Anthem By Ayn Rand Essay, Research Paper
Anthem by Ayn Rand
The novel Anthem by Ayn Rand tells the story of Equality 7-2521, an individual living in a communal society devoid of human individuality. In a future where there is no love, no science, and everyone is equal and of one entity, one man defies the group to be his own person. ?I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I cover no man?s soul, nor is my soul theirs to cover.? (Rand 96)[Antimetabole]Equality 7-2521 began his life in the Home of Infants and was educated in the Home of Students. He had a keen mind and excelled at his schoolwork; however, he was punished for his achievements because to be in any way superior to others was considered evil. Equality?s hope was to be made a Scholar by the Council of Vocations, but when he reached the age of fifteen, the council assigned him to the profession of Street Sweeper. Equality accepted this as his punishment for desiring one profession over another.
Equality worked with the street sweepers until, while working one day, he found an underground tunnel. He spend large amounts of time in his tunnel studying stolen manuscripts and learning about an individualistic society that had obviously disappeared. Equality?s discovery of electricity becomes a revolutionary concept in his and the Council of Scholar?s minds. When Equality took his discoveries to the World Council of Scholars, the Scholars rejected them because they had not been generated by the group. Equality fled and ran into the Uncharted Forest where he found Liberty 5-3000. Together, they found a house in the forest and settled there. Through reading books he found in the house, Equality rediscovered a great lost word: I. Perhaps promoted by these new ideas, Equality violated the conventions of his culture and fell in love with Liberty 5-3000. To show preference for one person over another was a grave transgression, for only those ideas, values, and feelings held by everyone were valid. With their newly found individuality, Equality and Liberty took the names Prometheus and Gaea. They found a home and Prometheus vowed that he would keep it just for them and not share it with anyone else. He built an electric fence to keep others away. Rand portrays this as a perfectly appropriate, even heroic action. In her view, this kind of selfishness is essential if anyone is to be happy. When people have to live in large dormitories because it is for the greater good of all, everyone is miserable.
In Equality?s world, the individual had been destroyed, leaving only the lumbering ?group.? Throughout the book, the reader becomes aware of the striking absence of 1st-person pronouns?everything is ?we? and ?our? instead of ?I? and ?my.? Individuals are even stripped of personal names and left with the gift of common names followed by numbers (Equality 7-2521, International 4-8818, Union 5-3992, Solidarity 9-6347, Liberty 5-3000). Once Equality sheds this ?nameber? and chooses his own name, Prometheus, he has become an individual, thus breaking away from the oppressive group. This is proven when Equality declares ?Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servent of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars. I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before!? (95) [Anaphora] A man needs his brothers to free him from his fears. A brother needs a man to free him from his guilt. [Antimetabole] The common names, incidentally, are another jab at communal societies. ?Equality? implies that all men in the group-centered society are equal. ?International? implies the cooperation of many different groups of people, when, in the reality Rand presents, all people (regardless of ability) are lumped together and are drawn upon at random.
In addition to non-personal nomenclature, repercussions of communal living are also seen in other areas of society. In Anthem, education promotes not excellence, but mediocrity. Through her exploration of Equality?s world in Anthem, Rand criticizes and comments upon many social issues. Such commentary may relate to the occurrences in the late Twentieth Century. The apparent theme of individuality within Anthem applies itself naturally to a number of issues, with a direct example involving contemporary education. While in the Home of the Students, Equality?s direct statement that ?We?were not happy in those years in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy? (21) casts a negative light upon the educational system of Rand?s time, as well as the current educational system. Additionally, the clause, ?This is a great sin, to be born with a head that is too quick? (21) illustrates the idea that the school systems, by placing too heavy of a focus upon those needing assistance, inevitably draw down those with a higher intelligence because of negligence. If a student falls behind, that student is worked with in order to bring him/her up to the other students? level. However, should a student begin to excel (as Equality did), that student is harshly disciplined. Equality was taught that ?it is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them? (21).
With the decline in education and the practice of seemingly random job-assignments, technology has stagnated, and much of it has been lost. Fundamentally, this goes to prove that without the creativity and innovation of individuals, nothing will ever improve. This is exemplified by Equality?s rediscovery of electricity and the rather militant reaction incurred therein by the ruling class. Through this, Rand is conveying the message that, in a group-oriented society, there is no motivation to innovate, to create, to improve?only to BE and to do what is expected. [Anaphora] After all, one would not want to be better than one?s brother.