Anthem by Ayn Rand
Anthem“It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!”
This is the first paragraph of this first person narrative book. Sometime in our bleak future, the collective runs society. No one is alone. No one does a job unless it assigned by the Council. The narrator has found their own private place. It is a place where they can slip away and be alone, writing their forbidden thoughts. Each night during entertainment, they slip out of the structure and go off alone.
There is no independent thought allowed. Everyone performs the tasks assigned to them. They do not question the mandates of society. Except the narrator. They disappear by themselves to learn more about themselves and increase their knowledge. They make some wonderful discoveries in their underground hideaway.
This short book was written to jar the reader to a sense of awareness and individualism. It is hard to comprehend at first the the “we” speaking is one person. No one sees themself as an individual, but instead as part of a group. There are no “I”s, only “we”s. This was part of Ayn Rand’s life philosophy. It is eloquent in its briefness and impact.
It is difficult to conceptualize how a society could have moved into this type of government. Even now we often strive for the communal good, or what is best for society. Yet Americans especially have a sense of individuality and the importance of it. This book shows what happens when that sense is lost.
This is a book to make you think. This is a book to make you want to be selfish. This is a book that reminds the reader to closely monitor his or her government. It is short, about 100 pages. Yet it is forceful in its message. This is no involved saga of the downward spiral of society like Atlas Shrugged. Instead, society has already spiraled downward. How does it climb back up?