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Ayn Rand and Anthem

Ayn Rand 1905-1982 Born in Russia, educated under communists Escaped 1926 to America b/c it represented her individualist philosophy



This novelette depicts a world of the future, a society so collectivized that even the word "I" has vanished from the language. Anthem's theme is: the meaning and glory of man's ego.

AnthemWritten in 1937 as a novelette about the essence of collectivism Published in England in 1938, America in 1946


It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and put them down upon paper no others are to see there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.


This quote begins Anthem which according to Rand expresses the meaning of mans ego. The story is about an individual imprisoned in the collective; how it can happen; what ideas must one accept for it to be possible.


It is both depressing as it represents people in such a society and it is hopeful in the triumph of the human spirit for those who are brave enough to reject the ethics of collectivism, no matter the cost.

Philosophical Concepts

Collectivism vs. Individualism


The subjugation of the individual to a group whether to a race, class, or state does not matter All thought and action must be for the common good The individual has no right to lead his own life The individual has no right to pursue his own happiness, or use his own property An individuals worth is determined by his service to the group


Every man is an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life. A civilized society can only be achieved on the basis of the recognition of individual rights. Groups possess no right separate from the individual members. Individualism does not mean one can do whatever he feels like doing; it means every man is an individual and has the same rights.


Man has no right to exist for his own sake. Service to others is the only justification of his existence. Self-sacrifice is the highest moral duty, virtue, and valuewhich means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of good.

SelflessnessDefined as Lack of Self No one has a name No one should prefer one person over another It is wrong to disagree, to question, to have independent thought Individual has no rights


Without self one must abstain from thinking and simply obey the leaders When individual identity and thought are obliterated, a society of mindless robots with no motivation, no ambition, no hope emerges. Nothing is created because there is no room for creativity.


Defined as being concerned with ones own interests Each mans primary moral obligation is to achieve his own welfare, well-being, or self-interest. Man should be selfish in the sense of being the beneficiary of his own moral actions.


For example:Having

Ambition Wanting things for ones self Wanting to learn Wanting a career that makes you happy Thinking for ones self Loving another person of choice


The act or habit of bringing oneself into harmony or agreement with others; adhering to conventional behavior.


Complying with a command; yielding to those in authority.


Acceptance of the responsibility of forming ones own judgments and living by the work of ones own mind.

Free Will vs. Determinism

Free Will

Advocates that people can make choices, can make up their own minds, can direct their own lives by the ideas and values they adopt

DeterminismAdvocates that people are by nature in the grip of forces beyond their control For example: Race, the Stars, Instincts

ANTHEM & Free WillThe story shows what it means to have Free Will They are Robots by CHOICE The Protagonist will exercise his free will by making a different choice

Other Terms to KnowTotalitarianism Romanticism Realism Naturalism Abdicate Objectivism

Setting/Point of View

Romantic Realism The

story is REALIST because these are REAL PROBLEMS of normal people (Not monsters, superheroes, or robots) The story is Romantic b/c it is not about every day trivia or the boy next door It is instead about the fundamental universal problems and values of human existence. Romanticism contrasts with Naturalism which holds that people are crushed by forces over which they have NO CONTROL (FATE)

Setting/Point of View

Point of View First Person Plural (Diary Entries) Story begins in the distant future Protagonist is in the late teens or early twenties Totalitarian Society Government controls every aspect of every individuals life from cradle to grave.

Expectation is to expend ones life for the needs of the society, never a moment for ones self. If ones usefulness is gone, he is a burden and should not live. Because no one has personal desires, the authorities need no threats or force to rule.

Anyone who doubts his society feels guilty about doubting. The society has no industry or technology. The protagonist struggles to understand (man vs. society).

Sequence of the Life in Anthem Society

Each is conceived in the Palace of Mating Young years are spent in the Home of Infants Formative years are lived in the Home of Students After being assigned a vocation, individuals are placed in special homes according to vocation Old Age is spent in the Home of the Useless

Why are we reading this?

Anthem explores ethical and political questions which concern YOU! Who are you? It is possible to stand on your own?

Why are we reading this?

It asks questions about society such as : If you could choose the best society to have, what would it be? How would you describe a moral and just society?

Why are we reading this?Does

your life now belong to a group? Do you have the right to pursue your own happiness? And to what degree? Can a society without freedom be productive?

Next Step

As YOU read, notice how these concepts are illustrated through plot development in Anthem. Consider how the real world connects with the philosophical issues presented in the novel. Read Critically, agree with what is acceptable to you. Disagree with what offends your values or beliefs.

Next StepBecause you read a book does not mean you are to accept the authors ideas if they are offensive to you. Learn to cull out the wheat for the chaff! Do not accept blindly! Learn to justify and argue a good case for that which you truly believe.


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