Anthem

by: Ayn Rand

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Fear

Fear in Anthem characterizes those social lepers who do not have enough sense of themselves to understand that each individual is the center of his or her universe. Rand’s heroes, on the other hand, never fear anything. In Rand’s belief system, the only thing man has to fear is his fellows, who will weigh him down and sap his strength if given the opportunity. The Golden One appeals to Equality 7-2521 because she is unafraid, and she is attracted to him for the same reason. By contrast, those in the Home of the Street Sweepers are so afraid that they do not speak to each other at dinner or in the sleeping hall. More generally, those in a society characterized by fear never seek to make any progress or improve their own lives. They do not show signs of individuality—they never exhibit vanity, pride, lust, or preference for some people over others—because they value physical safety over expressions of self.

Naming

In the society in Anthem, naming is a form of identifying one’s possessions as one’s own. For this reason, Equality 7-2521 names the Golden One on two separate occasions, names himself, and searches relentlessly for the word “I.” Rand alludes to the power of naming granted to Adam in the Bible, where he is made master of the animals and they answer to the names he gives them. Likewise, Rand’s heroes rename those things that are dear to them. By contrast, those in society are given numbers and social concepts as identifying tags, as yet another way of stealing their individuality from them. For those in this society, possession is not a possibility because all things are owned by the collective, including their own bodies and identities. Thus, when Equality 7-2521 renames the Golden One and himself, he is declaring war on this philosophy and reclaiming himself and her as individuals.

Shapelessness

Like fear, shapelessness in Anthem connotes evil because it illustrates a lack of willingness or ability to believe in something and to stand behind it. For Rand, the physical world mirrors the internal, personal world, and physical shapelessness goes hand in hand with fear and collectivity. Thus, the members of the World Council of Scholars are all shapeless, as are the members of the Council of Vocations. The entire society around Equality 7-2521 is shapeless and gray, demonstrating its stagnation and worthlessness. By contrast, the Golden One is hard, with sharply defined lines and an overwhelming physical beauty. Similarly, International 4-8818 stands out among his peers because he is taller and more shapely than they are. Finally, Equality 7-2521 is reprimanded by his teachers at an early age for growing to more than six feet tall. The teachers, in keeping with the rigid norms of their society, try to enforce a uniformity that leads to shapelessness. That Equality 7-2521 does not fit in with this uniformity points him out as a true individual.


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