Ayn Rand

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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).


Introduction by Leonard Peikoff

Reason is Individual (p. v)

But reason is a property of the individual.  There is no such thing as a colletive brain.

An Ode to the Ego (p. vii)

Ayn Rand chose the esthetic-moral concept “anthem” for her present title.  In doing so, she was not surrendering to mysticism, but waging war against it.  She was claiming for man and his ego the sacred respect that is actually due not to Heaven, but to life on earth.  An “anthem to the ego” is blasphemy to the pious, because it implies that reverence pertains not to God, but to man and, above all, to that fundamental and inherently selfish thing within him that enables him to deal with reality and survive.

Anthem is Stylistically Different (p. vii)

As an anthem, or hymn of praise, the novel is not typical of Ayn Rand in form or in style (although it is typical in content).

A Poem (p. viii)

To Rose Wilder Lane, in answer to a question, [Ayn Rand] classified [Anthem] officially as a “poem.”

Love Thine Ego (p. xii)

Love thine Ego as thyself.  Because that’s what it is.

Foreword by Leonard Read

Foreword by Ayn Rand

“But I Didn’t Mean This!” (pp. 12–13)

Some might think—though I don’t—that nine years ago there was some excuse for men not to see the direction in which the world was going.  Today, the evidence is so blatant that no excuse can be claimed by anyone any longer.  Those who refuse to see it now are neither blind nor innocent.

The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one’s eyes shut.  They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing: “But I didn’t mean this!


We Have Broken the Laws (p. 17)

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.

Theft? (p. 18, see also pp. 35–36)

We stole the candle from the larder of the Home of the Street Sweepers.  We shall be sentenced to ten years in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered.

Our Name (p. 18)

Our name is Equality 7-2521.

The Pledge (p. 19)

“We are one in all and all in one.

There are no men but only the great WE,

One, indivisible and forever.”

The Unmentionable Times (pp. 19–20)

They whisper many strange things, of the towers which rose to the sky, in those Unmentionable Times, and of the wagons which moved without horses, and of the lights which burned without flame.  But those times were evil.  And those times passed away, when men saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all men together.

Prayer (p. 21)

“We are nothing.  Mankind is all.  By the grace of our brothers are we allowed our lives.  We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the State.  Amen.”

The Desire to Learn (p. 23)

But we loved the Science of Things.  We wished to know.

No Desire to Rule (p. 25)

But we wished not to be a Leader, even though it is a great honor.  We wished to be a Scholar.

The Law Perverted (p. 31)

“Since the Council does not know of this hole, there can be no law permitting to enter it.  And everything which is not permitted by law is forbidden.”


Beauty (pp. 42–43)

“You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000.”

Their face did not move and they did not avert their eyes.  Only their eyes grew wider, and there was triumph in their eyes, and it was not triumph over us, but over things we could not guess.

“We shall look upon you, Liberty 5-3000, if we see you among all the women of the earth.”

The Wisdom of Women (p. 45)

We think that in the wisdom of women the Golden One had understood more than we can understand.

Is it Truly “Improper” to Sing Without Reason? (p. 45)

But it is not proper to sing without reason, save at the Social Meetings.

It Is Forbidden, Not to Be Happy (pp. 45–46)

It is forbidden, not to be happy.  For, as it has been explained to us, men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy.

The Individual is Nothing, the Collective is Everything (pp. 46–47)

Our body is betraying us, for the Council of the Home looks with suspicion upon us.  It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad that our body lives.  For we matter not and it must not matter to us whether we live or die, which is to be as our brothers will it.  But we, Equality 7-2521, are glad to be living.  If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue.

Book-burning (pp. 48–49)

We have heard the legends of the great fighting, in which many men fought on one side and only a few on the other.  These few were the Evil Ones and they were conquered.  Then great fires raged over the land.  And in these fires the Evil Ones were burned.  And the fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, was the Script Fire where all the scripts of the Evil Ones were burned, and with them all the words of the Evil Ones.  Great mountains of flame stood in the squares of the Cities for three months.  Then came the Great Rebirth.

The Saint of the Pyre (p. 50)

We were a child then, ten years old.  And we stood in the great square with all the children and all the men of the City, sent to behold the burning.  They brought the Transgressor out into the square and they led them to the pyre.  They had torn out the tongue of the Transgressor, so that they could speak no longer.  The Transgressor were young and tall.  …  They walked to the pyre, and their step did not falter.  And of all the faces on that square, of all the faces which shrieked and screamed and spat curses upon them, theirs was the calmest and the happiest face.

…  And we thought then, standing in the square, that the likeness of a Saint was the face we saw before us in the flames, the face of the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word.


Equality 7-2521 Discovers Electricity (p. 54)

No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many Scholars who are elected by all men for their wisdom.  Yet we can.  We do.  We have fought against saying it, but now it is said.  We do not care.  We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires.  So much is still to be learned!  So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!



Equality 7-2521 Reinvents the Light Bulb (p. 59)

Tonight, after more days and trials than we can count, we finished building a strange thing, from the remains of the Unmentionable Times, a box of glass, devised to give forth the power of the sky of greater strength than we had ever achieved before.  And when we put our wires to this box, when we closed the current—the wire glowed!  It came to life, it turned red, and a circle of light lay on the stone before us.

Property in Matter Through Labour as an Extension of the Self (p. 61)

For the first time do we care about our body.  For this wire is a part of our body, as a vein torn from us, glowing with our blood.  Are we proud of this thread of metal, or of our hands which made it, or is there a line to divide these two?


Refusing to Speak (p. 66)

“Are you ready to speak?”

But we shook our head, lying before them on the floor.  And they departed.

To No Longer Be an Outcast (p. 67)

Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we shall take our box, and leave our tunnel open, and walk through the streets to the Home of the Scholars.  We shall put before them the greatest gift ever offered to men.  We shall tell them the truth.  We shall hand to them, as our confession, these pages we have written.  We shall join our hands to theirs, and we shall work together, with the power of the sky, for the glory of mankind.  Our blessing upon you, our brothers!  Tomorrow, you will take us back into your fold and we shall be an outcast no longer.  Tomorrow we shall be one of you again.  Tomorrow…


The Plans of the World Council (p. 74)

“This would wreck the Plans of the World Council,” said Unanimity 2-9913, “and without the Plans of the World Council the sun cannot rise.  It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and to decide upon the number needed, and to re-fit the Plans so as to make candles instead of torches.  This touched upon thousands and thousands of men working in scores of States.  We cannot alter the Plans again so soon.”

Building the Box for Its Own Sake (pp. 76–77)

We have lied to ourselves.  We have not built this box for the good of our brothers.  We built it for its own sake.  …  There is not a thing behind us to regret.

Equality 7-2521’s Sole Regret (p. 77)

Then a blow of pain struck us, our first and our only.  We thought of the Golden One.  We thought of the Golden One whom we shall never see again.


The Pride in Self-reliance (p. 79)

We made a fire, we cooked the bird, and we ate it, and no meal had ever tasted better to us.  And we thought suddenly that there was a great satisfaction to be found in the food which we need and obtain by our own hand.

Not a Pitiful Face (p. 80)

Our face was not like the faces of our brothers, for we felt no pity when looking upon it.

The Damned? (p. 80)

And suddenly, for the first time this day, we remembered that we are the Damned.  We remembered it, and we laughed.


Ecstasy (p. 84)

And that night we knew that to hold the body of women in our arms is neither ugly nor shameful, but the one ecstasy granted to the race of men.

The Virtue of Corruption (p. 85)

If that which we have found is the corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save corruption?

Expressing Love (p. 87)

“We are one…alone…and only…and we love you who are one…alone…and only.”



I Warrant My Own Existence (p. 94)

I stand here on the summit of the mountain.  I lift my head and I spread my arms.  This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest.  I wished to know the meaning of things.  I am the meaning.  I wished to find a warrant for being.  I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being.  I am the warrant and the sanction.

An Ends Within Oneself (p. 95)

Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish.  I am not a tool for their use.  I am not a servant of their needs.  I am not a bandage for their wounds.  I am not a sacrifice on their altars.

No Slaves, No Masters (p. 96)

I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters.  And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey.  And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire.


The Discovery of “I” (p. 98)

It was when I read the first of the books I found in my house that I saw the word “I.”  And when I understood this word, the book fell from my hands, and I wept, I who had never known tears. I wept in deliverance and in pity for all mankind.

On Freedom (p. 101)

It was a long story, and the spirit which moved it was the spirit of man’s freedom.  But what is freedom?  Freedom from what?  There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men.  To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.  That is freedom.  That and nothing else.

The Reason for Optimism (p. 104)

Through all the darkness, through all the shame of which men are capable, the spirit of man will remain alive on this earth.  It may sleep, but it will awaken.  It may wear chains, but it will break through.  And man will go on.  Man, not men.


The Spirit of Individualism

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….  The 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.

Introduction copyright © Leonard Peikoff and the Estate of Ayn Rand, 1995
All rights reserved

The rest of this book has, according to this source, Anthem has ascended in the United States into the public domain.