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Anthem ()


Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper in a dystopic future where:

    We are nothing.  Mankind is all.  By the grace of our brothers are we allowed our lives.  We exist
    through, by and for our brothers who are the State.  Amen.

But Equality 7-2521 has a problem; he doesn't believe in the things that his brothers do.  He has questions, which can not even be asked,  that he wants answered.  He has a friend (International 4-8818), which is forbidden, and then he falls in love with a woman he calls "The Golden One" (Liberty 5-3000).  And as if all these crimes weren't bad enough, he's started to do experiments in an abandoned culvert and he's figured out electricity.  But he's willing to accept the consequences for his crimes because he's certain that his discovery is so important to Mankind as to absolve him of all blame.  He is, of course, wrong.  Because in this society, it is not a good thing for an individual to discover new knowledge: "This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick.  It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them."  So Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 escape into the wilderness surrounding the city and, after renaming each other Prometheus and Gaea, begin to work out a philosophy where the self, the individual, is important.  Prometheus realizes:

    At first, man was enslaved by the gods.  But he broke the chains.  Then he was enslaved by the
    kings.  But he broke their chains.  He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race.  But he
    broke their chains.  He declared to all his brothers that a man has rights which neither god nor king
    nor other men can take away from him, no matter what their number, for his is the right of man,
    and there is no right on earth above this right.  And he stood on the threshold of freedom for which
    the blood of centuries behind him had been spilled.

    But then he gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage beginning.

    What brought it to pass?  What disaster took their reason away from men?  What whip lashed them
    to their knees in shame and submission?  The worship of the word "We."

    ...

    Perhaps in those days, there were a few among men, a few of clear sight and clean soul, who
    refused to surrender [the word I.]  What agony must have been theirs before that which they saw
    coming and could not stop!  Perhaps they cried out in protest and in warning.  And they, these few,
    fought a hopeless battle, and they perished with their banner smeared by their own blood.  And they
    chose to perish, for they knew.  To them, I send my salute across the centuries, and my pity.

    Theirs is the banner in my hand.  And I wish I had the power to tell them that the despair of their
    hearts was not to be final, and their night was not without hope.  For the battle they lost can never
    be lost.  For that which they died to save can never perish.  Through all the darkness, through all
    the shame of which men are capable, the spirit of man will remain alive on this earth.  It may sleep,
    but it will awaken.  It may wear chains, but it will go on.  Man, not men.

Ayn Rand espoused a hard line capitalist philosophy which she called Objectivism--'the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute.'  During a period of years when one type of Collectivism or another (Socialism, Fascism, Communism) was regnant in virtually every nation in the West, she courageously swam against the tide of her time and demanded recognition of the primacy of the individual and of self interest as a force for good.  As a result, she has been ignored by the arts establishment, by philosophers and by political scientists, but she has a strong cult following and nearly every young person has, at least, a flirtation with her ideas.  There are legions of us who first read her in college and developed a ferocious intellectual crush on her for her iconoclasm and for the pure ferocity of her rhetoric.  Here, at last, was someone telling us that the liberal pabulum we had been spoon fed for the first 18 years of life was moral poison.  What a glorious moment when you discover that there are other people who, like you, think that individuals matter, that personal excellence should be celebrated, that anything that limits the rights and the abilities of individuals is evil.

One of the most telling indicators of the dichotomy between critics and the common folk is to compare her absence from the Modern Library Top 100 novels of the 20th Century list to the lofty placement of her novels on the lists where readers voted (i.e., Radcliffe's 100 Best Novels, Modern Library Readers' ListKoen Books Top 100)     The critics may not respect her much, but we of the hoi polloi sure seem to like her.  And, of course, Ms Rand has gotten the final laugh as it is her philosophy that has triumphed and, along with the careful tending of her acolyte and former boy toy Alan Greenspan, given the world a period of unprecedented economic growth and political freedom.  The continued refusal of the intelligentsia to acknowledge her, merely serves to make her accomplishment all the more remarkable.  When the dust has settled, a few decades or centuries from now, one assumes (okay, one hopes) that Keynes and Galbraith, Marx and Rawls, Dreiser and Lewis and Sinclair--all of the thinkers and writers of the failed Left--will have been consigned to oblivion and the names that are honored will be Hayek, Popper, Friedman, Orwell and Rand.                .

The sheer length of her two masterworks, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, makes rereading them a pretty daunting prospect.  They tend to be a little too hysterical, a little too repetitive and, with the end of the Cold War, they've lost a little of their edge.  But her essential message is still as important and timely today as it was fifty years ago--freedom and human progress requires that the State stand back and allow the individual to act in his own interest.  Every attempt to make one person work for another's benefit erodes all of our liberty and retards our progress as a society and a species -- charity needs to come about as a function of faith, not government mandate.  So I highly recommend that you return to these shorter works and The Fountainhead stands up pretty well.  It also looks, from the reviews below, like her collected letters and journals make for rewarding reading.  This fine short novel is an excellent introduction to her passionate political philosophy and her emotional polemical style.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Ayn Rand (2 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Ayn Rand Links:

    -REVIEW: of We the Living (John Gray, New Statesman)
    -ARTICLE: Scandals lead execs to 'Atlas Shrugged' (Del Jones, 09/24/2002, USA TODAY)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Ayn Rand (1905-1982) - original name Alice (in some sources Alissa) Rosenbaum (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Your search: "ayn rand".
    -INTERVIEW : with Ayn Rand (Alvin Toffler, Playboy Interview, 1964)
    -Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand
    -The Ayn Rand Institute (is the center for the advancement of Objectivism)
    -The Objectivist Center (an open community for those interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism)
    -The Intellectual Activist: an Objectivist Review
    -The Daily Objectivist
    -Capitalism Magazine
    -Full Context (newsletter, forum for Objectivist debates)
    -Objectivism - The Philosophy of Reason
    -TCNJ Ayn Rand Society: a student organization at The College of New Jersey
    -Philosophy:  The Integrating Science (examines philosophy from an Objectivist viewpoint)
    -Sciabarra's Dialectics and Liberty site
    -The Capitalism Site
    -Ayn Rand, Objectivism Online Resource Directories (Free Market Net)
    -Ayn Rand (1905-1982) ( Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. , Friesian.com)
    -Objectivism and Ayn Rand (Full Context)
    -The Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics, and Psychology (THE INTELLECTUAL VOICE OF CAPITALISM ON THE INTERNET)
    -The Unofficial Web Site for the Journals of Ayn Rand
    -Living On Earth: An Objectivist Collection
    -Objectivism and Ayn Rand: A Cultural Reference Archive (newspaper and magazine articles)
    -Objectivist Links Plus (Objectivist Center)
    -The Egoist Archive
    -Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand
     -ARTICLE: Ayn Rand Has Finally Caught the Attention of Scholars (JEFF SHARLET, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ARTICLE: Alan's bubble Edward Chancellor Alan Greenspan, the second most powerful man in the US, adheres to the "radical capitalism" of Ayn Rand (Edward Chancellor, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: AYN RAND: NOVELIST WITH A MESSAGE; An Appreciation  (EDWIN McDOWELL, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: The Fallacies of Egoism and Altruism, and the Fundamental Principle of Morality  (after Kant and Nelson)(Kelly Ross, History of Philosophy)
    -ESSAY: Liberals and Ayn Rand  (James Fallows, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY : THE HEIRS OF AYN RAND : HAS OBJECTIVISM GONE SUBJECTIVE? (SCOTT MCLEMEE, Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY: Master Builder (Lorine Pruette, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: WHY I AM NOT AN OBJECTIVIST Michael Huemer
    -ESSAY : The (Five) Objectivist Ethics (Ari Armstrong)
    -ESSAY : Three Objections to Ayn Rand's Objectivist Ethics (Digital Chicken, 23 January 2000)
    -ESSAY : Critique of "The Objectivist Ethics"
    -ESSAY : Notes on The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
    -ESSAY : The Rights (and Wrongs) of Ayn Rand (Robert Bass)
    -ESSAY : THE UNLIKELIEST CULT IN HISTORY (MICHAEL SHERMER, Skeptics Society)
    -ESSAY : Rand's work: style and quality (Gary Merril)
    -ESSAY : Some Problems with Ayn Rand's Derivation of Ought from Is (David Friedman)
    -ESSAY: Facts, Values and Moral Sanctions: An Open Letter To Objectivists (Robert J. Bidinotto)
    -ESSAY : What Conservatives Owe Ayn Rand (Gord Gekko, Enter Stage Right)
     -INTERVIEW: PRC Forum:  Barbara Branden author of "The Passion of Ayn Rand (Idea Channel)
    -LINKS : Objectivism and Ayn Rand : A Cultural Reference Archive
    -LINKS : Criticisms of Objectivism (or Ayn Rand)
    -LINKS : Directory - Objectivism
    -LINKS : Directory - Essays Against Objectivism (Beebware)
    -LINKS : Ayn Rand (1905 - 1982) (The Internet Public Library, Online Literary Criticism Collection)
    -LINKS : Ayn Rand Links (2Think)
    -ARCHIVES : "ayn rand" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (Lorine Pruette, NY Times, May 16, 1943)
    -REVIEW : of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Whittaker Chambers, National Review, 12/28/57)
    -REVIEW : of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Rob Slade, Internet Review Project)
     -REVIEW: of THE PASSION OF AYN RAND By Barbara Branden (Peter L. Berger, NY Times Book Review)
     -REVIEW: of  LETTERS OF AYN RAND Edited by Michael S. Berliner (CHRISTOPHER COX, NY Times Book Review)
     -REVIEW: of  LETTERS OF AYN RAND Edited by Michael S. Berliner (Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Reason)
     -REVIEW: of  Journals of Ayn Rand Edited by David Harriman (David Brooks, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman, foreword by Leonard Peikoff (Walter Olson, Reason)
    -REVIEW : of Objectivism : The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff (Harry Binswanger, Intellectual Activist)
    -REVIEW : of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, edited by Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra (Cathy Young, Reason)
    -REVIEW : of PASSIONATE MINDS Women Rewriting the World. By Claudia Roth Pierpont (Morris Dickstein, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE ART OF NONFICTION: A GUIDE FOR WRITERS AND READERS By Ayn Rand Edited by Robert Mayhew Introduction by Peter Schwartz (Harry Bruce, National Post)

Comments:

Whoa. Interesting comments... Ayn Rand called Anthem her poem; after growing up in Russia, she felt compelled to convey this idea via the clearest, simplest, most concise form for obvious reasons. The Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged are more complex, if that's what you're looking for, both in plot & in language.

I'm uncertain about the "Christian" comments. While it is true that Ayn Rand was an atheist (for much of her life, any way), the idea that those who choose not to work shouldn't be fed is quite biblical (ever read Timothy I & II?). That is not the point, however. Rand is simply pointing out that the generally accepted concept of "altruism" is false: explore The Fountainhead & the Virtue of Selfishness and learn for yourself how truly selfish altruism usually is. And, finally, charity should be simply that: an act of charity from the heart -- not government enforced altruism via taxation.

- Quincy

- Nov-24-2008, 19:26

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Ayn Rand was a real See You Next Tuesday. A mediocre writer with a disgusting inhuman parody of capitalism (which I have few qualms with actually) as her philosophy. As Christians I have no idea how you guys could advocate a philosophy which basically operates on the idea that you shouldn't bother to give a crap about other human beings. But, doing that would be "bleeding heart" and "liberal" and besides, who wants to give money to the poor? They don't WORK like YOU and ME!

- Kurdt Kobain

- Jan-11-2007, 09:53

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Rand writes in a shrill monotone, a lot like an automobile horn being pushed by the skull of some unconscious crash victim. A comatose state...sort of describes most "Objectivists" I've met.

- Jon Grena

- Oct-22-2006, 06:33

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Archereon you're a Toohey follower if there ever was one.

- Mike Moriarty

- Jun-07-2005, 17:47

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I read Anthem and I thought that she wrote the story very well. Also I think that she ment not to give Prometheus a lot of charistics to make her point on how controled the society was.

- Rachael

- Feb-28-2005, 16:33

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Okay, so I read anthem wanting an introduction to Ayn Rand and this was the first book I found. I found no real character development, an okay flow, but being an avid reader, it fell somewhat flat and uninspiring. I have also come to the conclusion from reading up on objectivism, and Ayn Rand, really who names herelf after a typewriter, that Karl Marx was a much more intellegent person than Ms Rand, E for effort

- Archereon

- Jan-07-2005, 08:59

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