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In Ayn Rand's book Anthem, Equality states that it is very unusual for men to reach the...

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user9892965 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 3, 2013 at 1:43 AM via web

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In Ayn Rand's book Anthem, Equality states that it is very unusual for men to reach the age of 45. Offer several possible explanations as to why life expectancy is so short in his society.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted April 3, 2013 at 4:56 PM (Answer #1)

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The major point of this society's existence is for all men to work for the benefit of all mankind. Work-this doesn't mean to play or to relax. Every minute of a person's life in the society in which Equality is born is planned out from the day s/he is born to the day s/he dies. The only time a person is allowed to rest is after the age of 40. The people are driven to work out of a united desire to be useful to the society. As seen throughout the story, though, they also work out of fear of what might happen if they don't obey the rules to work and to conform with society's demands and requirements. By the time a person is 40, Equality explains that "at forty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work. . . They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know that they are soon to die" (28). Thus, it can be inferred from words like "worn out" and "weary" that the toll placed on their bodies in this society may be ruthless; the stress of their lives must be highly demanding as they work every day and live under fear.

Furthermore, living a life for someone else cannot be that satisfying. Without families or the opportunities to seek after one's dreams would be sad and lifeless. Who would want to continue for longer than needed if life didn't represent one's own choices and desires? Equality's society takes choice away from the individual. If an individual cannot choose to live as s/he sees fit, and in the pursuit of happiness, then there's no reason to live. Equality doesn't say this in the book because he doesn't know any better until the very end of the story. By that point, he's just realizing the beauty of life as seen through taking risks when making choices. He chooses to be with Liberty because of the joy it brings him, but he also must face the repercussions of that choice; one being the fact that he cannot live within that society and be with her at the same time. He must leave the society if he wants to stay with her. Also at the end of the book, they are expecting a baby, which is another aspect of life that was denied them.

People must be able to make their own choices in life; if not, then life isn't worth living. It can be inferred by the fact that people only live to be 40-45 that a person really cannot thrive in a society such as this due to the limitation of free will and the stress placed upon them that work is the only meaning of a person's life.

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