In Ayn Rand's novel, Anthem, why is fear the prevalent emotion in this society?

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tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Fear is one of the most controlling emotions that humans experience. Humans tend to steer away from anything that might harm them, and fear is usually present to alert us about harm. Equality explains in chapter 2,

"There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets. Fear walks through the City, fear without name, without shape. All men feel it an none dare to speak" (46).


People in Anthem exist in fear because of all of the rules that bind them to their daily, monotonous tasks. One rule is that the men live separately from the women. This everyday existence implies that the other half of the human species is off limits, wrong, or bad. Other rules include not thinking for oneself, not living or making choices for oneself, and following a dictated, non-voluntary life schedule--as if a person weren't capable of making such decisions for oneself! The rules cause insecurity and a lack of confidence which voids are only filled with questions of impending doom. When one is not making one's own decisions, a lack of trust can be the result for those who do make the decisions; and, that is exactly how the government wants it. If everyone is paralyzed by fear, then no one will question; if no one questions, then no one learns the truth; if no one learns the truth, then no one will revolt.

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favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Fear is the most prevalent emotion in the society depicted in Anthem because Ayn Rand wants to point out the many flaws of any kind of collectivist society, which is a society that puts the needs of the collective before the needs of the individual. In focusing on all the negative aspects of collectivism, Rand hopes to prove that only in a society that privileges the individual can residents live without fear. In a collectivist regime, the government is all-powerful and controlling: inhabitants have no rights to choose where to work, who to marry, how many children to have, what to do with their free time, and so forth. This lack of control over one's life can cause fear. The government must control all aspects of the residents' lives in order to make sure they are best serving the needs of the community, individual desires be damned. In order to maintain such control, the government would need to employ strict and harsh punishments, and this creates fear.

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