Animal Farm, an allegorical novel written by George Orwell in 1945, tells the story of a group of personified animals who, after rebelling against their previous owner, attempt to create their own autonomous government system in which all of the animals become equal, happy, and – most importantly – free. A metaphor for Soviet Russia, Animal Farm aims to educate the reader about complications involving government systems through the childlike simplicity of talking animals. Within this work of literature, the reader may observe the initial uprising that forms a new regime entitled ‘Animalism’, starting with the seven commandments written on the inside wall of the barn in which the animals reside. These commandments start out important but, over time, their invalidity begins to appear quite obvious, as one particular group of animals rises to power. This power struggle highlights the previous importance of the commandments, while also weakening the importance of them by the end of the book and proving that, no matter how promising equality appears, it can never become reality.
The first two commandments appear simple: ‘Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy’ and ‘Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend’. Animalism as an ideology states humans as the animal’s oppressors, so, these commandments hold importance in determining the others. The next three – ‘No animal shall wear clothes’, ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed’, and ‘No animal shall drink alcohol’ – all stand to back up the animal’s anti-human rhetoric. However, one strange commandment that follows – ‘No animal shall kill any other animal’ – may appear illogical to the reader since scientifically speaking, many animals survive without human aid (one of the main principles of Animalism) by consuming other animals. This small break in logic serves to subtly direct the reader’s attention to the already-shaky rule of Animal Farm, without spoiling too much of the story’s end. To sum many of these commandments up, the animals decide on a seventh commandment, which reads ‘All animals are equal’. This seems promising for the animals, considering their poor treatment by their previous owner for the past few years, but reveals itself as a facade in its entirety, as a struggle for power between the animals begins to appear and the animals – specifically the pigs – break all of the commandments, one by one.
The first commandment broken, but not formally changed – ‘All animals are equal’ – shows up in the obvious superiority the pigs – especially Snowball and Napoleon – have over the other animals. While other animals work day and night to provide for themselves and the rest of the farm, the pigs enjoy a leisurely job of observing and barking orders. Once this rule becomes forgotten, social classes develop, with the pigs standing as the ruling elite, while the other animals become subjects and slaves. This allows the pigs to do as they please and they do, breaking many other rules, such as ‘No animal shall wear clothes’ (the pigs end up wearing the previous owners’ clothes), ‘No animals shall sleep in a bed’ (changed to ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets’ for the pig’s benefit), and ‘No animal shall drink alcohol’ (changed to ‘No animal shall drink alcohol to excess’ also for the pig’s benefit). One important rule – ‘No animal shall kill any other animal’ – becomes obsolete amidst all of this when, during a heated debate directed towards building a windmill for the farm, Napoleon rises to power after attacking Snowball with dogs he had secretly bred. The animals assume that Snowball has died and because of this, although the book reveals him alive later, other animals, such as a few hens, die in between this period and Napoleon amends the commandment: ‘No animal shall kill any other animal without cause’. Eventually, the pigs begin walking on two legs, which stuns the other animals, considering the initial importance of what the sheep have simplified as ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ (which changes to ‘four legs good, two legs better’). Finally, after the downfall of these commandments, as an ending to the book, the last commandment formally crumbles and all seven become painted over and replaced with ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’.
Since the dawn of time, equality remains strived for. Wars become started over it and heated debates lead to violence, even in civil communities. However, this idea of equality proves neither possible nor desirable, once examined properly. Humanity widely agrees that formal equality of opportunity or, equality within legal systems, does not exist for everyone. Implementing this system of equality applies to the public lives of the citizens, but not the private. Ensuring equality in citizen’s private lives involves largely ignoring personal liberties, as well as the possibility of a system along the lines of Plato’s Republic, in which the state takes young children from their parents and raises them communally in order to ensure intergenerational equality. Obviously, this system does not appear desirable to many. Even if this system became a reality in today’s society, inequalities shall arise from equality of opportunity, including those of natural talent and hard work – which may, both, have roots within an individual’s genetics. The daunting conclusion of Animal Farm simply and metaphorically warns those looking for a quick solution to equality to take heed – for it appears simpler in fantasy than in reality, as proven.
The promise of perfection and equality has stayed ingrained in human culture for years and holds responsibility for some of the world’s greatest tragedies, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Holocaust. Within this book, one quote directly stands out due, in part, to its harsh truth: ‘…things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he [Benjamin] said, the unalterable law of life’ (115). This quote perfectly draws the reader’s attention to the unattainability of a society where all citizens stay blissfully equal to one another. Animal Farm, in its most condensed form, simply attempts to explain why equality appears so unattainable and why society may benefit from it staying that way. Ignorance prevails among humanity, however, all humans may agree upon one statement – equality holds no reality.