Book Review - Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’
The book reviewed for the purpose of this work in writing is that of Ayn Rand entitled “Anthem”. Anthem is about a society in which man has attempted to create a utopian existence but the result is a dystopian existence. In this society there are many sins that the individual may commit and these sins include anything that is not adjudged by the World Council to be acceptable in this society.
This is a society in which there are no free-thinkers, no allowance of creativity, no educational aspirations or possibilies, no chance of love much less marriage, and no chance or possibility to dream or to aspire to anything in the lives of the individuals because the individuals are appointed to their life’s calling with no consideration of what they may want or where their passions may lie. In fact, there is no allowance of passions or pursuits of any kind other than what is allotted to the individuals in this society. There is no research or exploration because the World Council has declared that all knowledge is already held by none other than the World Council which rules over all men.
In this strange and dystopic world individuals are not allowed to read or write because this is forbidden to them and constitutes a grave transgression for which they will receive punishment. This is a society where children are not raised by their parents but by the governing council’s appointment. Individuals in this society do not form male-female relationships because it is forbidden and the only way that procreation takes place is at the command of the World Council once per year where individuals are mated like livestock and the children born of these unions are taken from the mother and assigned a number and it is by this number that they are known for all of their living days.
The individuals in this society are not allowed to venture outside of the designated territory or they are punished harshly. After the children are old enough they are sent to the World Council who assigns their work duties and these work duties are not assigned according to the child’s abilities or talents as no one is deemed to have any talents in this society because all individuals are equal and the work assigned to them will constitute the daily activities of their life until the day they are no longer able to work. When the elderly are no longer able to work they are delegated to the ‘Home of the Useless’ where they spend their time until the day that they die. In this attempt at creating utopia, this society has created a dull world in which there is no variation and difference in individuals because it is not allowed. This is a colorless society in which there is no sadness, no happiness, no joy.
Music is not allowed in this society and to sing is to have committed a serious transgression. Ayn Rand has illustrated the uselessness of man attempting to create utopia clearly demonstrating that such an attempt is sure to result in a very contorted existence with there still remaining a ruling class who ultimately retain the privilege as in the manner of a dictatorship. In ‘Anthem’ one of the characters, the character who narrates the story does go on his own to explore and discovers many things including electricity and realizes that the World Council either does not know everything or that the World Council is in effect hiding knowledge and knowledge of such a type that would make life much better for the society.
The narrator of the work ‘Anthem’ comes to realize that he is able to feel sadness and happiness and even joy and he greatly questions the world in which he lives. Ayn Rand uses this story effectively in relating that the creation of utopia is just another man-made society and as such, since men are not able to create such a place, can only become dystopic rather than the paradise that they ultimately had sought to create.
The factor of control over the masses in Rand’s work illustrates clearly that man’s attempt to control society to a degree such as in ‘Anthem’ can only result in a terrible existence for the masses and that the utter control of the masses is to remove the individuality that makes life so rich. The narrator in this study relates that he did things forbidden by the World Council and goes on to relate that he ran away to the forbidden forest. The people in this society were told that the forbidden forest was a place of danger and that for this reason people never returned from it. The truth however, is that the forbidden forest was a place where there were beautiful old houses filled with delights that the man narrating had never seen and ultimately a door into a life unknown in the terrible society of Anthem and it was for this reason that no one ever returned.
Dargis, M. (2008) Horror Through a Child’s Eyes. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/movies/07paja.html?_r=0
Rand, A. (2012) Anthem. Start Publishing LLC.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. (2008) Netflix.