have been associated with Snowball in his sabotage of the farm. To justify this, the sixth commandment is changed to, “No animal shall kill another animals WITHOUT CAUSE”. Not only does this change yet another law but also makes it possible for the animals to be killed, further establishing the cruel leadership available to Napoleon.

Finally, the last commandment is the most important change of all. The changes within all the other commandments progressively added up to the change in this law that “All animals are equal”. It is arguable that this law perhaps never existed based on the behavior of the pigs throughout the story. This is apparent, as the pigs “never did any work”, received more luxurious food than everyone else, and, among many other things, were living in the farmhouse. They obviously took control of the farm from the start, arguing that they were the more intellectual and practical choice for leadership among the farm. However in chapter ten this law is officially changed, to “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS”. As mentioned, the other commandments originally established were erased at the same time that this was discovered. Orwell writes, “For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment.” This illustrates that the changes occurring earlier on were a cause for the final change.

All in all, it is now obvious that the laws established after the rebellion changed drastically over time, each affecting the other and all contributing to the treacherous outcome.