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Dylan Rivera

Ms. Woelke

APEL

22 February 2018

Book Review of ​Anthem

In 1926, 21 year old Ayn Rand arrived in America from the communist Soviet Union.

Coming from there, she was familiar with the collective sense of self, being a society where

people often called each other equal “comrades”. Moving to an individualistic society like the

United States gave her a pleasant reminder of the concept of the ego, or “I”. It was this

distinction of personhood - I and we - that gave rise to her strong taste of individualism and her

world renowned short novella, ​Anthem​. It reminds that the concept of the Self should not be

taken for granted.

The story is presented as the journal of the boy who has been named Equality 7-2521. He

lives in a society devoid of the concept of the Self and the innovations of the past (referred to as

the “Unmentionable Times”), where everyone sees themselves as “us” and others as “they”,

displaying the unity of the people where first and second person pronouns are unknown. As the

story goes on to follow the life of Equality 7-2521, the boy goes on to discover the secrets of the

Unmentionable Times and attempts to save the forgotten concept of the Self with the girl he

loves by his side.

In today’s world, we have always taken for granted the notion of the Self - I, me, and my.

Our society cherishes those who follow their dreams and demonstrate an unshakeable self

confidence. This way, it is difficult to imagine a world without the concept of the Self, as life
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around us would drastically change without it. Our economy, relationships, and projects all rely

on the concept of “me” at their very core. To live in a world without this knowledge and only

that of a collective “us” is unfathomable.

Modern good ethical protocol in the West often includes the idea of putting others before

ourselves. Religions such as Christianity preach the sameness of everyone in God’s eyes; famous

literature like ​The Alchemist ​promotes a concept of the “Soul of the World” which is essentially

the idea that everyone is ultimately part of the same creation. We are constantly bombarded with

this emphasis on “we” and “us” over “I” and “me” and that thinking otherwise is selfish.

Fortunately, Rand’s novel ​Anthem ​reminds us of the power of the concept of the self

which is too often taken for granted and even attacked today. This is not to say that we should

solely be concerned with ourselves over the unity with those around us, as the latter is vital to

our success as a species. But, as with everything in life, a happy balance should be found. We

should not shame those who look out for themselves but praise it, yet we should not forget our

loyalty to our community and the human race in general as well. At the basis of everything,

however, is the Self, - the backbone for all human endeavors (such as the desire to improve our

living standards or make a monetary income). We must not forget this.

Anthem ​does a fine job at reminding us of this gift to our consciousness. Rand, coming

from a society experienced with the philosophy of collectivism in daily life, knows the power of

the Self (in this case, the lack thereof) firsthand. Forgetting about it can lead to potentially

destructive paths as seen at the height of collectivization in the Soviet Union and the dystopia

seen in Equality 7-2521’s world. Rand’s use of “we” to refer to the Self throughout the book

really puts the situation in perspective, gradually introducing the concept of “I” by the end of the
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book - a familiar pronoun among readers that is tragically missing from the beginning of the

novella. The plot masterfully unfolds the quest of self realization and coldly presents a version of

humanity that has rejected the Self via vivid descriptions of daily life and interactions among

people who see fellow individuals as “us” and “them”.

The book is enlightening. It addresses a topic which is not only taken for granted but also

unheard of compared to other famous works of literature. I personally was captivated by this

fictional universe and how it made me reflect on my own personhood. Anyone who is interested

in deep topics like this would find ​Anthem​ a pleasant read, but those who are more keen on

realistic life situations may even find the plot of ​Anthem ​boring, due to its lack of relatable

action.

Many books are created to remind us of themes that we should reflect upon to feel more

satisfied with our lives. ​Anthem ​has a way of discussing a theme that is often pushed aside or

may even rise as a threat to humanity in the future. For its personal message that it conveys, I am

inclined to recommend this novella as a book worth reading. And in the style of ​Anthem​: Our and

their life would be radically different without this fulfilling conviction.

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