Anthem is a story about humanity, about the spirit of individualism. Much like Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” it is set in a dystopian future where, thanks to conditioning of one sort of another, breaking from the mould is either discouraged or forbidden. In Anthem’s case, it is forbidden, but enforcement is weak.
The planners of Anthem’s society indoctrinate the individuals that comprise society into believing that people are a means to the ends of the state, not an ends within themselves. As such, it is considered a libertarian classic, despite Rand’s quirky and largely-irrelevant insistance that she was not a libertarian. This novella centres around an individual’s strive to think freely, to love freely, and to live and let live, and thus it is truly timeless. With such beautiful poetry, it celebrates the survival and ultimate indestructibility of the individualist spirit. Try as the planners might, they are fundamentally incapable of keeping what Orwell calls “ownlife” from arising in their subjects.
If you only ever read one book by Ayn Rand, make it this one.
Except for Piekoff’s introduction and Peak’s afterword, this book may be cited as Ayn Rand, Anthem (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 2004). My appreciation to ThoughtAudio.com for providing the audio. (Note: the audio contains some errors.)
Text by Section
Chapters 7 & 8
Chapters 8 & 9
Chapters 11 & 12
Anthem Essay Contest
The Ayn Rand Institute
Anthem: An Appreciation
Zamyatin and Rand
Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 4, No. 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 285–304