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Different Perspectives on Social Tragedies Through the Prism of Ayn Rand’s Novel Anthem

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A Different Perspective

An Essay on Rand’s Anthem

Ayn Rand is correct in her philosophy, which claims that collectivism hinders societal advancement and through Anthem she provides evidence that the individual always conquers to advance society, which can also be exemplified in many real-world historical events. Collectivism puts emphasis on society as a whole rather than the individual living within a society. The comparatives in this essay will be the Holocaust, North Korea and The Underground Railroad to Canada using various pieces of evidence that directly correlate with Rand’s Anthem.

The type of society described in Anthem can be directly compared with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Although a dictatorship and not a collectivist society, Hitler’s ultimate goal for unity in society can be compared to the society presented in Anthem. Hitler felt the Jews were outliers and needed them to be eliminated. In Anthem, the citizens refusing to cooperate with the laws were sent to the Palace of Corrective Detention where punishments would take place, in the story Equality 7-2521 was beaten because he refused to tell the higher authority figures where he was; “Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention. Lash them until they tell” (Rand, Part 6)

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Nazi Germany occurred between 1933 and 1945 under Adolf Hitler’s reign. Hitler changed society with the ultimate goal of eliminating all political competition. This can be directly related to a collectivist society because people no longer obtained individual control or freedom as everything was micromanaged by a higher power (i.e., the government.) Hitler was eventually overthrown by the individuals who disagreed with his philosophy which resulted in the end of WWII. The collectivist society in Anthem becomes threatened when Equality 7-2521 attempts to share his invention of the light bulb. He becomes shunned by society and moves to the uncharted area with another societal member after she follows him. These two characters makes plans to start their own race that believes in individuality: “I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. 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 man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.” (Rand, Part 9)

This foreshadows a potential downfall and conquer over the World Council. When individuals used their free will and power standing up to Adolf Hitler his dictatorship failed ending the Holocaust and ultimately advanced society. This fundamentally parallels Anthem when Equality 7-2521 stands up to the council by leaving and claiming he is going to start his own society.

In Anthem, the citizens are not permitted to choose a spouse, their sexual partner was assigned to them and everyone functioned as a “unit,” hence why their names are attached to units with corresponding numbers. These individuals are not allowed to have friends and they are told that they must love their brothers/sisters all the same, disobeying any of the prior is punishable by law. Equality 7-2521 makes a remark on the lack of individual freedom within society;

“And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of the candles, our brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their minds. For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their thoughts are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak” (chapter 2)

In this society everyone must agree with each other without conflict, unfortunately eliminating creativity which is required for a successful advancing society. Equality 7-2521 is not able to discuss or tell anyone about his creative invention, the infamous light bulb. “We had touched no flint, made no fire. Yet here was light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart of metal” (Rand, Part 5) This lack of freedom and free speech can be directly correlated to North Korea under the reign of Kim Jung-un. North Korea operates with all of it’s facilities state-run (farms, hospitals, schools) and is therefore regulated by the government. Anthem is a collectivist society, which differs slightly from North Korea as there is not a direct leader but a central government consisting of different councils. In Anthem the individual rises above and disobeys societal laws which can be linked to the protests that occur in North Korea as people disagree with Kim Jong-un and his regime. The societies depicted in both the novel and North Korea are restricted in their creativity.

The Underground to Canada is a strong comparative due to the fact that there was many slaves who were under the power of plantation owners. In the case of Anthem, the slaves are the citizens and the plantation owner is combined effort of a government found in Anthem. The Uncharted forest is similar to the Railroad as it was for Equality 7-2521 to escape the society found in Part 9. When Black slaves freed themselves from many Americans they were able to create a new stable life in Canada, which was advancement for black individuals. In Anthem Equality 7-2521 leaves society in order to create a new advanced society that will provide stability to its members.

The real-world examples above mirror many events in Rand’s novel Anthem and provide evidence to her philosophy that ultimately claims that collectivist societies will fail as individual freedom and power will always conquer in order for societal advancement.

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