In Anthem, by Ayn Rand, Equality 7-2521 states that it is very unusual for men to reach the age of 45. Please offer several possible explanations as to why life expectancy is so short in this society.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The narrator of Anthem, by Ayn Rand, is also known as Equality 7-2521, and he lives in a world in which there is little joy and certainly no creativity. The men live separately from the women, and both spend their days doing the meaningless and unfulfilling jobs to which they were assigned by the Council. They do not use their minds and they do not share friendships, for that would be favoring one person over another and that is strictly forbidden in this world in which all things must be equal (but aren't).

After Equality 7-2521 tells us all of these things and more, he says this:

Thus must all men live until they are forty. 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, for the State takes care of them. They sit in the sun in summer and they sit by the fire in winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know that they are soon to die. When a miracle happens and some live to be forty-five, they are the Ancient Ones, and children stare at them when passing by the Home of the Useless. Such is to be our life, as that of all our brothers and of the brothers who came before us.

This is the unproductive and unsatisfying existence of man in this world: he is born, he suffers, and then he dies. 

The first reason for such a short life expectancy is that there is nothing to live for in this world. The Old Ones have already lived an unfulfilling life, and being in the Home of the Useless certainly does not enhance their lives. With nothing to look forward to, they might as well die.

Another reason is that the Old Ones are not allowed to be productive (hence the name of their institution, the Home of the Useless). It is true that there is little in this world for them to do that does not involve manual labor, so the options are limited; however, having something, anything to do would automatically increase their will to live.

Finally, they are broken men and women by the time they reach forty. They are broken in every way, as they have been forced to do what is required with no regard for their own desires--if they still have them. While their bodies are taken care of and they are able to sit in relative comfort, they have nothing in their spirits which brings them joy. Their bodies are fed but their souls are starving. 

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