Sins and Transgressions The society and government in which a person lives is one of the most influential factors for their religion, values and what is socially acceptable within the terms of society. In Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the dystopian society’s government has a very prominent role in every citizen’s life. The council, the group of people who run the society, established many rules and ways of thinking towards appearance and lifestyle. In this society, being different is considered evil because the council engraved into the citizen’s heads that it is only socially acceptable to be one of the group.
Prometheus, the main character, is individualized in the civilization as one of the smartest, tallest and most capable people. These characteristics resulted in rejection and outcast treatment from the council. Society perceives cleverness and height as a curse, consequentially living a life of sins and transgressions. To prevent citizens from stepping out of obedience and overthrowing their power, the leaders of this dystopian society maintain a negative connotation toward individuality.
Intelligence is not highly recognized in this society so as to sustain the control the council has over its citizens by manipulating the general population to have low intelligence. One of Prometheus’ main “sins” is that he is intellectually above all other citizens in the society. He is punished throughout his childhood for this transgression so he would grow up with the mentality that it was evil to be superior and that he should not use his abilities. “It was that the learning was too easy. That is a great sin, to be born with a head, which is too quick.
It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior” (Rand 21). Prometheus has always been superior to his brothers, but to retain the power the government has over the people’s ways of thinking, the council has laws that enforce he must be like his brothers in every way. These laws include regulating how clever a socially acceptable person can be. The government can maintain its power if its citizens are equally as unintelligent as possible. They praise those who are not cunning. “We tried to forget our lessons, but we always remembered”(Rand 21).
This mentality leads Prometheus to believe his intelligence is a sin rather than a blessing. After Prometheus has attempted to present his light to the council, he discovers that the council has no interest in promoting the development of society. The men in council ran in terror away from the light and without acknowledging the invention. They ridiculed Prometheus for his rule breaking and began to list punishments for him (Rand 70-72). The fact that they did not care about Prometheus’ light sparks a realization in Prometheus.
He understands then that the power of the government rests in the static economic and social systems of his society. “It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and to re-fit the Plans so as to make candles instead of torches. This touched upon thousands and thousands of men working in scores of States. We cannot alter the Plans again so soon” (Rand 74). Changing the plans to increase the development of society would mean extending what citizens can or cannot do under government’s supervision.
Prometheus’ discovery that ‘I’ was kept away from citizens in concept and in theory shows to him how the society evolved underneath the government. The council never uses the word ‘I’ and it forbids the use of it to continue in the mentality that all men are one body. There is no individual in the group. “We are nothing. Mankind is all” (Rand 21). The theory that one man alone can be nothing keeps Prometheus, as a young child, from developing into the individual he could’ve been from the start.
This disregard to an individual also prevents citizens from expressing their thoughts and opinions. Preventing a population from expressing free speech keeps the society socially static. Since no personal expression is allowed, individuality in virtually nonexistent. Anthem clearly shows through Prometheus’ experiences that government control over individuality maintains the leaders’ power. Setting regulations for how a person must appear and how they must talk limits originality in citizens.
It also limits the ability of citizens to overthrow a government’s position of authority. The council disapproves of any kind of evolution of society. This is because the government does not want an individual person to be able to stand out and rise above his brothers. Unfortunately, Prometheus is born an individual; therefore he is treated unfairly and labeled as cursed. The society sets rules on how a person must appear and behave to maintain there control over the population.