Essay on Ayn Rand

Submitted By kbotwell
Words: 1209
Pages: 5

Ayn Rand’s The Anthem displays the individual’s struggle to maintain independence and identity and remain connected to society while also analyzing the meaning of freedom. Equality 7-2521 begins the novel as a benighted, if exceptional, youth, who has only barely realized that he might be different from those around him. He regrets his differences and tries to bring himself into conformity. His relationship with International 4-8818, his only friend, exemplifies the halfhearted attempts he makes to eliminate all his preferences for individual people, to care for each brother equally, and to be identical to his brothers. After the discovery of the tunnel, however, he realizes that solitude pleases him, and it becomes harder for him to deny his own individuality. Equality 7-2521 realizes the significance of his existence only when he comes to understand that one is the center of one’s universe, and that one’s perception gives the world its meaning. He struggles throughout Anthem with his growing desire to spend time alone, to write for his own benefit only, and to create at his own leisure and for his own purposes. Only after his break with society, however, does Equality 7-2521 feel his own strength and ability. Alone, Equality 7-2521 thrives, even in the forest, where he initially expects to be destroyed by beasts. In society, all the brothers are drained of their energy and sapped of their creativity until they become shapeless, faceless blobs made inarticulate by fear of rejection by the group. By contrast, those characters capable of thinking on their own exhibit strength, fearlessness, and self-assurance. In his final epiphany, Equality 7-2521 declares his will the only edict he will obey and his happiness his only goal. Martyrdom sets Equality 7-2521 apart from the rest of society because, in Rand’s view, the willingness to die for an ideal marks a hero and distinguishes him or her from the rest of society. Indeed, when society martyrs a hero, the hero feels nothing but joy at the discovery of his or her ideal. Thus, when he is burned at the stake in front of Equality 7-2521, the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word shows no fear or pain, only tremendous elation in his knowledge of the word that the rest of society has forgotten. Likewise, when Equality 7-2521 is beaten in the Palace of Corrective Detention for refusing to tell his Home Council where he has been, he feels no pain, only joy that he has not revealed the secret of the light bulb. He even consents to stay locked in his cell until it is time to break out and go to the World Council of Scholars. In both cases, what matters to the martyr is not the pain but the ideal, and the ideal is worth dying for, as Equality 7-2521 observes in his meditations in Chapter XII. The World Council of Scholars embodies one of the chief evils of collectivism—the inability of a collective government to come to a conclusion and take action on behalf of the society it governs. Because consensus is impossible and individual thinking forbidden, the council falls into inaction; since the council is the ruling body of the society, society stops advancing. The World Council of Scholars exemplifies the fear that controls group thinking. Because the council members cannot all agree on technological advances, even a simple innovation such as the candle takes a huge amount of time and haggling to gain approval. Moreover, because consensus-building is difficult and dangerous in a society in which discord is viewed as a sin, the individuals on the council begin to fear any change as a threat to themselves. For this reason, the council recoils from Equality 7-2521’s light bulb. Rand shows that when absolute agreement is necessary for change, progress is all but impossible. For Rand, a man’s value rests in the originality of his mind as expressed in his work, and the value of his work resides in his personal investment in it, as in Equality 7-2521’s invention of the light bulb. Equality