Literature / Anthem

Anthem is a novella by Ayn Rand (contrast with Atlas Shrugged). It touches on the usual Objectivist themes, but it has a more fantastic, sci-fi setting, and it's pretty much the concentrated embodiment of The Evils of Free Will. In the future, humanity has fallen into a dark age brought on by the evils of collectivism. Individualism and freedom have been stamped out to the point where speaking the words "I, me, my, mine, ego" is a crime punishable by death. Society is ruled by several dictatorial Councils that outlaw all new ideas and inventions; as a result, science and the arts have stagnated.

The book is the secret journal of Equality 7-2521, in which he recounts his youth and tells of his emancipation from Ayn Rand's dystopia. He had been born with a "curse" — a strong sense of curiosity, eagerness to learn and question everything, and an unwillingness to subordinate himself to society.

For more information on Rand's ideas, please see Objectivism.

Not to be confused with the Japanese Heavy Metal band or the Neal Stephenson Doorstopper, Anathem.

This work provides examples of:

  • In Medias Res: The book starts with Equality hiding in a dark tunnel, he explains from the beginning why he is there.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Prometheus does have Gaea, but it's still just the two of them in the middle of nowhere.
  • Language Equals Thought: Invoked. Banning of first-person singular pronouns is a consequence of the society's philosophy of collectivism.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Subverted. Even if Anthem's society doesn't think so, Loners are awesome!
  • Love at First Sight: Equality and Liberty
  • Meaningful Name: At the end of the book, our heroes rename themselves Prometheus and Gaea, respectively.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: The names of all the characters are a combination of one of these with a series of numbers.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The entire story centers around Equality throwing off future humanity's hat of total subservience to the collective.
  • No Sex Allowed: Save for the mating ritual once a year.
  • One Steve Limit: Bizarre example. All people in this world are named a fuzzy, high-sounding word followed by a serial number, but all the characters who appear in the book happen to be assigned different words. Presumably, the names are re-used when their previous owners die.
  • Planet of Hats: Everyone is the same in this world, by force.
  • Pride: Subverted in that the prideful upstart is actually successful.
  • Recycled Premise: Anthem received some controversy for its similarities to Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We.
  • Screw Destiny: Anthem's society operates on a sort of caste system where one's fate is determined by the government.
  • You Are Number 6: No one has names in this dystopia. They're all "Equality #". The main character is Equality 7-2521.