In Anthem, why is fear the prevalent emotion of the society?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the reasons why fear is the prevalent emotion of the society that Rand depicts in Anthem is because of its collective nature.  Rand depicts a world where the collective vision must supplant the individualized notion of consciousness.  This becomes difficult because the individual filters through the collective through their own individual lens.  Thus, in understanding the collective, there is an acknowledgement of the individual self, something that is forbidden in the social setting of Anthem:

The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages. 

Equality 7-2521 is fundamentally different because he acknowledges his difference.  It is clear that he is fundamentally different than others in the society of Anthem.  He understands his individual difference.  However, much of the social veneer is constructed so that individuals do not commit the "grave" offense of being different. In the desire to be homogenous and to display no distinctive characteristics, there is a fear that permeates everything and all human actions and interactions.  People like Union 5-3992 are part of this collective entity, and individuals must ensure that their compliance and condition of being in the world does not stray from this larger configuration. It is in this light where I think that fear is so dominant in the society where Anthem takes place.  The "EGO" that is so much a part of Rand's heroic protagonist is the very fear of so many in the social order, making Equality 7-2521 that much more a heroic figure.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial