How would you explain the following quotation from Ayn Rand's Anthem?"To be free, a man must be free of his brothers."

How would you explain the following quotation from Ayn Rand's Anthem?

"To be free, a man must be free of his brothers."

Expert Answers
litlady33 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A central theme of Anthem is that a person must live for himself and be an individual. The society that Ayn Rand sets up is one that focuses on brotherhood, unity, and conformity. It is the epitome of the collectivist society. Therefore, when Prometheus (formerly Equality 7-2521) discovers that he is in fact an individual, the only way to truly be free is to stop living for others. Rather than live his life in a job that was chosen for him for the supposed good of society (his brothers), he makes the decision to choose his own path and do what fulfills him as an individual, whether that benefits the “brotherhood” or not. Not only does he realize here that he does not need to live for his brothers, but he also realizes that he does not need to depend on them; he can be self-sufficient, and this, too, can give him freedom.  He says in Chapter 12:

I shall live here, in my own house. I shall take my food from the earth by the toil of my own hands. I shall learn many secrets from my books. Through the years ahead, I shall rebuild the achievements of the past, and open the way to carry them further, the achievements which are open to me, but closed forever to my brothers, for their minds are shackled to the weakest and dullest among them.

Now that he is no longer “shackled” to his brothers, Prometheus has discovered a power within him, as an individual, to live freely and in doing so to make his contribution to society without having to be told how to accomplish that.

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