Book Review: Anthem by Ayn Rand
Author: Ayn Rand
Published: 1938, 1946
Publisher: Cassell, Pamphleteers, Inc.
From: Barnes and Noble
There is something about a story that is short, thoughtful and just plain scary.
Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, succeeds at telling a story that, if looked at in the right light, is a scary tale of political oppression and overcoming your feelings in a world where feelings don’t exist. This story is Anthem (1961).
Equality 7-2521 is a man living in a time where the individual no longer exists and the group is the most important thing, to make the group better and to make the group survive and thrive.
Very early on, Equality 7-2521 shows a curiosity for science and asked questions, like most children do. However, curiosity is not allowed, so that when he reaches the age where men and women are given their lifelong jobs, he is named a Street Sweeper. Even though he is secretly sad, he cannot show his true feelings for fear of being shunned. He fulfills his trash collecting work with pride, until he meets a woman named Liberty 5-3000 and secretly names her the Golden One.
After meeting her and speaking to her, he comes across a manhole that no one is allowed down. He goes down it and from there he steals paper and pencils and candles, begins a journal and explores science.
This is a book that, though short, makes a statement about man. Rand succeeds in explaining that, if people do not keep their own mind, if they let authorities think for them, civilization will collapse and change and progress will no longer exist.
It’s very hard to critique someone as historical as Ayn Rand, someone who has made a name for herself since she began writing. There really is nothing I didn’t like about this story, except that I wish it was longer. It’s a relatively short novel, 105 pages in my copy, plus the original version with revisions in the second half, but there is something in a story that short if you can look into the minds and actions of people and still write something so wonderful.
Because of its ease with which the words flow, the transitions move into the next thought and the simplicity of the prose, I recommend this story to anyone, young and old.
Rand is the author of similarly philosophical books such as The Fountainhead and We the Living. Her novels can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon.com. There are also several movies based on her novels.