The Theme of Individualism in “Anthem” by Ayn Rand
Anthem by Ayn Rand is an outstanding novel purposed to glorify human potential as well as individual self-worth. Its main theme is individualism and central conflict, that is, individual versus the collective. The story of the novel takes place in an unidentified place when mankind has entered another Dark Age, but as the author put it, it is a fascist-like dictatorship of the future where a person is not obligated to any right, and his sole purpose is to serve the state. Equality 7- 2521 is the main character in this novella. Due to his brilliance, he yearns to be a scientist, but the State who controls him fears of what his mind might achieve and commands him to be a Street Sweeper.
In the novel, the author tells us that, “…the people of this world pawns with no rights and exist as wards of the government.” They are born, raised and educated in government institutions, toil in government-assigned jobs, as well as reside in massive ménages provided by the state. Furthermore, these people have no personal lives as they are forbidden to have lovers or friends. Instead, they are engaged in government-controlled procreation, whereby the state determines who sleeps with whom and when. Besides, even the names given to them by the State indicate variations on collectivism, for instance, Equality 7-2521 and International 6-Li 2 7843, among others, suggest many people sharing the same name. Most importantly, the word “I” has been outlawed, and even erased from the spoken language and from citizens’ thoughts. When conversing they use the word “we” since they lack vocabulary of express themselves.
Equality 7-2521 struggles in thinking, living, as well as loving as his terms conflict with the general terms of the government. This forms the heart of the novel as Rand fends for the rights of individuals to a life of their own making, and warns against the current society’s relentless movement towards collectivism. Ayn Rand informs of the popularity of collective functions that existed in past decades and continue to exist up to date. For instance, in the mid- 1930s, many U.S politicians and scholars praised both the Nazi and Communist systems as “stately experiments”. Before the War, the Nazi’s regime in Germany was lauded as noble by some political leaders in America. They gave their unwavering support for the unswerving commitment believing that one exists solely on the basis of serving society. During his tenure, President Roosevelt implemented a number of initiatives that were primarily based on the assumption that moral excellence resides exclusively in altruistic service to others. Today, support for communism is still dominant as the Marxist ideology is widely accepted among many scholars not only in America, but across the rest of the world.
The language usage in the novel is also another feature illustrating the process of collectivization at a level far deeper than simply political. The society that Equality 7-2521 dwells in has successfully brainwashed its people in believing that laboring for others is the only way to go, and that they should be living utterly unloved of personal life. The state has also successfully managed to radicalize as well as alter the thought patterns of its people. The collectivist masters have blotted out all concepts of individuality from human minds. Words like “me” or “I” have been completely erased from their thoughts and from the vocabulary. Collectivist language and speech are the only concepts allowed. This manner of collectivizing society in political practice is a situation reminiscent of Hitler’s claim that National Socialism was more efficient and effective than communism. As per his words, he states that, “The Communists nationalize banks and industries, whereas the Nazis nationalize bankers and industrialists.”
Another memorable aspect of this story is the unflagging curiosity of Equality 7-2521’s mind. Although he was forbidden from doing any experiments, he defies all odds and explores his try-outs until he discovers electricity. Even though he acknowledges the social structure of where he is from, and the thought that if caught he will be executed, his desire to succeed in his own path supersedes all of the former. His passion is unwavering and vows to succeed despite of everything that might happen to him since he possesses the intellect of a great scientist. The author argues that this kind of firm attitude forges mankind ahead moving from ignorance to Age of Reason. This aspect is also reminiscent of a number of society’s great thinkers who underwent the same experiences as Equality 7-2521. For example, Charles Darwin was deuced for originating, Galileo threatened by tribunal for daring to defend Copernicus, and Henry Ford mocked for his inventions.
In conclusion, it can be stated that the novella “Anthem” is essentially a parable designed to illustrate the author’s philosophical perspective of individualism. Equality 7-2521’s defiance of a brainwashed society by an authoritarian state paves the road to a self-sufficient and creative being living outside the system that oppressed him. The author naturally condemns collectivism in passionate advocacy of individualism. The collectivist culture eliminates meaningful interactions, something that kept men attuned to backward thinking.
- Bernstein, Andrew. CliffsNotes on Rand’s Anthem. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.
- Rand, Ayn. Anthem. Chicago: Valmy Publishing, 2018. Internet resource.
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