Hillary Purcell, Mariemont High School, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Anthem is a heroic and inspiring story about the triumph of the individual’s independent spirit. Even though, at the end of the novel, Equality is greatly outnumbered, and modern society lies in ruins, it is a story of liberation and hope—not despair. Discuss.
All of us want to make the world a better place for future generations. Unfortunately, despite one’s best efforts, decisions are sometimes made that will ultimately be detrimental to the world and its inhabitants. Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem certainly depicts the world of the future as a bleak one, filled with warped collectivism and the loss of individuality. However, all hope is not lost for this civilization. Rand’s novel is a story of liberation, not despair, because by the end of the novel, possibilities for the return to a more free society have been created by one man determined to give his descendants a fighting chance. Perhaps the most reassuring fact is that there are still people who have not been conquered by the repressive government; people willing to fight for their individuality. In addition, Equality 7-2521 rediscovers electricity, an important step in building a more modern world. Finally, Equality 7-2521 has formulated plans for the future that, if carried out, would found a group of people dedicated to working toward a more free world. Each of these aspects of the novel exhibits hope for the future of society, even in the most dismal of times.
Equality 7-2521, although he lives in the extremely repressive City, refuses let go of his sense of individuality, and he’s not the only one. Rand provides several characters that have not yet been broken by the oppressive regime of the future. One example is a fellow street sweeper, Fraternity 2-5503, a “. . .quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason, in the midst of the day or night, and their body shakes with sobs they cannot explain”(Rand 48). Another of Equality 7-2521′s peers is Solidarity 9-6347, who is described as “. . . a bright youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their sleep, and they scream: ‘Help us! Help us! Help us!’”(Rand 48). Clearly neither of these boys has accepted the system of collectivism which robs them of their sense of self. Equality 7-2521′s best friend, International 4-8818, is a vibrant young man with a passion for art that the Home of the Students was unable to smother. Finally, Liberty 5-3000, Equality 7-2521′s love interest, is intelligent and strong; the narrator describes her eyes as “. . .dark and hard a glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness, and no guilt”(Rand 38). Throughout the novel, Rand provides many examples of people who remain unconquered by collectivism, and for whom there is hope of realizing individual freedom.
Another aspect of Anthem that inspires hope in the reader is the discovery of electricity by Equality 7-2521. This is a step toward a more technologically advanced society, and it also shows that the ideas and accomplishments of previous generations have not been lost for good. The narrator is amazed when he first discovers an abandoned tunnel, and believes that, “No men known to us could have built this place, nor the men known to our bothers who lived before us. . .”(Rand 30). Soon, however, Equality 7-2521 learns to use the tunnel to pursue his passion of understanding how the world works. Finally, after two years of studying, the protagonist builds “. . .a glass box, devised to give forth the power of the sky of greater strength than we had ever achieved before”(Rand 63). By uncovering one of the technologies of our time, which had been lost, Equality 7-2521 realizes that he “. . .can give our brothers a new light, cleaner and brighter than any they have ever known”(Rand 64). This discovery shows progress toward a more advanced world, and it gives one hope that the world may be able to return to the days in which people possessed independent spirits.
Lastly, the end of the novel provides a hopeful outlook for the future of the characters and the world; the protagonist and Liberty 5-3000 have escaped from the city and are making plans to start a group of people educated in the more individual-centered way of thinking. Equality 7-2521 has found a house containing “. . .a room with walls made of shelves, which held rows of manuscripts, from the floor to the ceiling”(Rand 104). By reading these books, the narrator rediscovers the word “I” and the concept of the individual being separate from the masses. In addition, Liberty 5-3000 is pregnant, and Equality 7-2521 vows that his son “. . .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 117). Not only does Equality 7-2521 save his own family from the oppressive City; he wants to rescue others from it as well. He decides that one day he will return to the City and “. . .call to [him] all the men and the women whose spirit has not yet been killed within them and who suffer under the yoke of their brothers”(Rand 118). Together with his chosen associates, Equality 7-2521 intends to continue learning and “. . .write the first chapter in the new history of man”(Rand 118). These provisions for the future provide one with hope for a society that will eventually be liberated from collectivism.
Although it certainly takes place during a very dark time for humanity, Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem is a story of hope for a better future; through hard work and determination, Equality 7-2521 is able to ensure that his family will have a chance at freedom and individuality. We see the indomitable nature of the independent spirit in the fact that there are still those who refuse to be conquered by repression. Equality 7-2521′s discovery of electricity also shows that technological improvements can still be made, and the knowledge of previous generations is not completely lost to those willing to look for it. Finally, the future for Equality 7-2521 looks brighter once he is able to break free from the oppressive city and establish a place of learning and technology. Each of these examples shows that, if one is willing to work hard, one can, like Equality 7-2521, leave the world a little better than it was when one entered it, and provide lasting hope for the betterment of generations to come.