Anthem [book review]

Ayn Rand
Anthem
105 pages
Signet, 1938

Story: Ayn Rand for beginners, a disturbing look at a dark future society in which the individual has become lost among the crowd. There is no independence or encouraged thought; there is only the greater good, no personal desire. Equality 7-2521 is the only name given to the main character, when he falls in love with Liberty 5-3000 they give new names to each other (Golden One and The Unconquered) and call each other “our dearest one” which rejects the very nature of their society. Equality 7-2521 finds an old invention and gets it to work again, producing his own artificial light source, which he shows the leaders of the society. Equality 7-2521 is forced to flee the city because otherwise he will be killed, he brings Liberty 5-3000 with him and they take refuge in the forest and discover the reality of being an individual as well as being together and expressing themselves as lovers and companions.

Main Character: “We” (Equality 7-2521) who later calls his singular self Prometheus, the one who stole fire from the gods in order to give it to humankind as a gift.

Audience: Anyone who followed my advice and read The City of Ember and The Giver and loved them! This story is written in a very curious way, there is no individual but the collective. This book is very controversial for its analysis of the “I” in society. “We” lives in the dark and dismal future where there is no science and no knowledge. The world Rand writes about doesn’t give names to people and people are forced to feel no emotion, no love and to acquire no knowledge of their world. There is no electricity but “we” becomes curious when remnants of the forgotten past are uncovered.

Comments: This is a great book but very advanced in theme and content. The story is very easy to read because the words are very simple, the fun part about this story is that it is so simple and so complex at the same time. I really recommend this title to anyone who is interested in the power and sway society has over its members. This story also gives hope to those who dare to be different and rise above the faceless crowd to attain more in life, to learn the secrets of our existence and our history.

Discussion Questions:
#1 The way the story is written is very different from what people might be used to. After a while the story seems to flow more easily and readers become less bothered by the way “we” stands in for “I.” There are no instances of the individual early in the book and it seems jarring and strange for us to identify a person as “we” which cannot be separated from the whole. What was the purpose for Rand writing her narration this way? Do you think that society could evolve in such a way?
#2 Equality 7-2521 names the woman he loves which is forbidden in his world. What is the significance given to names in the book? How does assigning a name that is a seemingly meaningless word followed by a sequence of numbers make you feel? What is the significance of the names they give to each other before they run away and at the end of the story?
#3 Walk students through a close reading of the text and discuss the plot with the class in order to ensure everyone understands what is going on. Then have students explain the transformation from the beginning of the story to the end, how does Equality 7-2521 become Prometheus, how does “we” become “I?” Point out the specific discoveries or instances that reveal personal truth to the characters.
#4 Have students pick a modern invention that would greatly affect society if it had never been invented. Ask students to describe how the absence of these inventions could change the future.

Thoughts?

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