What are some examples of diction in the book Anthem?

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Ayn Rand puts simple diction in the mouth of her narrator, Equality. He also frequently uses repetition. This reflects the simplistic education of the collectivist society in which he has grown up and which Rand critiques. Equality can only think using the stripped down and childish words that his society...

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Ayn Rand puts simple diction in the mouth of her narrator, Equality. He also frequently uses repetition. This reflects the simplistic education of the collectivist society in which he has grown up and which Rand critiques. Equality can only think using the stripped down and childish words that his society offers. Individuality and sophisticated thought have been denied to him.

Rand is also making an argument that extreme individualism is preferable to a collective society. It makes it much easier for her audience to understand her points about the differences between individualism and collectivism to have Equality use simple language. Therefore, his diction also functions as a persuasive device.

We can see the simplicity and repetition in the following examples of Equality's diction:

But we loved the Science of Things. We wished to know. We wished to know about all the things which make the earth around us. We asked so many questions that the Teachers forbade it.

In the above quote, Equality (who always uses the "we" pronoun to describe himself because he is not allowed the individuality of "I") repeats "We wished to know" twice, which emphasizes his desire for knowledge. However, his childlike language, such as saying "all the things," emphasizes the ignorance in which he has been kept. It is the language of a society that has regressed to the point that students are taught that the earth is flat. The simple, repetitive subject/verb structure of his sentences—"We loved, We wished, We asked"—not only creates a sense of rhythm, it also shows that he uses very uncomplicated thought patterns. His diction reveals that he is only able to express one idea at time.

The following quote also uses repetition and very simple diction:

For men are forbidden to take notice of women, and women are forbidden to take notice of men. But we think of one among women, they whose name is Liberty 5-3000, and we think of no others.

We note the repetition in the words "men, women, notice, forbidden, think." Equality is groping his way to a notion of romantic love that is forbidden in his society, and he does not have a word to label it. Once again, a more sophisticated and better educated thinker would probably combine sentences in order to avoid repeating the same words. Equality, however, can only work with the slow, simple thought processes he has developed.

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Diction is, by definition, an author’s choice of words. There are many ways to go about finding examples of diction in a work because all words are, essentially, diction. With Anthem, though, there are some examples of unique or purposeful diction that stand out, particularly in Ayn Rand’s choice of pronoun usage and choices in naming her characters.

Most works, when told from a first person point of view like Anthem, use “I” when the narrator refers to him or herself. Ayn Rand, however, uses words like “we” in place of “I" or "our" instead of "my." When the narrator first introduces himself, he says, “Our name is Equality 7-2521” (18). This unique pronoun choice--using plural person pronouns instead of singular--usually throws readers off initially and can make reading Anthem a bit confusing. However, Rand does not do this to confuse readers. She does this to show the extremes of this collectivist society. The people in Anthem believe in equality and unity to an extreme degree. Therefore, no one person is supposed to have an individual identity. Equality states that “we strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike” (19). If Equality were to refer to himself as “I,” that would show that he sees himself as an individual rather than a part of the larger community. Even the names, we see, show this focus on community rather than individuality; other names include Union, International, and Liberty, all followed by a number to show that each person lacks a singular identity.

As Equality starts to recognize his individuality and break from the collectivist society, about halfway through the novel he begins to refer to himself as “I” (94). Though a small change in diction, this signals a great shift in meaning. Equality starts to see all that he is capable of and what he is worth. He says

to earn my love, my brothers must do more than have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned (96).

Ayn Rand uses the shift to “I” to show Equality (who changes his name to the more individual Prometheus) has discovered his individuality. Though many other examples of diction are present in the novel, this is the one that is perhaps the most symbolic of the important change that takes place in the narrator’s mindset.

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