Anthem by Ayn Rand + A Giveaway

Equality 7-2521 lives in a dark futurist dystopia in Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem. He has no words for love or self, and being alone is a crime. Yet, as do characters in countless other dystopian novels, he still finds moments to write his story of discovery.

By itself, Anthem is slim – just 100 pages – and quick to read. I enjoyed the story of Equality 7-2521’s literal self-discovery and I love the concepts within it: What is joy? What is pleasure? What is self?

Anthem has its faults, notably a complex ideology that Rand obviously hopes to impart to the reader. For me, this philosophy seemed to overshadow the story of Equality 7-2521 a bit too much. But, because it is a slim story, it was still a worthwhile reread for me.

Rereading this novella reminded me of the need to reread the classic dystopian novels: Animal Farm, 1984, and so forth. From my dim memories, Rand’s dystopia most reminds me of the dystopia in The Giver, for, like Jonas, Equality 7-2521 learns of what life was like before the dystopia, which in Equality 7-2521’s case is called “the Unmentionable Times.” The difference is that in Jonas’ world, the high councilmen (can’t remember what they are called) have kept a person that has those memories (called The Giver); in Anthem, even the memories are gone and all must be rediscovered.

In some respects, I found Anthem to be much more compelling than The Handmaid’s Tale, another dystopia-tale I read recently, because the narration made sense in Anthem. If Equality 7-2521 doesn’t have a word for something, he uses words he does have. Tense don’t shift. It is written in one chronological time frame, although he does share some flash backs of his life history as he writes in his journal. (It still bothers me that I can’t explain how the handmaid in Atwood’s novel told her story since the tenses were so “off.”) That said, Anthem is a completely different story than The Handmaid’s Tale and it has a different agenda. While The Handmaid’s Tale looked at religion as totalitarian disaster, Anthem does not. This dystopia is godless and religion-less, as is Equality 7-2521’s ultimate escape. The only god in Anthem is the individual. And that is to what the novel sings an “anthem” to.

This also reminded me of Ella Minnow Pea, silly as it was. In that novel, once or twice Ella mourned the day the “I” would fall off of the memorial and she’d no longer be able to express herself: “I love you.”

And celebrating the power of “I” is also Rand’s goal in her writing. My volume has a 10-page introduction and a 10-page appendix discussing Rand’s philosophy and how Anthem is a precursor to her further philosophical treatises/novels (Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead). Rand developed her own philosophy, called objectivism. I’m sorry to say, reading this novel and the front and end matter has only confused the issue of “objectivism” in my mind. It seems quite complicated. But the gist seems to be that no overarching power – government or religion – is more powerful than each individual; by extension there is no god and there is no faith because truth is given power only through reason. For more information on objectivism, visit Wikipedia’s entry, The Ayn Rand Institute, or the user-created Objectivism Wiki.

As one who believes in God and faith, though, I didn’t find Rand’s political agenda to be remarkably or annoyingly atheist, however. I believe celebrating the individual can go in harmony with religion and Anthem was an appropriate “hymn” to that individual.

Martel-Harper Challenge

In reading Yann Martel’s letter to Stephen Harper about this book, I have to say, he gave up the entire plot. Although his letter is amusing and sarcastic, don’t read his letter until you read the book. I’d be annoyed if I were Stephen Harper. Sometimes I really hate spoilers! (Other times I read the last page first.)

A Giveaway

My copy of Anthem has the most recent publication of the novel as well as a facsimile of Rand’s edits to the original 1938 U.K. publication. (Publishers in the U.S. would not publish Anthem until 1946, apparently for political reasons.) I’ve read the novella twice; the first time was for a book club, so I marked two or three passages with pen in the margin. Other than that, it’s in excellent condition.

I’d like to giveaway my copy. (Remember my poll about giving away used books? This book is used and does have pen markings in it. If you don’t want it for that reason, I understand.) If you would like to be entered into the drawing, tell me in a comment below. I’ll select a winner next week.

NOTE: GIVEAWAY IS OVER.

What is your favorite dystopian novel? I’m in the mood to read some more of them.

Have you read Ayn Rand’s masterpieces? What are your thoughts on objectivism within those books? Is the plot overshadowed by philosophy?

If you have reviewed Anthem on your site, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. This might be one of my favorite genres of literature.  I am just fascinated by the stories that have been written about failed attempts at a utopian society.  I LOVE Orwell.  I know he is the cliche in this genre, but I can’t help it.

    Aside from Orwell, I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in high school and I remember really enjoying it.

    I have never read anything by Ayn Rand and have always wanted to.  I just keep forgetting whenever I decide on my next book to read.  Maybe Anthem should be my next choice since it would be a quick read!

    Your reviews are always so great to see!  Keep up the good reading!

  2. I have never read anything by Ayn Rand but it’s something I’ve always planned to do, so I think starting with one of her shorter books would be perfect.  My favorite dystopian novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, but I have to admit that I’m not too well-versed in the genre.  I also enjoyed 1984 immensely, but I read it so long ago that I couldn’t tell you too much about it besides the basic plot (which most people know anyway).
    Anyways, please enter me, I’d love to win this book! Thanks much. 🙂

  3. Hi Rebecca, I’ve never read anything by Ayn Rand and have always shied away from her, but maybe it’s time to give something a try, so I can know for sure what my opinion on her is.  what better way to start than with a dystopian novel, since I love those so much?  I think you mentioned most of the dystopian novels I’ve read.  Let’s see – 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, the Giver.  For more YA selections, the City of Ember books are good, especially the first one, which far outstrips the others.  I’ve also read We, and I’ve heard The Iron Heel is good though I haven’t tried it yet.  I plan to in 2009.  My cousin also reviewed some dystopias by Octavia Butler (Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) this past summer on 5-squared.  He thought they were pretty good.

  4. I’d love to win a copy of Anthem.  Your review, particularly, the comparison with A Handmaid’s Tale, sucked me right in.  I really enjoyed A Handmaid’s Tale, but there were some narration issues.  Also, the only other book by Ayn Rand that I’ve read is The Fountainhead, which was great too. 

    As for other dystopian reads, I can’t think of any.  I have been meaning to read 1984.  Also, for your Really Old Classics Challenge I’m going to read Utopia, just to balance out the dystopia.

  5. I think all of my favorites have already been mentioned!  I would love to win a copy of Anthem.  I read half of Atlas Shrugged by Rand once.  I think the only reason I stopped was because it was overdue at the library.

  6. Ayn Rand is one of those authors that really intimidates me–perhaps because her books are so dang big!  I don’t need to be entered in the giveaway, but I think my favorite dystopian book is The Handmaid’s Tale–another good one (although more sublte) is Never Let Me Go.

  7. ak, it’s been a long time since I read Orwell. I must reread him soon, because everyone seems to love his books!

    Heather, I don’t feel very well versed in the genre either, but I’ve been reading so many lately, I think I’d like to be. Very interesting books out there!

    Amanda, I’ve actually never read Brave New World — just heard about it. Maybe that should be next on my reading list!

    Jessica, Was The Fountainhead overly full of objectivism?
    Chain Reader, That’s problem with really long books from the library!

    Trish, I completely understand! The others are very long! But this one isn’t. I haven’t heard of Never Let Me Go. I must look into it.

  8. You should definitely read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  Actually, several of his other books fit into this category as well.

    Deidre

  9. Hi there.    I am late for the giveaway but I have two books that you might consider.  One is called Into the Forest, (Jean Hegland) and the other is called A Gift along the Shore (M.K. Wren). I would love to hear what you think of them.    My book club read them both about three years ago.  We recently read Ayn Rand’s Altas Shrugged.  It was very very powerful and well written.

  10. After reading “Anthem” by Ayn Rand I was so inspired that I composed and produced a fully professional rock opera/musical of it.

  11. If you are going to ‘revisit’ dystopian novels then I suggest you go a bit further back than Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Further, even, than Rand’s Anthem. To the early 1920s, and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, as mentioned by Amanda above. Rand took it as her template for Anthem, putting her Objectivist nonsense to it. Orwell, also, took it as his model for Nineteen Eight-Four and was convinced Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (an imaginative, if flawed novel) owed it a debt, something he outright denied.

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