The story within Anthem depicts the journey of a young man known as Equality 7-2521 as he lives and escapes a dystopian collectivist future.
Individuality has all but been wiped out.
This is evident by the liberal use of “we” when discussing ones-self, instead of “I“. But I won’t go too much into that, as it would entail some significant plot points.
In this future, technological advancement has made significant strides backwards. Incorporating things such as candles as the driving light in the society, instead of bulbs.
And similar to many other dystopian novels, jobs are determined by societal overseers instead of chosen by the individual.
Equality 7-2521 had the lucky break of being a Street Sweeper. Regardless of his forced career, he still aspires for more and begins doing secret scientific research in a hidden underground location. When this is discovered, all hell breaks loose.
In similar veins to most of Ayn Rand’s novels, there is a strong romantic component incorporated.
This dual-person unification to one individual results in a really interesting approach to individuality that I had not seen in other dystopian novels, and it’s one that I don’t think many others could ever do as well as Anthem.
Individuality does not have to be inherently selfish. Rather, it can be approached as Equality 7-2521 and his love interests individuality being sought separately, but collectively. It presented a lovely twist from other similar novels, in my humble opinion.
And they’ll be some things in it that you will be able to relate to the modern day, even though it was written in 1937. One such example being the changing of gender names.
Remember when I mentioned the book uses “we” in place of “I“? It also uses “They” in place of “his/her“. Which is exactly the kind of stuff that one of America’s most prominent news organizations, CNN, calls for (Archived).
Anthem by Ayn Rand
This book is really short, my edition coming in at about 66 pages. You can realistically read it in about 1-2 hours. So it is most definitely not Atlas Shrugged, that comes in at a whooping 1,156 pages.
Regardless, it is an excellent book. Thoroughly interesting regardless of your political leanings. And a cheap/quick read.
I always encourage everyone to pick it up if they don’t have the time to invest in the longer dystopian novels, and it’s a great “break-in” novella.
Ayn Rand gets a lot of flack for the Objectivism philosophy, which is worthy criticism. But she writes tremendous books and Anthem is a great insight into the extreme implications of collectivism. So while I wouldn’t rate it as high as Brave New World or 1984, it’s certainly a book worthy of the short time-investment.