Anthem takes place in the future, but this 1937 work is a commentary on Ayn Rand's contemporary world of the first third of the twentieth century. It reflects her opinion of the Soviet society that emerged after the communist revolution in Russia toppled the czarist regime.
Rand hated the conformity and collectivism she experienced in the U.S.S.R. Like many dystopian works, her book acts as a cautionary tale about what the world could become. She envisions a future in which people are assigned numbers rather than names in an attempt to rob them of their individuality. Her central character, a talented young man, is punished rather than rewarded for his superiority. He is forced to become a street sweeper, but intelligent as he is, he uses this to his advantage. He makes discoveries about a former civilization that had innovations such as electricity that have been lost.
Rand's point is that a society that stops valuing the individual is setting itself on a downward spiral. Elite people of superior ability must be recognized and rewarded. Otherwise, she argues, society as a whole will suffer.