Anthem

by: Ayn Rand

Chapter I

Summary Chapter I

The comparison between Equality 7-2521 and traditional Judeo-Christian prophets is far from perfect, however. Although the language and the plot of the novella contain countless references to allegories from the lives of Christ and Moses and the story of Genesis, Equality 7-2521 does not reference a higher being and does not claim to come in the name of the higher power. Instead of worshipping a god of any kind, Equality 7-2521 worships himself. On the other hand, Equality 7-2521 is similar to other prophets in the sense that everything that came before is modified in light of the message he bears. Though he has been taught to believe that being alone and worshipping the self are sins, he feels no regret about doing these things because he believes them to be right, which is more important to him than anything society can teach him.

Although Rand makes many allusions to actual historical details about life in Soviet Russia, Anthem is removed from any particular historical setting and placed in a kind of every-country, an unnamed future world in which individual needs are ignored in favor of the common good. Thus, the references to the Councils and to the nightly meetings at the City Theatre bear close resemblance to the state of affairs in the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century, but the total regression of all technology is an exaggeration that is not grounded in historical fact. By separating the novella from the Soviet Union, Rand makes the story a warning to all people. The novella does not just announce the dangers of adopting Russian socialism, under which many people blamed specific corruptions for the atrocities that were committed in the name of the common good. It also blames the very idea of collectivism for the demise of the human race. Rand believes that this destruction is inevitable where men come to believe in social planning, not just in the case of the specific evils of communist Russia. Although Anthem certainly makes reference to the problems plaguing Russia at the time of its publication, the work is more than just an invective against Lenin, who inaugurated the communist era in Russia, or Stalin, who carried out horrifying purges against the intellectual elite in the name of the good of the many.

In the opening chapter, Rand sets up the images that occur throughout the novella to draw our attention to the values she is promoting. The most important element of this imagery is the contrasted pairs she sets up. These pairings point us toward the characters and scenarios she believes are good and those she believes are evil. For example, the dark and dingy tunnel is lit by a candle but Equality 7-2521 prefers it to the pristine white of the homes in which he has lived with all his fellow infants, students, and street sweepers. Additionally, the villains of the novella are soft, featureless, and dead-seeming, like the members of the Council of Vocations, while the hero and later the heroine are hard and strong and vibrant. Indeed, in most cases, Rand turns traditional images on their heads by making the dark and hard preferable to the light and gentle.

The worst part of the collective society for Rand is its bland -obliteration of all individual characteristics and features. Thus, Equality 7-2521, the hero, is taller than his compatriots, and International 4-8818, who is also a good character, stands apart from his fellows because he has laughter in his eyes. These features mark the good characters, while the villains are indistinguishable from one another. Indeed, throughout the story, the physical world closely models the internal world, and what is good can be seen as good from the outside as well as from what Rand reveals of the inside.