Equality 7-2521 who speaks of himself in the first person plural makes a few discoveries that lead him to rethink the nature and purpose of man.
I will not go through this short story blow by blow, as the fun in this book is to discover what Equality 7-2521 discovers. Would you draw the same conclusion or follow the same course? You will find yourself kibitzing and cringing.
"You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." (Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5)
For the person that is new to Ayn Rand this is as good place to start, as any and it will be an eye opener. If you have the time to read "Atlas Shrugged" the concepts, thoughts, and speeches are more complete.
Pro or con, you cannot afford to pass this book. You may be surprised to find that you are surrounded by Objectivists.
on July 12, 2004
Having read THE FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED many, many years ago, and having both those books completely change my life, I wanted to see what ANTHEM was all about. One often fears that a great writer has "used up" their energy and creativity in their major opus, and this was my hesitation in coming to this book. But my fears were unfounded, for ANTEHM is just as good as anything else Rand has written. The characters are as deep and complex as they are in her other works, and as usual, she has a powerful message. While I tend to stick with a good page-turner like THE DA VINCI CODE or THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, I do occasionally go back to what I term "classical" writers. ANTHEM is one book that Rand fans must read. Shorter and less heavy than FOUNTAINHEAD or ATLAS, this makes for a great summer read.
on June 26, 2000
Leonard Peikoff doesn't want you to know this, but the U.S. version of this novella has been in the public domain since 1974 - that's why he padded this edition with a marked-up version of the British text (so he could copyright it). You can read ANTHEM online for free if you know where to look.
on May 17, 2007
Ayn Rand delivers this brief didactic story in a powerful way. It is short, but sharp. It clearly and quickly brings across its point. It reveals the philosophy of objectivism.
I don't totally agree with the philosophy evident in this novel. However, I do find many good things about it, so I do feel there is a great of value in this novel. It has value in that it attacks collectivism.
on November 4, 2015
Ayn depicts a paranoid world within and a free world beyond in her most thought provoking short story. Right out of the gate, I sensed parallels to many political and/or religious structures that have existed, some still to this day, wherein freedom of thought and personal identity are arrested and denied to the citizenry. Though I did not discern why the subject society felt the need to escape from and abandon the free world, it seems to have been rejected more out of fear and a lack of connectedness than for any other reasons. Nevertheless, it took but one brave soul with independent thought and vision to make the trek forward to rediscover what had been left behind long before, complete with purpose and personal identity. He shed his 'collective we' personna and discovered his spiritually unique self with hope and joy of infinite possibility to begin anew with the lessons learned. In the reading of it, my mind wandered as I contemplated how this strange regression might occur in the free world today. Here is a simplistic view of how I envision it might happen. Opinions of freedom of thought and ideas are becoming increasingly polarized between liberalism and conservatism to the extent that balanced centrist positions are either disappearing or barely recognized. Our liberal eagerness for tolerance and political correctness, while admirable in intent, is ever more demanding that we think exactly alike and embrace an identical set of ideals that are enforceable in the legal system. In the extreme, this conformation may become complete, with rights even reversed, and in time, individualism might be lost or at least repressed. As extremism reaches the far left of the continuum, it literally becomes the right when we are enacted into a prison similar to what is described in this book. I gave Ayn's noble piece of work five (5) stars and recommend it as a revealing insight into the human condition.
on May 2, 2004
Anthem by Ayn Rand is by far the best book by hers that I've read in a long time. I have several of her other books already and have gone so far as to underline the most meaningful parts (I've read each several times). She says things that others are afraid to say for fear of being (gasp) selfish. She, in her books, tells us that it's ok to be selfish, that it's our duty to look out for ourselves first. No one else will look out for you other than you. I realize that's an extreme way to look at things, but in this day and age of if you are more successful than your neighbor you get taxed more to help "others". Helping and the insidious guilt for not doing so is a terrible way to enforce this forced servitude as Ms. Rand calls it. Her books and her philosophy are eye openers indeed. It's a pity she isn't around anymore to keep writing what we all know is true but afraid to say most of the time. It's even worse to know that when we do speak up about the status quo, we get shut out like the characters Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart.
on April 13, 2004
Anthem, by Ayn Rand, is a futuristic, political novel supposed to represent the outcome of a world overrun by communism; though quite brief, the book sends a very clear, to-the-point message about the importance of individualism and freedom. Rand, in this novel, drives home her point that communism would corrupt a country to the point of absolute government domination and complete disaster. The situation she presents in Anthem is a society that has spiraled backwards into a life devoid of almost all technology; in fact, candles had only just been invented somewhat prior to the time of the story.
The plot revolves around a man, named Equality 7-2521, who lives in this primitive world, and dares to question in his mind the precepts that his world is run by. Everything is run by the government; from birth; every aspect of an individual's life is predestined and the individual must comply without question. There is no freedom nor sense of individuality; for example, all of the characters in the book refer to themselves as "we" instead of "I," the forbidden word that is lost in history, never to be spoken lest the transgressor be burned at the stake as a martyr. Equality 7-2521 dares to go against all of this regulation, first in his mind and then through his actions. He dares to think, to prefer, to question, and to fall in love. Eventually and through much tribulation, he comes upon the truth and vows to change his world into one worth living.
Though extremely short, this novel is highly slanted against communism, and it doesn't take a highly skilled reader to figure that out. The book also presents a story line with a strong protagonist that the reader can relate to, and the story is presented in a somewhat believable fashion. Though through reading this novel one may not be convinced that communism is utterly evil, it causes questions to arise. Short and sweet, this novel is worth reading, if only for the fact that is short enough to present its profound message in few words. The reader does not necessarily need to agree with the message, but Anthem is a good book that helps present another possible side to the constant dispute between political sides. Finally, Anthem makes one sincerely appreciate freedom, a truth that many people often take for granted.
on April 6, 2004
I'm not an Objectivist by any means, mainly because I'm a Christian, which puts me completely at odds with one of Objectivism's six major tenets. However, I agree to some degree or another with all five of the other tenets. This is the perspective I come from.
Anthem is a beautiful little story, the single most important thing Rand ever wrote. Her political beliefs will come and go, but this story is timeless, part post-modern fairy tale and part cautionary warning of a very real-world danger.
Anthem accidentally entered the public domain some years ago, which may seem ironic given Rand's capitalist background, but somehow it's fitting. Yes, property is EXTREMELY important to freedom and individuality, but if any one story needed to belong to everybody, it's this one.
This book should be read in high school paired with Orwell's 1984. They offer similar visions, but Rand's story is one of enduring human optimism, as opposed to Orwell's pessimistic, fatalistic outcome. As cautionary tales, both work beautifully, but I'm a "glass half full" kind of guy, so I greatly prefer the empowering message of Anthem to the utter helplessness that 1984 evokes.
on March 26, 2004
Firstly, let me preface this review by saying that I am wholly stricken with Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy. However, I do not believe -- like all authors -- that everything a particular writer, no matter how much I may like them, turns every piece of writing they have into a masterpiece. Anthem is a primary example of a brilliant thinker simply slipping below the impossibly high bar that they've already set for themselves.
Anthem can be taken in two ways. Firstly, it is the story of a man who - in a coloney - discovers that, rather than serving one specific purposes in the hive, that he has the power to be an individual. This is the literal translation of this text. However, it is incredibly important to look at Anthem as more than simply a story of self-recognition.
Rightly or wrongly, Anthem is one eight-eight page pithy story of the power of man as an individual. Is this symbolism evident? Yes - it's about as obvious as it can possibly be made. Of course, I found this frustrating, hoping that Rand would make her agenda slightly less blaringly obvious. However, this book is meant to spell out to the reader the theory of objectivism (such as most of Rand's books are). It seems to me that rather than leaving the reader with a chunk of literature to digest, Rand instead lays out a flowchart of what the reader should be internalizing. Good if you don't want to spend the energy to think, not so good if you enjoy the merits of more "gray" literature (re rather than black and white).
Overall, a strong showing of Rand's abilities as a writer, if not a little stiff. This is worth reading, most assuredly -- It's just not one of her best books. It is a good introduction to the objectivist philosphy, even if it is not "displayed" as such. A worthy effort, but does have fundamental flaws.
on January 6, 2004
This book is an attack against socialism or other collectivist ideologies. Rand claims to be inividualistic, yet she supports laissez faire capitalism, which in my opinion is incompatible with individualism. Capitalism transfers power into the hands of private companies. These businesses control resources, wages, ect. How can someone be an individual when their lifestyles are dependant on their wages that their boss dictates? Your wages deterrmine how you eat, dress, live, ect. The capitalistic wage system is anything but individualistic. She claims to advocate individual freedom, but how can one be free when they are compelled to spend 80 percent of their lives in authoritarian institutions called "work"? How is being a wage slave individualistic? Not to mention capitalism has created the most totalitarian institution witnessed in modern times; the corporation. This is a strict, top to bottom hierarchy. People (thanks to new technology) are monitored constantly. Some places put badges on people to monitor them daily, and if they leave for the bathroom they are fired. Some people have to urinate in jars because if they take off time to use the restroom they risk losing their jobs. Is this individual freedom? No, this is absolutism, the absolutism that thomas jefferson warned us about when he realised that "moneyed incorporations" were aquiring power. A capitalist would bring up the argument that "you aren't forced to work, its a free contract". You have to be some nazi or stalinist to believe this. I mean, this is the type of contract between a man robbing another with gun to his head. Its a free decision, either work, or starve to death. Wow thats real individual freedom. Dont fall victim to objectivist/capitalist propaganda. These are ideals that no one really takes seriously. Free market capitalism is a joke, and would fall apart immediately, and if it didnt, people would overthrow it because they wouldn't allow such a despotic system exist. Free market ideology is only a political weapon; a weapon against social spending, the poor, ect.
So what would a real free society look like? It would be a cooperative society, where people work with eachother instead of against eachother. Authoritarian institutions like the corporations, the state, and other institutions that limit human freedom would cease to exist. The pig capitalist system would be abolished. However, portrayed society presented in this book will become a reality if we continue to accept capitalism.