Anthem By Ayn Rand (1905-1982) Ayn Rand…

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Ayn Rand…

  • She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905.
  • She opposed the collectivism of Russian culture.
  • She witnessed both the Kerensky and Bolshevik Revolutions during her teenage years in Russia.
  • The communist victory in Russia resulted in the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation for her family.
  • When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.
  • In late 1925, she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States.
  • Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia, and she never did.

Key Facts

  • type of work · Novella
  • genre · Dystopian (The world presented is the world as it should NOT be.)
  • time and place written · The United States, 1937
  • narrator · Equality 7-2521 writes the journal of the events as they transpire over the course of several months.
  • point of view · Equality 7-2521 speaks in the first person (plural) He will refer to himself as “we” instead of “I.”
  • tone · Equality 7-2521 records his thoughts and actions in a straightforward manner, with no trace of irony.
  • tense · Present, with some past-tense narration

Key Facts

  • setting (time) · Sometime in the distant future, after the collapse of the social order because of the common acceptance of collectivist values
  • setting (place) · An unidentified city;
  • protagonist · Equality 7-2521

Collectivism vs. Individualism

  • Collectivism – the suppression of the individual to the group – whether to a race, class, or state does not matter. In Anthem, Ayn Rand will present a collectivist society that is stagnant and primitive, and the word "I" is obsolete.
  • The individual . . .
    • is owned by the group
    • has no right to a private existence
    • has no right[s] to lead his own life, pursue his own happiness, or use his own property
    • exists only as part of the group

Collectivism vs. Individualism

  • Individualism/Objectivism – regards every man as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism does not mean that one can do whatever he feels like doing; it means that every man or woman is an individual and has the same rights.
  • The individual . . .
    • has rights
    • will not run anyone else’s life, nor let anyone run theirs
    • will not rule or be ruled
    • will not be a master nor a slave
    • will not sacrifice themselves to anyone, nor sacrifice anyone to themselves


  • Anthem dramatizes the view that the self is destroyed in a collectivist society.
  • Selflessness is shown in the following ways:
    • No one has a personal name because under collectivism, individuals are interchangeable.
    • To prefer one person over another (as a friend or romantic partner) is committing the cardinal sin known as the “Transgression of Preference.”
    • It is wrong to disagree, to have independent thoughts, or to ask questions because these things will set you apart from others.
    • Self-assertion is forbidden.
    • All decisions are made by the “Council” in the name of the whole.
    • Individuals have no rights.
    • Everything which is not permitted by the law is forbidden.

Selflessness (cont’d)

  • Anthem depicts what happens to a society that implements selflessness. The result is what Ayn Rand believes is a subhuman society; what makes human beings human is having a self, which means having a mind.
  • A selfless individual is a mindless individual.
  • To practice selflessness, one must abstain from thinking and obey one’s masters. One must merge himself into the group and obliterate the individual identity. The result is a society of mindless robots as found in Anthem.

The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI)

  • The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) is a nonprofit organization that works to introduce young people to Ayn Rand's novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience.
  • The major ARI objective is to cultivate a generation of intellectuals who will be effective advocates for the fundamentals of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and capitalism. These professionals will be capable of articulating those ideas, at the highest level, to peers and students through publishing and teaching.
  • The ARI gives free copies of Ayn Rand’s novels to teachers and classrooms all over the world.
  • The ARI also gives out thousands of dollars each year through its essay contests.
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