Anthem By Ayn Rand: A Literary Analysis

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"We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One, indivisible and forever’”(Rand 19). In Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Anthem, the citizens are trained from birth to think only in the plural, to the point where they cannot even conceive of individuals, but only see each other as part of the whole group. Rand’s protagonist, Equality 72521, begins the novel as a street-sweeper who is devoted to the group, but begins to move towards individuality as he progresses towards pure selfishness, as Rand believes we all should. Rand uses the words “we” and “I” to represent Equality’s journey from being dependent on the group, to being utterly independent of everyone. Equality can only think of himself, at the beginning…show more content…
Equality recalls when he was younger and watched the execution of someone his society only labelled as “The Transgressor” (50). The Transgressor was burned at the stake for speaking “the Unspeakable Word”, “one single word which is not in the language of men, but which had been” (49). As Equality recalls the incident, he remembers that the Transgressor was not like other men. He was proud and smiling, even as he was burned. Equality also feels that the Transgressor tried to communicate this Unspeakable Word to him, but “the flames rose and we could not guess the word” (50,51). Equality is still referring to himself as “we”, even as he struggles to determine what the better, unspeakable word might be. His second instance of feeling there is a better word than we comes a bit later in the novel, when he and his romantic focus, The Golden One, are trying to tell each other their feelings after they have both escaped the city into the Uncharted Forest. The Golden One starts by saying, “we love you”, but quickly decides that was not what she wanted to say (86). She is trying to say I love you, but doesn’t have the correct word, and so stumbles over an awkward re-phrasing that still relies on describing individuals in the plural. Equality quickly realizes what she is trying to do and “knew that the…show more content…
In the final chapters of the book, after Equality and The Golden One have discovered their new house and proposed to build a new life, they read books in its intact library and so discover the forbidden word, “I” (94). This discovery prompts Equality to radically overhaul his entire way of going through life, aligning it to Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. His focus on himself, illustrated through his obsession with the word I is show in the last two chapters of the book, where he latches on to the idea that devoting one’s life to only oneself is the only appropriate way to live life. Rand shows this with statements from Equality such as, “I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them”(96). Equality is proclaiming that his life will be best lived in a purely selfish manner, where he will not take care of anyone else, but will not ask anyone to take care of him either. This idea of noble selfishness makes him go as far as denouncing the word we as “a monster”, and worshipping “This god, this one word: I”(97). His transition is complete with this refocusing of his mind from worship of the group, to his new god,
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