“Anthem” is a dystopian novella written by Ayn Rand and first published in 1938. It presents a futuristic society where individualism and personal identity have been suppressed in favor of collectivism and conformity.
The story is set in a future world where technological progress has been stifled, and society is controlled by a totalitarian government. The protagonist, Equality 7-2521, is a young man who possesses an exceptional mind and a yearning for knowledge and individuality. However, in this society, independent thought and individual pursuits are considered sins.
The society in “Anthem” operates on the principle of collectivism, where the individual is completely subordinated to the collective, referred to as “We” or “Our.” People are assigned numbers instead of names, and personal pronouns such as “I” and “mine” are prohibited. The government strictly controls every aspect of life, including professions, relationships, and even personal preferences.
Despite the oppressive conditions, Equality 7-2521 secretly engages in forbidden activities such as scientific experimentation. He discovers a hidden underground tunnel from the Unmentionable Times, a period before collectivism took hold, and he conducts experiments and learns about electricity. He also falls in love with a woman named Liberty 5-3000, which is also forbidden.
As Equality 7-2521’s individuality and desire for freedom grow stronger, he rebels against the society’s restrictions. He rediscovers the word “I” and asserts his right to exist as an individual. He ultimately escapes the oppressive society, taking with him his discoveries and his desire for a new society based on individualism and personal freedom.
“Anthem” explores themes such as the importance of individualism, the power of knowledge, and the dangers of collectivism and authoritarianism. Ayn Rand uses the story to champion the values of individual rights, personal achievement, and free will. The novella serves as an allegory for Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which advocates for rational self-interest and the pursuit of personal happiness.
Although “Anthem” is a relatively short work, it presents a thought-provoking critique of collectivist ideologies and emphasizes the significance of individualism in society. It has been influential in the libertarian and individualist movements and is often considered one of Ayn Rand’s earlier works that foreshadows her later, more extensive novels such as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.”