The Philosophy of Freedom in Anthem by Ayn Rand
The philosophy of freedom is the basis of society for equal opportunities In her dystopian fiction novella Anthem, Ayn Rand presents the philosophy of individuality. After reading this literary work, each reader can share the point of view of the author or, on the contrary, challenge it. According to my personal opinion, the concept of individuality, personality and ego was shown absolutely accurately, which explains my full agreement with Ayn Rand and, perhaps, with the main character.To begin with, Ayn Rand conceived Anthem as a play which “casually” criticizes her period of living in Soviet Russia or, using other terms, in communist Russia. In her opinion, communism is the basis of self-destruction and elimination or even eradication of thoughts related with the manifestation of someone’s feature. This idea is presented at the very beginning of the novel, when Equality talks about the “words cut in the marble”, which he is required to repeat to himself whenever he is tempted: “We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One invisible and forever.” Such could be not only the “holy words” of the Equality’s society, but also of the Soviet Union, which is a suitable analogue of the world represented in Anthem.
Therefore, it is the Soviet Union that is the first historical evidence (in this essay) against the theory of absolute socialist equality. Throughout the plot, readers observe dramatic changes in behavior and generally in understanding of the world of the protagonist and his lover. It is from the title and first words of the eleventh chapter that the hero is represented by the cardinal opposite of himself at the beginning. From the words “I am. I think. I will.” begins a “new page” of Equality’s life. Besides, chapter 11 is also the beginning of the Rand’s philosophy. From this chapter readers may misunderstand what Ayn Rand wanted to say because of such strong affirmations of Equality: “It is my mind which thinks, and the judgment of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.”; “I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars”; “I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for many others. I covet no man’s soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.” Of course, all of these ideas are not a direct statement of a person or individual, but of an egoist who does not care for anything. Not reading this novel to the end, there is a feeling that the Rand’s philosophy is to be useful only to yourself and to “abstract” from society. But the truth is not so.
After all egoistic thoughts, Equality says: “I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned.”; “And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each men keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.” And the most important one from the twelfth chapter: “I shall call to me all the men and the women whose spirit has not been killed within them and who suffer under the yoke of their brothers. They will follow me and I shall lead them to my fortress. And here, in this uncharted wilderness, I and they, my chosen friends, my fellow-builders, shall write the first chapter in the new history of man.” All of these quotations confirm the idea that Ayn Rand presents the philosophy of freedom, freedom in everything: in choice, in religion and most importantly – freedom of speech. This kind (of freedom) is the main component of any democratic society and state. In addition, this concept of freedom and individuality may be seen in our century. The Occupy movement, an international progressive, socio-political movement, expressed opposition to social and economic inequality and to the lack of ‘real democracy’ around the world, it aimed primarily to advance social and economic justice and new forms of democracy and the Revolution of dignity in Ukraine are vivid examples of this.
In both cases, people, as citizens, were dissatisfied with violations of their rights and freedoms by the state. Freedom is what each of us has and must have, it can change absolutely everything. Our duty is not to forget about it (freedom) and use it if it is necessary, as, for instant, activists and participants of previously bristled movements did. Taking into consideration all mentioned above, the philosophy that Ayn Rand presents in Anthem is the concept of freedom and individuality. Credibility of this philosophy can be explained by the Occupy movement and the Revolution of dignity. As to the Soviet Union, it is a vivid historical example of the fact that in the case if this philosophy is removed from society, then sooner or later this society will make all efforts in order to return it. The philosophy of freedom is the basis of society for equal opportunities!
The Society Of Anthem
The people in the society are demanded to do what there job is and must live with fear. Every person’s life is planned from birth to death and are controlled their entire life. They must be driven to work hard to please the people who control them. When they get to rest at forty, their bodys are beaten up. Equality states that, “ At the age of forty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the house of the useless, where the old ones lives. The old one do not work….. They do not speak once, for they are weary. The old ones know that they are soon to die.”( Rand 28 ). Equality used words like “ worn out “ and “ weary “ that infrared that the work of the society places a big toll on their bodies. So the average death age is 45 because they don’t have anything else to do since there consider useless at the age of forty. So they die because their bodys are worn out and they cant do anything because there useless.
Anthem in my opinion takes place in the future. Equality had given the job of sweep sweeper although he is intelligent. He uses his advantage to find a tunnel of electricity cables and many more things. This discovery shows that their wee people before the society of Anthem. When Equality found the tunnel he states, “ No man known to us could have built this place, nor the men known to our brothers who lived before us, and yet it was built by man.”( Rand 11 ). This shows that the society known of men before them and that a different society was their building and living. I think the society before Anthem were technolicy advance and that a great event happened like a war or battle that left he men after to live of of nothing and then advance to present day Anthem.
Ayn Rand made Equality into someone you want to rote for. She made him self-aware and intelligent. She made him think of himself which proved key into standing out among his brother. Equality is six feet tall and he is considered evil because nobody is as tall as him. He stands out though hs height. Equality lives in a society where everybody’s equal and he tries to fit in and follow rules and do his job but deep inside he doesn’t want to be controlled. He stared his journal stating, “ It is a sin to write this “ ( Rand 1 ). He knew that writing in a secret journal was risky but he did it anyway so he could be free of one thing. He’s a risk taker and that shows him standing out.
The characteristic traits of liberty – 5000 in the brief description is she’s beautiful, fearless, and elegant. She stands out to the rest and caches the eye of Equality’s eye. Equality states, “ We stood still; for the first time did we know fear, and then pain” ( Rand 16 ). This shows that equality didn’t know what he was feeling towards Liberty. She is the most beautiful Equality as ever seen. He can see fearlessness in her eyes and can tell that’s she not kind though her expression. Liberty though Equality’s eyes is she’s straight and tall with golden hair and dark brown eyes. In my mind I can see a beautiful girl with an unusual personality.
The society of anthem tries to take away the freedom of expression and they take away the freedom of choice. They assign jobs to men. They tell them when to work, eat, and sleep. They control everybody’s life from birth to death. Equality states, “ And we take no heed of the law which says that men may not think of women, save at the Time of Mating.” (Rand 17). The society controls the mating process, birth, and childhood of kids. It’s not fair but they have to follow the rules or they get sent to the Palace of Corrective Detention.
Equality was given the name “ Unconquered “ because he could not be controlled by the society. He was beaten in the Palace of Corrective Detention for not giving information to the society. When he escaped he went to the council but after there denial he fled to the Uncharted forest. There he was free and unconquered because nobody goes into the Uncharted forest. Equality states, “ We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wire.” (Rand 25). This shows that he was finally unconquered from the mines of the society and is free of there mind games.
The prisoners in the Palace of Corrective Detention never tried to escape because they were scared that they will get punished worse than a jail sail. The prisoners also didn’t have a motive to escape and unlike equality weren’t smart enough to ge out. The society they live in is a world where they aren’t classify as I but we. If they escape, then they’re no longer part of the society because they didn’t serve their full time in prison. Their only two options are returning to the house of scholars r running to the uncharted forest. The prisoner will most likely surrender because the society is afraid of the uncharted forest where no man had ever been. Equality states, “ Then, tonight, we know that we must escape. For tomorrow the world council of the city is to meet in our city.” (Rand 32). This shows that equality had a plan to escape because he wanted to live a better life then he had now. He had time, motive, and a plan to get out of the prison were as the other prisoners were afraid to disobey the society.
Equality’s main motivation in conducting his experiments was for him to be free and to be free to do whatever he wants. His great joy is that he did something so incredible by himself. His invention helps discovers who he is and it gives him motivation to help other people find who they are. Equality states, “ Yes, we do care. For the first time do we care about our body.” (Rand 29). This shows that equality cares for himself and for others. This shows that he thinks for himself rather than the society thinking for him. He motivates himself this way and will try to show his invention to the society.
At the beginning of chapter 7 Equality is in the dark forest laying down on he grown. He feels old and weary but earlier in the morning he feels young as he taking his invention to the council. This is because his invention and his invention made him feel young. He felt like a new person had been born out of his old body. But once the council denied his invention, he felt like he was old because the invention brought hope into his eyes. Equality states, “ These great and wise of the earth did not know what to think of us, and they looked upon us with wonder and curiosity, as if we were a miracle.” (Rand 33). This shows that the council saw a new person who was reborn. Equality’s appearance was new and unseen before, but when he was rejected he became old again in disappointment.
The reason behind the rejection and fear of the gift is that the electricity hurts the society. If they show interest then they show that Equality is brighter than them. Collective 0-0009 states, “ How dare you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brother? “ (Rand 35). This shows the anger and jealousness that Collective shows. He doesn’t like to be outsmarted and out thinked. He knows that the society will crumble with this new power. The council knows that by accepting this new power then everyone will question the society and why they have to live with only fire.
Equality experiences laziness in chapter 8. He has experience what a day is like with no work, no bedtime, and no orders. He has become free of his society and he’s happy. He states, “ We though suddenly that we could lie thus as long as we wish, and we laughed out loud at the thought.” (Rand 39). This shows Equality’s feelings towards this new laziness. He’s happy and joyful for the first time in his life. He’s living the best life he’s ever had he is free and he wishes to be free from now on. He’s glad to be away from his society.
The uncharted forest symbolizes the unknown in Anthem. It also symbolizes mystery and confusion. Its significant because it helps Equality learned more of the society before his society. The forest is a big question mark to the anthem society and it causes panic in what’s inside. Equality states, “ We know that men would not follow us, for they never enter the Uncharted Forest.” (Rand 38). This shows that nobody dares to enter the forest because they fear what’s inside. The society can’t control people into not going in the forest but they know that the put enough fear in them to not go in the forest.
Before Equality escape his society, he was taught that solitude, joy, good, and evil are what the society thinks and not what you think. The society takes away self thought so you can’t say that’s evil until the council says that’s evil. When he escaped into the Uncharted Forest, he found a new sense of solitude, joy, good, and evil. Equality states, “ We have no need of our brothers. Let us forget their good and evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that there is joy as a bond between us.” (Rand 42). This shows that Equality does not follow his society sense of solitude, joy, good, and evil but follows his own sense on that.
The proper goal and purpose in life to Equality is his own happiness. He is happy that he left his society and is happy that the golden one is with him. He never was happy in his society but he had to act happy because his society control his emotion. He states, “ I guard my treasures: my though, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.” (Rand 49). This shows that he is happy that hey has self protection and that he’s finally free from his society. He finds his own happiness by going to the forest and having the golden one follow him and then them finding a house just gives him joy.
“I” is like a god in Anthem because it’s powerful and it can mean many things like god can represent many things. “I” was feared by many people and it caused the society to totally obiulate it from there society. Equality states, “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god who men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.” (Rand 50). Equality used words like “joy” and “pride” that compares “I” to god. The word “I” gives Equality the chance to find who he is and he looks up to this word like people look up to god.
The main characters look the names Prometheus and Gaea because those names spoke out to Equality and he loved the origins behind the names. Prometheus spoke out to Equality out of all the names in the book because Prometheus brought light to men and was punished for his deeds. Prometheus’s story is similar to Equality’s because they both tried to make a difference in life. Then Equality chose Gaea for the golden ones name because in the books she was described as a beautiful goddess. Since the Golden one was the most beautiful thing Equality has seen, he had to give her that name. They were not allowed to choose names in their society because the society did not allow individuality and self though. Equality states, “ My dearest one, it is not proper for men to be without name.” (Rand 51). This shows that Equality cares for a name because it gives him individuality but his society would not allow individuality or give them names.
Prometheus plans on rebuilding what the present has lost and go even further. He also plans on raising his child has a man who understands the concept of “I”. He hopes to free his friends from the society and bring them to his home. He wants to create a new society were they are free to have emotion and have names. It will be different from his old society because it gives more freedom and everybody’s going to have a say. Prometheus stated, “ Here on this mountain, I and my son and my chosen friends shall build our new land and our fort.” (Rand 55). He going to make a better future for his people.
To be free from their society, Prometheus and Gaea must move past their brothers and ignore their sin that the society sees in them. The society now thinks that Prometheus (Equality) and Gaea (Liberty) are sins but Prometheus and Gaea can’t think what they see in them. They can’t follow the rules and seeings that the society indurse on them. They have to forget their brothers and forget their friends. Equality states, “ And suddenly, for the first time this day, we remembered that we are the the damned. We remember it, and we laugh.” (Rand 40). This show that equality doesn’t care about what he is called by his society, but that he not in that society that are his brothers who call him bad things because the society told them to.
The overall message about life in Anthem is self-discovery and self-awareness. Rand showed a situation were a society is mainly composed of destroying any self-thoughts or any self-discovery. When the main character escape he discovered himself. By discovery himself, he made a new life with his lover and they plan to expand this plan. Equality states, The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning an the glory. The sacred word: EGO.” (Rand 55). That last sentence explain the main message in life that whatever you do, it can’t affeced your EGO as EGO never dies.
Rand’s overall purpose in writing Anthem was to create a society where everyone is not allowed to have self thoughts and no names and no freedom of expression. Rand wants to show what it would like to take away the first amendment witch is freedom of speech/expression. The society takes away basic human rights and it causes everybody to be sad but they have to be happy at all times. Rand showed us what a real dystopia would look like. She created a society were the leaders control everybody lives. They choose your job, your name, and they assign the mating process. Rand really shows us how terrible a dystopia would look like. She succeeded in creating a society that we can possibly be in 100 year from now.
The Dilemma About Kneel Standing During The National Anthem
“I feel in my heart it is right to continue to kneel during the national anthem, and I will do whatever I can to be part of the solution.” as stated by Megan Rapinoe At first thought, an individual may question, Is this a issue of patriotism or just a matter of being right, If you take a step back to fully understand the situation, like Optimus Prime of the Transformers says”there is much more than what meets the eye”. There is deep rooted problem on both sides but if you take time to digress you might be able to understand that whichever side you agree with both sides have a valid point. More so, as I sit and think about all the atrocities that have been going on in the world as of late I can understand the viewpoint of the players, staff or personnel who are choosing to kneel during the National Anthem, I feel like in my heart that I truly understand the reasons behind the individuals who are choosing to kneel and they have a valid and justified argument to kneel during the National Anthem. Until we as a country make certain changes to our laws or hold our law enforcers who are breaking our laws accountable the unrest will continue on. But I agree with the NFL players who are kneeling to raise awareness for what is going on in our nation for the life of our minority community. As I write this essay to my fellow nation men and women we will take a gander at the different views that can be explored in this argument such as President Donald Trump and his cabinet, Eric Reid the NFL players and myself.
First of all, I think americans are oblivious to what our government is doing President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are basically telling the professional athletes in the NFL or any athlete in pro sports who are using there spotlight as a podium to raise awareness for the travisties that are being committed on a daily basis to, “Shut up and play.” The individuals who are against athletes or anyone for that matter of taking a knee during the National Anthem are feeling like the National Football League and their players are sending a message to our country and especially to our military veterans that our message while the National Anthem is playing is more important than the sacrifice you make on a daily basis.” But I do not believe that to be the case.
The force that is driving this issue is ignorance I do believe that people would rather live in their buble then to see what is going on in the world. Americans always play the if it does not directly affect me why should I care card all too often. This debate would not even be a debate if we took time to care about others the way we care for our love ones and stop the hatred for one another and instead show love and concern. Each side of the debate think that they know what is best for the nation but I honestly feel that President Trump and his cabinet are targeting the NFL and their players for political reasons feels like he is just spewing toxic waste for political theatre or political gain. He feels like the kneelers are spoiled, bratty and privileged professional football players who couldn’t possibly truly understand or be disturbed about lives lost to the racial injustice going on in the United States, but there have been tons of situations that have arisen since President Trump took over the oval office and there has only been a handful as I know of that he has bothered to speak on or mention in a press conference or a speech.
There millions of fans who boo and threaten to boycott the NFL and the ratings have steadily dropped over the years fans are accusing the players of being cry baby, spoiled millionaires who are ruining football the sport that many including myself hold dear. On Sunday afternoon on May 12, 2018, Vice President Pence went to a NFL game and left after the National anthem was paid because he saw players kneeling during the anthem to myself and other swho watch this was a political act. It was an act to force the NFL to change their policy which they eventually did. But let’s take a closer look shall we all fans saw was the Vice President is leaving a game for x or y reasons so if he is leaving and not supporting them why should I. I want to be a good upstanding american so I won’t support the NFL either which in turn made their stock drop and of course they lost a lot of money as President Trump was probably thinking mission accomplished.
Secondly, As I had you had that pit feeling in the middle of your stomach like you have been kicked or punched in the gut over the course of the first month of last year NFL season, if it made you feel like what is happening to the sport I love the sport I grew up watching should I support the football players and commend them for what they are trying to accomplish or should I stand up for lady liberty and the anthem because what the players are doing is making me uncomfortable, there was an article I read last year about Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers he speaks about racial injustices going on in America with total disregard for minority lives and how they have been going on for a very long time without a end and no one of power President included have not spoken on or done anything about it or as recently with the new policy set in place either stand or banned also get fined.
The Cowboys owner Jerry Jones when he tells his players they can either stand for the National Anthem or sit for the entire game, also the Cowboys starting QB Dak Prescott spoke on the issue and said “ Its not the time to protest during the National Anthem”. My question to him is then when is the time Dak should we stand for something we do not believe in? As a 17 year veteran in the US Army my initial reaction was one of defense for the National Anthem, my veteran community, and to this great country. In recent sports history there has not been a more talked about or debated situation than the stand or kneel debate it is talked about all over the world in fact when I see my fellow soldiers that the first conversation that is sparked off. It’s simply so much going on, on both sides you find yourself sometimes flip flopping back in forth on your own stance on of two reasons sometimes it makes it impossible to make a stance is a situation like Stephon Clark. Clark was a unarmed black man shot in the back eight times while in his grandparents backyard by Sacramento police officers because they mistook his cellphone for a weapon when all they had to do was check later after they investigated it was made public that out of eight of those shot, six hit him in the back. Now on the other side you have a decorated Marine who risked his life to save his fellow leathernecks Lance Cpl Jordan Haerter. Haerter was a Marine on guard duty who died in Ramadi, Iraq, April 2008 Haerter opened fire on a truck carrying over 2,200 pounds of explosive coming towards their base. The truck exploded killing him instantly but on that day he save 150 of his battle buddies lives. Whose death you think deserves more media attention Clark or Haerter?
It’s unjust and untrue if anyone thanks the players of National Football League have made a mockery of the sacrifices that myself and my comrades have made over the years. If anything, I feel these players have in the past and present try to show how much they respect and appreciate the military and what we have done and the sacrifices we continue to make on a daily basis. A survey in 2017 showed that over a 150 players and personnel and coaches have either a family member or someone they know or are close to in the armed forces. For instance Larry Fitzgerald a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals aunt and uncle are both Army colonels. Also John Fox coach of the Chicago Bears father was a Navy Seal. David Irving Dallas Cowboys defensive end, father is a US Marine master sergeant, and two of his brothers are also serving as Devil Dawgs. As for the Mr. Reid, his mother is an Army veteran. That has not change his mind or stopped him from being vocal or kept him from taking a knee to bring to the nation attention the death of Alton Sterling, shot by two white police officers at close range in Reid’s hometown of Baton Rouge in 2016 no charges were found against the two officers they were considered justified in their use of lethal force “If I need to say it every time y’all ask me, this is not about the military; this is not about the flag; this is not about the anthem,” Reid said (Rapp, Timothy).
So what is this about to me the players are taking a stance on racial injustice too many times a black man has been shot down and the cop or cops walk away without being charged when is America going to wake and see that these players are standing up for what we are supposed to believe in freedom and equality for all. Change has to happen sooner rather than later before the point of no return a situation will arise that there will be no turning our heads or us being able to run away from a situation that we have to face head on a one nation, one country as one but we can not do that if we continuously hate each other or kill each just because the color of our skin is different. In my words I feel like Reid and the other NFL players who chose to kneel during the anthem are using their NFL spotlight to help raise awareness for what the injustices that keep happening in America today. Also Vice President Pence had every right to utilize his platform or spotlight to further his argument about those who serve/served or have died for this great nation(Johnson, Alex and Rueters). Whatever we may think of President Trump or his VP or the cabinet, millions of people feel like the deeply and legitimately believe that during the anthem is the wrong time for players to make a stance for their cause no matter the situation many feel like at that time the focus should be on the anthem and what it stands for not the politics of today no matter how newsworthy it may be. Among those who feel this way as I said earlier Dallas Cowboys star QB Dak prescott , also White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine general who lost his son Robert in Afghanistan to a IED. Told CNN, “Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes.”
Third of all, in the first two paragraphs of my essay I showed both sides of the argument now I am going to talk about my stance. First I will start off by giving you a little background info on myself so it can better help you understand my position on the matter. I joined the military in 2001 as part of the Dept. of the Navy I served for six years as my family grew I knew I needed to be home more not only for my wife but for my kids. In 2007 I took my talents to the US Army where I served in JBLM (Joint Base Lewis Mcchord), Germany and FT. Hood I also been down range several times in Iraq and Afghanistan just to name a few. I spent my time in the latter getting bombed and shot at for two reasons to protect my family and the American people and so that my children and americans have a right to their free speech ( that seems like four reasons to me). I tell you that to tell you this I agree with the players who are taking a stance and trying to bring awareness and shed a spotlight on this unjust, unreliable judicial system unless we make a change to what is going on in our country unless we really take a step back and realize we have to hold people whether they are cops, politicians or the President himself accountable for their actions instead of consistently looking the other way we a nation cannot move forward. I have lost plenty of friends, comrades, battle buddies in combat but one thing I know is this they would be proud to see how these athletes are standing up for what it right.
IN conclusion, I feel like in my heart that I truly understand the reasons behind the individuals who are choosing to kneel and they have a valid and justified argument to kneel during the National Anthem. I feel like I have written this essay to my fellow nation men and women we have taken a look behind the steel curtain at the different views that was explored in this argument such as President Donald Trump and his cabinet, Eric Reid the NFL players and myself. We now hopefully have a better understanding of what is going on we certainly know where my stance is on the situation. We all have a voice the freedom to think to act but at the end of the day it is about what you choose to do with this freedom the NFL players chose to stand up for the injustices going on in society today and I choose to stand with them what about you?
When tyrannical governments are in charge of societies, they must eradicate possible threats to their power at all costs in order to remain in power. Underlying dangers to the power of such governments can be as common as the relationship between families in the society, which the authoritative power must take extensive measures to remove. In the book Anthem, Ayn Rand shares the story of Equality 7-2521, a man living in a totalitarian society that separates children from their parents at birth, and prevents all formations of relationships considerably close to familial ties. Despite these conditions, Equality forms relationships that defy the ideas of the government and further assert why tyrannical leaders in power would wish to isolate citizens from forming relationships or familial connections. In the book Anthem, Ayn Rand asserts that a dictatorial leader would enforce an isolated living style in order to instill their laws in citizens from a young age to prevent a decline in zeal for the government and to ultimately inhibit the formation of a sole identity.
Initially in the novel, Rand demonstrates how totalitarian societies separate children from their families in order to raise them according to their own principles. More specifically, when Equality 7-2521 was born, he, and all the other children his age, were immediately taken to the Home of Infants and were brought up by Teachers that severely enforced the moralities of the Council. Growing up with the Teachers was difficult for Equality due to his inability to blend with the other children, which resulted in additional punishment for him. He describes, “we were lashed more often than all the other children” (Rand 22). Equality was lashed more frequently than others due to his inability to lesser himself and behave identical to his peers. The Teachers that raised him were easily able to identify that he was an outlier whose behavior would be problematic to the ideals of their society, so they saw it necessary to reprimand him cruelly. Equality’s frequent lashing demonstrate how when one’s behavior is being monitored closely, it is easier to identify faults that need to be corrected to adhere to a certain ideal. Later, Equality elaborates on the principles that were instilled on him since he was born. He says, “’if you are not needed by your brother men, there is no reason for you to burden the earth with your bodies.’ We knew this well, in the years of our childhood”(Rand 22). Equality reflects that he understands and is very familiar with this principle of the Council and Teachers. When he was young, he was consistently reminded that his existence was meaningless if not for the greater good of the society. Through Equality’s thorough understanding of the principles of the Council even at a young age, it demonstrates how when one is raised by an overbearing authority, they receive a solid foundation of the rules and what is expected of them.
Later in the book, Ayn Rand shows how dictatorial leaders choose to isolate people from relationships to prevent a decline in fanaticism for the government. More specifically, the preference of relationship that Equality 7-2521 forms with International 4-8818 and Liberty 5-3000poses a threat to the power of the totalitarian society he lives in. When Equality describes his first friendship with International 4-8818, he depicts it negatively and says, “it is the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends” (Rand 30). The formation of a relationship is portrayed undesirably by Liberty because he is ordered to have equal love for all members of society. The friendship he has with International 4-8818 is unlawful because the Council is dependent upon identical affection for the members of a society as a whole rather than unbalancing the affection and favoring it towards one person, lessening the power of the government. Through Equality’s preference towards International 4-8818, it is shown how the formation of relationships is undesirable in despotic cultures because it lessens the passions of the people towards the government. Later on, Equality forms a relationship with Liberty 5-3000, and when he is forced to leave the city, she follows him and says “we shall follow you wherever you go. If danger threatens you, we shall face it also. If it be death, we shall die with you. You are damned, and we wish to share your damnation”(Rand 82). Liberty 5-3000 abandoned the rest of society, and is willing to risk all possible repercussions for her relationship with Equality. The relationship that Equality has formed with Liberty 5-3000 has caused her to prioritize their relationship over the punishments she could receive from the government. When Liberty 5-3000 places greater importance on her relationship with Equality rather than the values of society, it demonstrates how the affections in a relationship can generate the power to overcome imposed ideas and lessen the prominence of a tyrannous government.
Lastly in the novel, Rand shows how individuals are isolated from the formation of relationships and familial ties to inhibit the creation of an identity. In the case of Equality 7-2521, once he has begun to start a family with Liberty 5-3000, he proclaims that he will raise his child will have full awareness of the idea of the self. After Equality learns the concept of having an ego, he promises that he announces the ideals that his future family with Liberty will be built upon. Equality elaborates that his “son will be raised as a man. He will be taught to say ‘I’ and to bear the pride of it. He will be taught to walk straight and on his own feet. He will be taught reverence for his own spirit”(Rand 100). Equality asserts that his future offspring will have a full understanding of their own ego and will be taught to bear their individuality with pride. Previously, Equality had grown in a society void of families and use of the personal pronoun “I”, but now that he has developed both, he refuses to let future generations advance without a full appreciation of their own identity. Through Equality’s determination to raise his children to their fullest potential self, it shows how the relationship of a family is capable of setting a standard defying the government and children are able to identify with.
Autocratic leaders are likely to implement living styles where people are separated from their families and relationships in order to implant their philosophies in citizens from a young age so that the fanaticism for their rule will last, and to eradicate the possibility of people forming their own identity. When people are taken from their families at a young age they are easily manipulated by people running the government. The government must act with coercion and isolationism to prevent relationships and familial ties from threatening their power. When oppressive totalitarian governments head societies, the citizens may be oppressed and threatened but they hold significant power in their bonds with one another, and are ultimately able to challenge tyrannical authority with relationships.
Ayn Rand in Context
Ayn Rand, an influential American novelist and philosopher, endeavored to offer her readers a new perspective on life’s meaning. Growing up as a Jew in a communist country, Rand struggled to find her place in society and, therefore, matured as an anti-communist citizen in her move to the United States (Murray). In her works, she signifies self-importance, highlighting the wrongs of communism for overlooking citizens, and for acknowledging them as a collective rather than as individuals. Rand often caricatures communism as a means of preventing individuals from achieving their hopes and dreams. By conveying this message to her audience, the author encourages a society based on self-work, one that is capitalistic. Through this theme of self-work, Rand’s pieces incorporate her views on the importance of the struggle between the individual and society, calling attention to the enlightenment of self-learning.
Rand expresses her animosity towards communism in a variety of ways throughout her works. In Atlas Shrugged, the protagonists, the capitalists, escape communism to build a society revolving around their own economic views (Mallon). Here, Rand directly promotes individualism by presenting the happiness and success of these individuals in a society of self-growth, a characteristic that was not present in a communistic state. Equality 7-2521’s banishment as a result of learning and innovating in Anthem also shows the author’s powerful anti-communistic mind-set, as Rand supports individualism as a form of self-satisfaction and success (Cox). The main character’s despair in his society, much like the despair that appears in Atlas Shrugged, demonstrates the incapability of communism to permit individuals to reach their full potential and achieve a state of genuine contentment. Illuminating this thought, Rand’s characters rebel against society, finding in capitalism an escape from the seemingly evil world that is communism. Atlas Shrugged uses a relatively direct approach to promote capitalism, as the characters seek happiness through building a capitalistic economy while on strike against the world, creating their own utopian heaven (Clardy). This approach strikingly opposes communism, as Rand blatantly argues that capitalism is superior, providing the protagonists with a sense of joy that was not previously achieved. In Anthem, a more indirect approach for promoting capitalism is used as Rand displays Equality 7-2521’s happiness in a home where he can learn what he wants to learn, separating himself from society to flourish as a unique individual. Rand noticeably supports the notion that success, not only for society as a whole but for each individual as well, is achieved when each man works for himself. Her works illustrate that this goal can only be reached in a society where individuals are encouraged to work for themselves, one that is clearly not communistic.
In portraying her revulsion from communism, Rand argues that success and happiness sprout from self-learning. As stated in Atlas Shrugged, “Everything he needs or desires has to be learned, discovered and produced by him–by his choice, by his own effort, by his own mind (LaBlanc and Milne).” The author encourages individuals to pursue their dreams, but to do so alone. The quote clearly emphasizes “him,” but no one else. Growing up in a society based off of working for one’s brother, essentially sharing all the wealth, Rand rebelled against this seemingly absurd concept. Her characters do the same, questioning why they are not fulfilling their hopes and dreams. This thought was clearly at the root of her growing objectivist philosophy, which maintains that the sole purpose of life is to work towards one’s own self-happiness (Thomas). In Anthem, genius Equality 7-2521 is forced to learn in secret, as he is prohibited from doing so in the city’s House of Scholars. Yet, in his new home, he teaches himself to read and absorbs the meaning of the word “I”. Rand deepens her theme of self-learning in this novella by showing the self-satisfaction achieved by the protagonist upon learning to think for himself. After the time and dedication he puts into learning everything in his new library, he literally discovers himself as an individual, finally referring to himself as “I” rather than “we” (Cox). This mode of reference ties into Rand’s objectivist philosophy once again as she illuminates individual rights under a new light, promoting opportunities for everyone to learn, succeed, and attain full potential. By doing so, she further argues that laissez-faire capitalism is the only way these rights can be embodied, rendering the government uninvolved in the personal affairs of the people.
The struggle of individual versus society further conveys the author’s anti-communistic beliefs. This conflict escalates in Atlas Shrugged when protagonist John Galt rebels against the system of corruption that has taken over the world: communism. Through her anti-communistic sentiment intertwined with her objectivist philosophy, Rand intensifies Galt’s struggle, his condition of being the only outcast in society for favoring capitalist policies. Many other characters, who eventually end up siding with the willful protagonist, also feel as though they face society without support (LaBlanc and Milne). Although all these characters end up joining forces, Rand stresses that individuals face their own struggles alone, even if their neighbors go through the same processes. In the journey to individualism, Rand considers this personal battle an important step, one that teaches people how to help themselves rather than to rely on others. Equality 7-2521 faces a similar struggle in Anthem. Although other characters despise the extreme communist life-style they face, as is evident through the screams in their sleep, Equality 7-2521 is the only one to rebel. He runs away from civilization, reads books to educate himself, and discovers his own reflection in a mirror (Cox). Through this process, the protagonist educates himself not only about the world around him, but also about himself. Equality 7-2521’s seclusion grants him an opportunity to reflect on life, pondering who he truly is as a person, rather than his role as a member of a collective society. Rand makes it evident through both pieces of literature that the first step on the path to individualism is isolation. As they escape their respective communities, John Galt and Equality 7-2521 learn to appreciate their distinct transformations, introducing themselves to a society largely premised on working to fulfill the individual’s aspirations.
Ayn Rand’s powerful anti-communistic sentiment strongly impacts her writings, as she uses it as a form of obstruction in her character’s daily lives. Her common themes of individual versus society and the importance of self-work further highlight her promotion of capitalism as a means of achieving success and happiness. Her protagonists face their own individual struggles in which they are forced to learn how to work and fight for themselves, not their brothers. Rand’s rough childhood in a communistic society was a guiding factor in her objectivist philosophy, leading her to promote the pursuit of one’s own happiness. By shedding light on this inspiring viewpoint, Rand influences her readers to live life in just this manner and encourages them to build societies as different as possible from the communist system that she experienced.
The Merit of Ipseity
José Martí once asserted that “The first duty of a man is to think for himself.” When society favors mindless obedience over independent thinking, ego, forward progress, and knowledge all but disappear. Indubitably, objectivism is vital for humankind to persist and prosper. In her novella, Anthem, Rand advocates her philosophy of objectivism through Equality’s aspiration, value in realism, and the triumph of the individual.
With rational self-interest being a key principle of objectivism, aspiration supplies the individual with an objective to pursue in life. Contrastingly, unconditional allocentricity and submissiveness resonate a sense of meaningless and the inability to live one’s life to the fullest. In Anthem, the egregious collectivism subjugates the population to relinquish all desires in favor of laboring for the prosperity of society; “There is no life for men, save in useful toil for the good of their brothers. But we lived not, when we toiled for our brothers, we were only weary. There is no job for men, save the job shared with all their brothers” (Rand 86). Consequently, the notion of pursuing one’s own interests is an utterly foreign concept. However, through valuing objectivism and thusly the pursuit of happiness, Equality endows himself with the will to defy the decrees of the society and to fulfill his yearning of knowledge. When Equality questions the unstoppable curse and evil that drives him to “thoughts which are forbidden”, he fails to realize that it in fact represents his intention to put nothing above his inquisitiveness. This passion instills in Equality the power of martyrdom; the strength of his will to bestow upon mankind the gift of electricity is enough to conquer the pain of punishment. No number of lashes and scars can drive this lust out of him, for it is immortal. Furthermore, it is his ambition that prompts him and gives him the energy to free society from the grasps of subjectivism; “I … shall build our new land and our fort. And it will become as the heart of the earth … I shall break all the chains of the earth, and raze the cities of the enslaved … and each man will be free to exist for his own sake” (Rand 104). It is the will to achieve that prompts Equality to hold Prometheus as a figurehead; holding the individual as paramount, he resolves to bring the light of truth to society. Without ambition, there is no direction, no hope, and no life.
As is conventional with dystopias, deception is naturally prevalent in Equality’s society, which highlights the indispensablity of objectivism. As the paramount concern of the World Council is to eradicate everything that evidences the sole enemy, independent judgment and choice, a subjective society has been established to suppress the truth. Hence, reality has become a principle built upon collective perception, which is regarded as infallible, instead of reason or logic; “We learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes the day and the night … We learned how to bleed men to cure them of ailments” (Rand 23). The populace accepts this deception to the extent that they believe the rising of the sun and existence itself are wholly dependent on the of the World Council. Furthermore, as a result of the subjective emphasis, forward progress is impossible; because reality and knowledge are internal and influenced in the mind, comprehensive education and free access to information are regarded as unnecessary and thus nonexistent. Ergo, nobody, not even the Scholars, has the ability to achieve anything consequential. Correspondingly, all past knowledge has been purposely forgotten, branded as incorrect in relation to the accepted contemporary understanding of reality; not only has society not ameliorated, but it has regressed into a technologically backward dark age; one devoid of electricity, a resource almost as fundamental as water. Hence, objectivity is especially crucial as it permits one to distinguish between false and true based solely on the facts of reality, which is impossible to alter. Equality defies the established understanding that existence is purely in the mind and instead seeks to extract knowledge from the world around him; his vocation, science, eminently demonstrates his reality-orientation. He seeks to understand himself, his society, and human nature, by not only identifying what he perceives, but by continually expanding on this understanding; “We have learned things which are not in the scripts … of which the Scholars have no knowledge … we wish … to feel as if with each day our sight were growing sharper than the hawk’s and clearer than the rock crystal” (Rand 36). In carefully recording his observations and piecing facts together into a conceptual whole, Equality utilises both concept formation and inductive logic to obtain knowledge. Indeed, objectivism is the education that allows him to rid incorrect convention and reestablish reality, piece by piece.
Individualism is the essence of mankind, permitting personal independence, exploration, and development. However, under the misguided governance of collective morality, Equality’s society regards the concept of ego as anathema. Driven by the illusion of a greater good, not only does it restrict thought, speech, and will, but it castigates nonconformity. As is evident through the inscription over the portals of the World Council and the absence of the word “I”, the subjects in Anthem are cautioned not that independence is evil, but that it is impossible; “The word ‘We’ is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it … It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages” (Rand 97). In essence, when society values collectivism, it defrauds mankind of the ability to feel joy, accomplishment, or any other moral feeling that accompanies being. Auspiciously, it is the individual that ultimately prevails. Objectivism secures the liberty and rights of the individual and frees him to act as he likes, under the pretension of pursuing happiness and productive achievement as his absolute. Accordingly, the triumph of the individual frees Equality from the chains of collectivism. He need no longer endeavor for the sake of toiling for society, but only for his own happiness and achievement. He need no longer restrain his natural desire to express affection or happiness, for they are key to living a rich, fulfilling and independent life. Moreover, he, who is proactive and diligent, need no longer obey and share his fruition with the frail and shiftless that is society. Each person is a single entity with a unique value who is not governed by any force but himself; “It is my eyes which see … it is my eyes which hear … it is my mind which thinks, and the judgment of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will that chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict that I must respect” (Rand 94). Consequently, each is equal in the sense that no man lives for anyone but himself. Yet, above all, individualism brings with it progress; when the individual is free to experiment with himself and his environment, what he can achieve is limitless. The stark contrast between the modernist architecture, abundance of literature, and sophisticated technologies of the Unmentionable Times and the present evidences only a fragment of the scope of achievement possible. Just as wisdom perished when man established collectivism, Equality sets himself to recover it with the guidance of individualism. Withal, through objectivism, the individual is unconditionally liberated.
In the form of passion, judgment, and ego, objectivism supplies Equality with the spirit to liberate himself and his companions from the deceit and immorality of subjectivism. Objectivism frees man to think, feel, and will for himself, and to distinguish himself from others. Those who choose to conform and subserve are mere faceless wastes intimidated and silenced by the collective. Truly, a man who is unable to think for himself is not a man at all.
The Evolution of Equality: A Self-Liberated Character
Anthem by Ayn Rand encourages readers to delve into the possibilities of a society devoid of human characteristics. The story is based in a society that worships collectivism, causing everyone to be the same, and raised as if they were livestock. There are no choices, no preferences and no emotions, the citizens only need to work for the good of their brothers. However, the main character, Equality, is different. Equality feels emotions and has preferences and wants to make choices for himself. When he first discovered that he was different, he was scared and he wished to be the same as the rest of his brothers. As the book progresses, Equality learns to accept his differences and goes through many changes of thinking. Equality changes throughout Anthem by; learning to love, embracing his curiosity, accepting himself, and finding his passion.
First of all, throughout the novel Equality learns how to and what it means to love. Equality meets a girl named Liberty while out doing his job as a street sweeper. Equality was immediately captivated by her, “And the following day… we kept our eyes upon Liberty 5-3000 in the field. And each day thereafter” (39). This shows that each time Equality saw Liberty, he was drawn to her. He had been taught his whole life not to take notice of women. Yet, he still took time away from his job, time that could have been spent contributing to his society, to stare and unintentionally fall in love with Liberty. Later in the novel, Equality’s love for Liberty becomes more evident, “We seized their body and we pressed our lips to theirs… had never known what joy is possible to men” (83). This shows that Equality changed because at this point in the book is is made plainly obvious that he loves Liberty and that he is learning what love is. Also, there is no previous knowledge of Equality being taught what kissing was or means or even how to express love for an individual. This leads readers to believe that Equality was acting on instinct and embracing the emotions he feels for Liberty.
Another way that Equality changes throughout the novel is that he embraces his curiosity. Equality has always been curious and questioned the things around him. This is considered a crime in Equality’s society, unless a person is chosen for the job of Scholar. Equality wishes to be free to ask questions and explore the secrets of his world so he holds on to the hope that maybe he will become a Scholar. Equality expounds, “We wished to be a Scholar” (25). However, when Equality does not get chosen to be a Scholar, he does not let it get him down. Instead, he discovers a secret tunnel where he is free to perform experiments and embrace any and all questions that he has. What Equality does in his tunnel is considered a crime and he knows it. Equality knows that what he is doing is wrong and yet he explicates, “ there is no shame in us and no regret… We have built strange things with this discovery of ours” (37, 53). This shows that Equality goes against the law to embrace those questions in his head. Equality knows and understands that if he were to be caught in his tunnel, his actions would come with a high price. Still, Equality does not conform, he finds a loophole and with it, a way to satisfy his desire to question the world, all the while embracing his curiosity.
In addition to learning to love and embracing his curiosity, Equality also learns to accept himself throughout the novel. At the beginning of Anthem, Equality is terrified of the idea of being different and tries to suppress himself. Equality implores, “We strive to be like all our brother men, for all must be alike” (19). This shows that there is an immense pressure on Equality to fit in. Equality even feels that it is just when he is not chosen to be a Scholar, “ We knew we had been guilty, but now we had a way to atone for it” (26). This shows that Equality believes that not being a Scholar is a fit punishment for being different from his brothers. It also demonstrates how much Equality’s society demands that its citizens give up including their own happiness. Equality’s society believes that working for the good of the society and for a person’s “brothers” should be enough to make a person happy when in reality there is more to happiness. There is happiness that is brought on from personal growth, development, relationships and participating in what makes an individual happy. Equality realizes this and this realization is what leads him to embrace himself and his differences. This is shown when Equality announces, “ International 4-8818 and we are friends” (30). Equality knows that this is considered a Transgression. And yet, Equality does not care because he knows that it is true in his heart and so he continues to think and believe it no matter if it makes him different from his other brothers or not.
A final change that Equality goes through is, that he finds his passion in life. Equality was assigned a Street Sweeper job at the beginning of the book. This is not the job that Equality wanted, but he could not change it since it had been assigned to him. Equality’s life as a Street Sweeper is dull until he discovers his tunnel and begins experimenting, it is here that Equality first begins to discover his passion. As he tinkers, Equality expresses, “ We do not know, but we shall learn. We cannot stop now, even though it frightens us… We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone” (54). This proves that Equality is finding his passion in life because when he is experimenting and learning, nothing else matters. Equality would be content to spend his whole life inside the tunnel. The only thing that scares Equality is discovering wonderful things and then never sharing them, never having them be known to be true.
Eventually, Equality runs away from society. However, it is outside his society that he discovers the word “I”. Equality had been groping for this one word for the entire book and when he finally found it he illustrates, “I saw the word ‘I.’ And when I understood the word… I wept” (98). Equality realized how important the discovery of this word is, to him, and also how important the word could be to so many other individuals if they understood it and lived by its meaning. The very meaning of the word, ‘I’ summarizes Equality’s beliefs. Equality believes in taking care of oneself and one’s needs. He believes in having preferences and building relationships, in being free to question oneself and others, and in expressing oneself in any and every way that a person sees fit without questioning oneself or having to conform to rules and standards. The word ‘I’ encompasses this all and for that reason Equality makes this word and the spreading of this word his life’s mission, “For the coming of that day I shall fight, I and my sons and my chosen friends. For the freedom of Man. For his rights. For his life. For his honor… The word which can never die on this Earth, for it is at the heart of it and the meaning of glory” (104-105). This shows that Equality will spend his life preserving this sacred word, and he will pass on the meaning and significance of this word to his children and his children’s children. Equality found his passion in life and he wants to make sure that it holds meaning and significance to people forever. Equality’s society tried to create the perfect world in which there was no conflict and people worked together for the greater good. They got rid of anything that might cause disagreement including choices, preferences, relationships, and emotions. However, in the process of trying to create the perfect society, they got rid of the key elements in a society that make people different.
Equality’s society transformed the beautiful, diverse, and ever changing creatures that humans are into an empty shell. However, as it is in nature creatures adapt to their surrounding in order to survive. This is exactly what Equality did. Equality went through an evolution from the first, to the last page of this book. Through these changes, Equality was able to revive and preserve the idea of individualism and what it means to be human.
A Curious Aspect of Progress: Inquiry vs. Oppression in ‘Anthem’
“We wished to know. We wished to know about all the things which make the earth around us” (23). Herein Ayn Rand’s hero expresses a universal truth: Homo sapiens are a curious and ever-changing species. For tens of thousands of years, our curiosity has been a driving force behind our intellectual and social development. Scientific thought thrives under the conditions that curiosity brings forth. Equality 7-2521 poses this curiosity in a time where it is forbidden, and contrary to everyone else, he sees development morally and intellectually. Ayn Rand portrayed such a future because she believed that the removal of curiosity through communism would lead to the downfall of humanity and its progress. Without this important aspect of both science and human nature, technological and scientific advancement is impossible. The totalitarian government of Anthem eliminated curiosity and therefore halted technological progress.
In contrast to countless dystopian future novels, the story of Anthem shows a society that has reverted to the dark ages in the sense that scientific and social progress is at a standstill; the government’s total rejection of individuality is completely stopping personal curiosity. The society of Anthem is stagnant both socially and technologically without curiosity. This is clear when Equality displays intelligence and asks questions as a child, but rather than be rewarded, he is punished and given a job that allows no chance to ask such questions. They are actively stopping all forms of curiosity. When his society frowns upon intellect, saying “this is a great sin, to be born with a head that is too quick” (21), it is understandable that they haven’t seen change for generations. Curiosity has been eradicated to the extent that even the Council of Scholars is afraid of challenging their own beliefs, and they become frightened at the thought that they might be wrong. They forbid new discoveries, having not made one for one hundred years, and when shown the new technology that Equality offers, they “leapt to their feet, they ran from the table, and they stood pressed against the wall, huddled together” (70). This mindset makes it impossible for any change to happen and it closes the doors to progress.
Equality stands as the direct contrast to the closed-minded world that Ayn Rand created. While the government lacks curiosity and individuality and hasn’t unchanged for generations, Equality has both of these traits and has seen massive intellectual development during his life. This fact alone suggests that curiosity is necessary for any form of technological advancement for it is the major difference between Equality and his society. Despite the fact that his society forbids education outside of school, Equality’s passionate curiosity pushed him to spend every night in the tunnel and by doing so, he gained more knowledge about the natural world than the combined brainpower of his society. Without his curiosity he would have never challenged the fact that “Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things” (23). His curiosity led to him viewing himself as an individual rather than a part of his entire society and without this, his journey to independence would be halted.
Not only is Anthem an interesting and thought-provoking novel, it is also heavily influenced by Ayn Rand’s experience with communist Russia and her political beliefs that came from it. The world she created was one that let communism take hold and allow society to “become enslaved by the word ‘we’” (102). She believed that communism was an evil and unjust ideology and that it would lead to the downfall of humanity by eliminating individuality and all things that come with it. With all humans being an extension of the state she viewed it impossible for people to have original thoughts and this would inevitably lead to stagnation for all aspects of society.
Although it can be argued that having the government control the educational system would lead to a more strict education that requires all students to learn, it doesn’t allow room for curiosity with its strict educational requirements and it hinders progress by restricting those that learn a different way. These same issues are present when Equality goes through the Home of the Students. With this form of education it is frowned upon to ask too many questions and “the learning was too easy” (21) for him. If a society lacks an educated civilian population, technological progress will be halted by a general lack of information. Both of the educational problems that are present in Anthem have basis in reality and it is reasonable for Ayn Rand to be wary.
The two opposing forces in Anthem are the society itself and Equality 7-2521. While the latter represents close mindedness and lacks any form of advancement, Equality shows the importance and necessity of curiosity for technological improvement. Science and technology is rooted in curiosity and is impossible without it. This conclusion is undeniable when he learned, invented, and discovered using nothing other than wit and curiosity. The society in which he grew up feared the unknown and pushed away anything that challenged their traditional beliefs and has been unchanging for generations. No type of progress can occur under these conditions; curiosity is vital to all forms of technological advancement.
When it comes to dystopian stories, the conclusion is expected to be tragic due to the pessimistic nature of a dystopia. However, in Anthem by Ayn Rand and Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Kurt Vonnegut, the authors go a different route because they have a promise of freedom and a bright future ahead. They are stories of liberation and hope despite being dystopian stories because both protagonists refuse to conform to corruption, become confident in their opinions, and acknowledge the potential for a better society.
Both protagonists stay true to their morals by refusing to conform to their society’s crooked values, inspiring a spirit of resistance in a corrupt world. In Anthem, Equality claims to have many questions about the world, as he is just taught by the government that things simply are the way they are, without giving him the freedom to explore for himself or question anything. However, he says that he “must know that [he] may know,” the answers to his many questions, which is what propels him to start learning (Rand, 24). This burning curiosity that Equality was born with is what sets him apart from everyone else and what drives him to rebel against society when they try to suppress his thirst for knowledge. His inquisitiveness tells him that there are answers out there and that he must get them in order to stop being in the dark. This is what leads to him opposing his society because he knows that he can’t be ignorant like his brothers, and that society is in the wrong. The mere fact that Equality wants to go on a quest for knowledge defies society automatically, thus making him challenge society’s values and stand out, even if society says he shouldn’t. Furthermore, Billy the Poet in Welcome to the Monkeyhouse is essentially notorious for invoking fear upon the town and being a nothinghead, “a person who refused to take his ethical birth-control pills three times a day,” (Vonnegut, 30). Billy refused to take his birth-control pills despite society trying to sell them as a good thing because he questioned the expectations, something that was not normally seen in their society. He did not accept the fact that everyone just had to mindlessly swallow down some pills to suppress a natural thing. By sticking to his instinct and questioning the government, Billy is a leader, and he is living proof that one can have the option to be doubtful of things and not have to conform to what is the norm.
Additionally, by becoming confident in their opinions, the main characters acknowledge that their point of view is the morally correct one, and continue to fight for what they think is right. After having suffered from a collectivist society and how the government cast him out for trying to be his own person, Equality has an epiphany and comes to the root of the problem that each individual person needs attention, and being a collective does not benefit anyone. He comes to an agreement with himself and says,
“the word ‘We’ must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within a man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth….But I am done with this creed of corruption….And now I see the face of god….This god, this one word: ‘I’,” (Rand, 96).
With all his pre-existing opinions of collectivism, Equality first experiences the joys and freedom of individuality and this freedom drives him to demolish all traces of collectivism so that every man will experience being divine as an individual. Similarly, Billy the Poet explains his whole philosophy for wreaking havoc and says humans have an inherent sexuality embedded in them but are apprehensive when it comes to something so natural. He claims that people who have committed far greater crimes ¨have been absolutely disgusted and terrified by the natural sexuality of common men and women,” (Vonnegut, 49). By calling this innate behavior “natural,” he becomes something of a god for deciding what is natural or unnatural in his eyes. He sets himself above everyone else in a way that he takes matters into his own hands and spreads the message he knows is morally correct to him; while some might call this a God complex, to Billy, it is simply trying to fight for what he believes in because he is so confident in his own personal standing.
Finally, the protagonists see the full potential of their society and have a positive outlook of the future, which is what fuels their drive for betterment and staying hopeful. After discovering the forbidden word “I,” Equality legitimizes his rebellion towards his society by no longer caring about rules and finally referring to himself as one man. He utters the words, “I am. I think. I will,” and exudes confidence with the discovery of this newfound expression that sums up everything he has been feeling, (Rand, 94). He has hope for the future because he has enforced his belief that he is the only one that can will things into existence, and that the most important thing he has is himself, and no one can take that from him. Likewise, Billy thinks that the world should be indulgent and participate in activities that bring them pleasure because he does not see why society stigmatizes sex so much. He explains that his entire goal was to try to ¨restore a certain amount of innocent pleasure to the world, which is poorer in pleasure than it needs to be,¨ (Vonnegut, 49). His entire philosophy is to try to bring a new message to the world and change one person at a time. He thinks that society is not living up to their full potential by denying themselves the pleasures of life, so his determination to change the world is clear and evokes a message of hope despite all odds being against him.
In conclusion, both stories have a way of leaving the future open to interpretation so that it seems hopeful. Had they explicitly concluded the stories with a happy ending. the significance of a dystopia would be ruined as it serves to expose the faults of society. Ayn Rand was not happy with collectivism in Russia, Kurt Vonnegut wanted a society in which people were not censored, so their stories have social commentary about these important issues; yet their stories have protagonists that advocate for living freely, even when the world is against them.