In Ayn Rand's novella Anthem the theme of human individuality is addressed. Throughout the enrite novel Equality 7-2521 is at odds with his society. He tried to conform to the standard the others set, but no matter how hard he tried, he was smarter and quicker than they were. However, Equality could never truly hide his intellectual gifts and ended up running away from the community. In a society where the gifted are suppressed, there is no forward progress whatsoever. For example, the world council of scholars, which dictates what technology can be used in the society, recoils at Equality's presentation of his lightbulb he has invented. Equality's dexterity and inventive genius leave everybody else in the community feeling belittled and so they ultimately reject what could have been a revolutionary invention. Meanwhile, the only light technology they have, the candle, took "50 years" to become approved. Rand uses this incredulously ridiculous circumstance to show just how backwards this society is. Equality realizes his full potential when he discovers the word "I" and realizes that he is the center of his own universe. In Equality's society, all the members are sapped of their energy and drained of their creativity until they become shapeless, faceless wastes made inarticulate by fear of rejection by the group. By contrast, those characters capable of thinking on their own, such as Equality, exhibit strength, fearlessness, and self-assurance. The biggest form of this fearlessness is in Equality's martyrdom. When he is discovered sneaking out of the theatre, he is put in prison and is beaten until he tells the other members of the society where he has been going. However, Equality feels no pain, only joy that he has not revealed the secret of the lightbulb. He even consents to stay locked in his cell until it is time to break out and go show his invention to the World Council of Scholars. In both cases, what matters to the martyr is not the pain but the ideal, which trancends all physical entities, and the ideal is always worth dying for. willingness to die for an ideal marks a hero and distinguishes him or her from the rest of society. Aother example is the Transgressor who spoke the Unspeakable Word. When he is burned at the stake in front of Equality 7-2521, the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word shows no fear or pain, only great ecstasy in his knowledge of the word that the rest of society has forgotten. This martyrdom is the ultimate form of individuality and choosing one's ideals over the society's. This martyr feels nothing but joy at the discovery of his or her ideal and is willing to die for it, which truly shows the strength and importance of individuality.
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B) “The word ‘We’ is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which fools steal the wisdom of the sages. What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?” (Rand 97)
This passage spoke to me as the overall anthem (no pun intended) of the entire motif of the novel. Once Equality 7-2521 read about the forbidden word “I” in his readings at the house he had chosen to reside in, his entire view on the society that rejected him and on himself changed instantly. He even changes his name which is a strong indication of his rejection of society. His old name, Equality 7-2521, was not even a name but more like a label assigned to him by the society he was forced to abide with. Even his assigned name is ironic as it is more of a simple principle among his society of “We” than it would ever be a name. His new name, Prometheus, is a fine choice as the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus mirrors, in a sense, his plight against society. Prometheus in the ancient Greek myth was the bringer of light to the unworthy human race while Equality 7-2521 brings his light of truth to the society. All of chapter XI is a period of reflection and meditation in Prometheus’s life after he has submerged into this psychological and intellectual windfall. This entire passage illustrates how he is disgusted that non-productive society uses laws manipulation to leech from the value that could be created by productive members of society, and furthermore even exalt the qualities of the leeches over the possible workers and inventors to be. His comparison of the forcible use of the word “We” in his society to lime truly opened my eyes to such a distinctive and accurate metaphor. Overall, Prometheus’s realization of the truth that was present in his life all along and suppressed by society couldn’t be spoken more clearly than in these two paragraphs.
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C) Anthem is a a little-known literary gem shrouded by Rand's two better-known masterpieces, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. This novel directly presents Rand's philosophy of Objectivism in a simple manner rather than in the intricacies mentioned in Rand's two other afore mentioned works. In this Dystopian society, the word "I" is banned and so for almost the entire novel the work is written with the words "we" and "they" replacing the subjective words of "I" and "You". This stylistic writing form, while difficult to grasp at first, played a major factor in the turning point of the novel. As Equality 7-2521 discovers the word "I" its introduction into the novel is stunning and captivating and even the reader is startled by this dramatic shift in perspective. The central message of the novel as a whole is easy to interpret and is very straightforward. The only section I personally found lacking was the ending. While it was comforting to reveal Equality 7-2521's newfound knowledge and mission to eradicate the world of ignorance, the ending was relatively open and left the me questioning whether Equality truly can succeed or if all hope is lost for humanity. While I personally prefer resolved endings, I feel that was a fitting ending for the entire novel since equality's true journey was his quest for knowledge and his war against the societal suppression of his gifted intellect. In closing, I found Anthem to be a captivating read that kept me turning page after page until it was all over. The only lacking facet is the novel's length, which really makes it more of a novella than anything. The span of about 100 pages leaves little room for minor literary intricacies to be laced into the plot that are normally found in lengthier novels. Overall, I would rate Anthem a 4/5 and would definitely suggest it as a good read for those not interested in divulging in the other lengthy works of Rand.