Ayn Rand: Anthem

Ayn Rand
(classic, spec fic, post-apocalyptic)

It’s hard to classify Anthem. It’s hard to even determine if I like it.

I do like the message. That’s an easy thing. I like the way it’s written, too. But the novel itself… do I like it? I’m not sure. The message is not so much aimed at today’s audience, I think. It’s (in my mind) a response to the “unity over all” mentality of communism. It’s about the Self instead of the Community. I suspect it takes the imagery to extremes, but then it needs to. If it used actual events, there wouldn’t be much point. Some people wouldn’t get it. (Actually, I suspect some people still won’t get it.)

The hardest thing about reading this novel is the constant use of “we” instead of “I”. As a writer, I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to write this aspect of the novel. It’s simply not something we’re used to as a society. On the other hand, it’s a very simple thing (in theory) and yet it makes such a HUGE difference to the story. It wouldn’t be the same if Rand hadn’t used “we” even when referring to single people.

One thing I can tell you without hesitation: I would not want to live in that world.

Unrealistic though it seems, however, and as far-fetched as we want it to be, if you have ever seen people in a mob, you know the potential truth to the story. The prospect is rather scary. I hope my world never becomes anything closer to the setting for Anthem than it is today — and, in fact, that it moves farther away from that fictional world. I think — I hope! — that we are in a better place than we were when this was written. If our luck holds, that trend will continue.


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