Maintained by the students of From Utopia to Dystopia course at Brooklyn College
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Ayn Rand's Anthem is the story about a person known as Equality 7- 2521. In this response I'll be referring to him as equal because the 7-2521 part takes me a while to type out. Equal lives in a Dystopia, a society that on the outside seems to be perfect but is far from it when you examine it with any level of analysis. Everyone seems to get along from day to day, no one is poor, everyone has a job etc... The issue with this particular society is that it is controlled by people who hate the word "I" so much so that it doesn't seem to exist to most people. Those who use the word are severely ostracized and sentenced to death.
Equal was labeled a street sweeper, he had no choice in the matter for everyone was assigned jobs, doesn't matter if they wanted to do it for the rest of their lives. Do it...or else. However equal was a bit different from most people on his society. He wasn't fully conforming for he did believe in the unspeakable word "I". He enjoyed freedom and exploration, he often wrote in a hidden tunnel, expressing numerous thoughts and Idea's away from the eyes of the collectivist society he lived in. At the age of 10 he saw the public execution of the Transgressor of the unspeakable word, however as he burned to death he showed no pain, instead he looked at equal a sign equal took as at that moment the Transgressor appointing him as his disciple. Equal began experimenting with his thoughts and Idea's no longer just writing them down. He soon discovers electricity and with it builds a light bulb.
Even knowing what may happen equal wanted to show his invention to society. He wanted to show his individuality, for he believed in the power and importance of the word "I". He was an rational egoist.
Rational egoism can't exist in a collectivist society, everyone can't be equal and have their own thoughts, idea's, will etc... I don't believe rational egoism is a cure for a collectivist society because it doesn't fix any issues that may arise from that type of society, it outright changes the whole way that the society works. As mentioned earlier rational egoism can't exist in a collectivist society, once it does it is no longer a collectivist society. It becomes a mixture of egoism and collectivism, with different people acting differently based on what they believe. In other words it becomes similar to our world today, at least when talking about free countries and states.
Rational egoism alone isn't the answer to everything either, it may end up being just as bad as a collectivist society or worse. If everybody did anything they want, that wouldn't be a good thing, even if it is rational. People have a different definition of what it means to be rational. The society may end up destroying itself along with the lives of each of it's occupants. Through Anthem, Ayn Rand showed us one possibility of a collectivist society, one that was taken to an extreme. I have no doubt that her life experiences influenced her writing but that all depends on what she was trying to say through her work. If she just wanted to tell a story about a collectivist society then I think her experiences influenced her writing but if she wanted to tell a story about a collectivist society taken to an extreme then I don't think her personal life had any influence on her.