Anthem Summary

Ayn Rand in 1937 wrote a dystopic artistic novel "Anthem." For the first time this story was published in 1938 in England.

The Plot of Anthem

Equality7-2521 dreams that he could be a Scholar figuring out cool stuff about the world. But in the harsh reality, he must spend his whole life working as a street sweeper. In the city where he lives it is wrong to do something for yourself or what you want. But every night, Equality 7-2521 sneaks in off to an underground tunnel to put down his ideas and do his private scientific experiments. He meets Liberty 5-3000, this is the girl he really likes. He would like to invite her on a date, but it is illegal. While away the time in his underground tunnel every night, Equality invents an electric lamp even though he knows the way he came to discover electricity is illegal and sinful. Equality believes that this invention will help his city since they have only candles. Unfortunately, other Scholars want to punish him for his invention. And the dream of becoming a Scholar again moves away from him. Thus, Equality 7-2521 runs into the forest with Liberty, and they create a new life together. They find an abandoned house from "unmentionable times". This is the past where the word "I" existed). They make their own home and read old books, where they learn how to say the word "I".

Equality7-2521 and Freedom give themselves new names. Equality 7-2521 is now Prometheus (the myth of the guy who gave the world fire), and Liberty 5-3000 is now Gaea (the Greek name for Mother Earth). Equality7-2521 speaks of how he is going to build a new civilization, a new world that is based on personality.

Main characters

  • Equality 7-2521: The protagonist of the story and the narrator of the anthem. He’s the brilliant hero. He works as a street sweeper. At the very beginning, he will describe himself as a curse. So he believes because he is completely different from his brothers. But due to this curse, he is freed from the captivity of collectivism to freedom and learns the meaning of the word “I.”
  • Liberty 5-3000: Equality's girlfriend. Equality calls her "The Golden One." She lives in the House of the Peasant. She is the companions, lovers, and soul-mate of Equality 7-2521. She escapes with him to the Uncharted Forest, leaving behind her childhood home completely trusting Equality as her lover. She is completely confident in herself and her own individual potential.

Anthem analyses

In all the works of Ayn Rand, human potential and individual self-esteem are glorified. "Anthem" is not an exception. “Anthem” is her second work of fiction. Although the anthem is shorter than other Rand books, the basic principles of its objectivist philosophy are still present. This dystopic artistic novel criticizes the regime of a totalitarian society that suppresses creativity and human feelings. Rand uses libertarian political and economic philosophy. She is a supporter of the free market system of the economy of classical liberalism and capitalism. Rand immigrated to the United States after her native Russia adopted communism as a political and economic language.

Socially, objectivism teaches the power of the individual and his ability to reason. Rand was not a fan of collective power and control over society; sacrifice for the sake of his brother is not just ineffective and impractical for Rand, but diametrically opposed to the human essence of man. When a society loses the word "I," Rand believed, it would self-destruct.

In a moral sense, Rand's philosophy is completely atheistic. Ayn Rand despised the whole religion, believing that she kept people in slavery to backward thinking, for example, to erroneous ideals of altruism. Throughout the Anthem, Rand connects the corrupt ideology of collectivists with religion. For example, she describes the daily meetings of the city council in the format of church services. Even the word " Anthem " has a religious connotation. Rand deliberately decided to describe his story, using traditional religious images, hoping to replace God with the sublime view of man. Indeed, her hymn refers to an individual person who realizes his glorious state of existence and uses it in his own interests.

The Symbols

There is a religious language in the story. In the very first sentence, readers can meet the word "sin." The city's bans also have a religious resonance: Transgression, Evil Ones, Unspeakable Word, Unmentionable Times.

In the last chapters there are mythical allusions. When Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 were choosing their new names, they choose names from the gods of creation from the Greek myths (Prometheus for Equality and Gaea for Liberty).

The Main Idea

Philosophically, the book does have a lot to say – it can function as a crash course in Rand's philosophy of Objectivism – but Rand's ideas are presented clearly. The idea of this work is relatively simple and consists of two parts. When a person merges with a collective into a single whole, people degenerate into meaningless non-creative and non-invasive automatic machines. They have only to work and die exhausted and young. The author shows how much the collective oppresses the personality of a person, dictates to him the rules of life. In this story, it shows how society directs the life of each person to obtain a common good, thereby suppressing the personality and freedom of action and thought. However, even in such a world, there may be a special person who feels oppressed by the collective. He can be a person who knows how to think, dream and love.

Without a doubt, individualism is the basic idea of the anthem. The whole text, in fact, is a parable, designed to illustrate the paramount importance of the idea of Ayn Rand about the individual will.

Critical Response

Mostly the original edition in the UK received positive reviews of this story. Some critics praised Rand's imagination and the support of individualism. Some other critics liked simplicity and sincerity of her writing. Anticommunist journalist Malcolm Muggeridge released a review in The Daily Telegraph, stating that he has an appeal. Maurice Richardson in The Observer said that this dystopia is "very unconvincing, despite some extremely eloquent writing."

Topics for Your Essay

“Anthem” by Ayn Rand is asked to be read by many students and write different essays on this work. Many students consider Ayn Rand's novel "Anthem" to be attractive and compelling to think about. Here you can find some possible topic ideas for writing your essay.

  • Give some examples of how individualism is presented in a negative way?
  • Anthem is nearly 90 years old. What about this book is still relevant in today's world?
  • Based on the ideas presented in this novel, what would Ayn Rand's perfect society look like?
  • In many real and fictionalized totalitarian societies, children live apart from their families. Why would dictatorial leaders enforce this living?
  • What do you think Equality's main motivation is for creating his new invention? Explain.
  • Does Anthem take place in the past, the present, or the future? How do we know?
  • What names do they exchange? Why is this significant?
  • What does the Uncharted Forest symbolize in Anthem by Ayn Rand?