Ayn Rand And Anthem
In order to fully understand Ayn Rands philosophy it is necessary to place her in a historical perspective. Ayn Rand was born on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father was a successful pharmacist while her mother was involved in the theater. They would be considered members of the intellectual class. In 1917, the Russian Revolution broke out and her fathers business was seized by the Bolsheviks. The family relocated to the Crimean Peninsula. In 1926 she traveled alone to the United States never to return to her motherland again. Her experiences as a youth growing up in St. Petersburg, fleeing to the Crimean, and returning to the University of St. Petersburg had a tremendous impact on her philosophy. Her experiences in oppressive, communistic Russia directly correlated to her numerous works and philosophy.
An example of Ayn Rands philosophy can be demonstrated in her work Anthem. In this novel, Rand writes about the future Dark Ages. Anthem takes place in a city of a technologically backward totalitarian society, where mankind is born in the Home of the Infants and dies in the Home of the Useless. The novel shows the life of Equality 7-2521, and his struggle to free himself from the collectivist world in which he lives. Just imagine, being born into a life of slavery, having no freedom, no way to express oneself and no ego. In this novel, slavery and its people were one collective unit. The whole country had no personal identity; it was one central being. When in the city, Equality had been guilty of many transgressions. He was not like his brothers, he was different, and he was smarter, healthier and stronger. At the age of five he advanced to the Home of the Student, where he got scolded for learning faster than his brothers learn. Equalitys teachers told him that he had evil in his bones because he was taller than his brothers were. Then at the age of fifteen when the House of Vacations came, Equality was guilty of the great transgression of preference because he wanted to be a scholar, but his selected vocation was to be a street sweeper. He strives for more and is seen as out of place for his desire to be more. He wishes to make progress out of his life. All of his thoughts were contrary to those of his brothers. Equality wanted more; he wanted to be himself, his own person.
Everyday while he swept by the fields he would watch and smile at Liberty and she would smile back. Liberty was a woman that worked in the Home of the Peasants. Making contact with a woman was prohibited but for when in the Palace of the Mating. The Palace of the Mating was where people were forced to breed. Equality thought touching a woman was shameful and ugly. Men and women were always separated. Men worked in one city and women had their own city as well. The two genders never meet, except to mate. The casual contact between Equality and Liberty is very important. It shows that the two of them both try to separate themselves from the rest of their brothers. By smiling to each other and engaging in slight conversation, Equality and Liberty prove to each other that they are their own individuals.
One day while Equality swept the streets he found a grate that led to an underground tunnel full of things from the unmentionable times. For two years he went into the tunnel and discovered many new things about himself and his brothers. Every night he would sneak out of the theatre and only then would he have time to pursue his own thoughts. While in his tunnel, he conducted numerous experiments with objects he collected throughout the city. In essence he taught himself how the world works. Then one day while in the tunnel he decided that he must share his secret with his brothers. He decided that he would bring his secret in front of the World Council meeting. He thought that by showing his fellow brothers what he had to offer them, he would then be praised and given recognition for his work. When Equality entered the World Council meeting, the scholars got frightened and angry. They demanded that he tell them why he was there, for no street sweeper ever dared to approach the Council. He proceeded by connecting the wires and they glowed, the scholars backed up against the wall as they stared in horror. They had never seen such technology and were scared of the unknown. They told him that they were going to punish him for breaking so many laws. He was thinking on his own and being his own individual, this was what he would be punished for. Equality trembled in fright; he quickly grabbed the glass box and ran to the Uncharted Forest. He could not believe how stubborn the Council was. He could not believe that they could reject such a great new technology because of how it was acquired. Equality was only trying to advance the world by giving them the gift of electricity.
No man followed because they feared the unknown. They feared what they did not know and understand and this was the Uncharted Forest. Those are all the ways in which Equality rejected the view of society. He cherished the thought of the unknown, which is why the Uncharted Forest represented freedom, his freedom. When Equality spent his first night in the forest when he woke up, laughed, rolled through the leaves and the moss because he was free, which meant no more waking up to a bell, no more meals prepared for him, and no more sweeping streets. He finally realized that he was his own person and that he could function without the rigid structures of the collective brothers.
Then, as he walked through the forest he came to a river, stopped and looked in the water for the first time in his whole life and he saw what he looked like. When he saw his reflection it surprised him. He did not look like his brothers; he looked stronger than his brothers who looked short and fragile did. At this point Equality saw himself as his own separate individual. He now can physically see that people are different from one another. He always knew this but it had a great effect that he has now actually seen it.
The next day in the forest he had heard footsteps behind him, he turned around and it was Liberty. She had heard of what he did and followed his path into the forest. She tracked him through the forest following his trail. While in the forest, Equality hugged Liberty and realized that holding the body of a woman was not shameful. Prior to this they had both not been in contact with one of the opposite sex. They then kissed and realized a new feeling. This is a feeling that they have never felt before, a feeling of true compassion.
They walked for many days, the farther they went from the city the safer they felt. Everything which comes from the many is good. Everything that comes from one is evil. Ayn Rand wrote this in the end of the ninth chapter when Equality begins to doubt everything he has learned in the city. The mountains represented a new beginning. In the mountains Equality and Liberty found a house left from the unmentionable times. In the house there are many things they have never seen before like mirrors, light bulbs, a library full of books, and nice clothes. They promise to never leave the house and they claimed it as theirs. They learn the word I while reading books from the huge library. Equality cries when he finds the meaning of I. He looks back on his past and becomes very sad. He is now opened to an entirely New World, his world.
Equality and Liberty each give each other names of their own. They find names in the books of the unmentionable times. While reading through the book Equality learns of Prometheus who as a man who stole fire from the gods and taught men how to use the power of gods. Prometheus was punished, as are all that bring light to me. He takes the name Prometheus as his own. Liberty also reads of Gaea who is the mother of the gods and of earth. She takes Gaea as her name. In the future Prometheus plans on returning to the city one last time to bring his friends back to his new sanctuary to start a new beginning. He feels as if he must share his enlightenment with the others that are trapped in the Old World. He also plans on chiseling the word ego on his house so nobody ever forgets the word. He realizes that the collective society has forgotten of such words as ego and I. They have forgotten about the individual and the powers of ones own being. Prometheus and Gaea promise that they will never surrender the sacred word I.
Rand, Ayn. Anthem. New York:Penguin Putnam Inc, 1961.
Ayn Rand Institute Home Page. http://www.Aaynrand.org
Objectivism New Zealandhttp://www.objectivism.org.nz
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