Discussion Topic

Life expectancy in Ayn Rand's Anthem

Summary:

In Anthem by Ayn Rand, the life expectancy is around 45 years. This short lifespan results from the oppressive and regressive societal conditions that stifle individual freedoms and advancements, contributing to a lower quality of life and health.

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Why is the life expectancy in Anthem by Ayn Rand only 45?

The future society portrayed by Ayn Rand in Anthem is actually a society based on humankind's past. Essentially, the setting she creates is one of humankind before all the technological and ideological advances that had been made when Rand wrote the text in the twentieth century - essentially the Dark Ages placed in the future.

So - just like in the Dark Ages - humans do not live as long in Anthem's society as they do now because they do not have the advances in medicine, safety, diet, etc. that we have now.

In addition, there is something to be said about the mental health of the people living in a Dark Age. In chapter two, Equality 7-2521 describes his brethren: "There are Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason, in the midst of day or night, and their body shakes with sobs they cannot explain. There are Solidarity 9-6347, who are a bright youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their sleep...'Help us!' 'Help us!'" Any modern psychologist would say these men suffer from severe untreated depression, which would greatly shorten a person's life if left untreated.

Finally, at the age of forty, these people are forced to go to the Home of the Useless. "They sit in the sun in summer and they sit by the fire in winter." What person wouldn't take that life over the life of a workhorse? And once there, what person wouldn't slowly pass into death with nothing to do but remember a life of work and sadness?

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In Ayn Rand's Anthem, why do men only reach the age of 45?

In chapter one of Rand'sAnthem, most of the society's structure is laid out for the reader by the main character. It is interesting that the Home of the Useless is for those who are tired at age 40 and that only the more fortunate live there until 45. Nothing more is said about the reasons why this is. Does the government euthanize people after 45 or are people really that exhausted that they simply keel over at that time? Those questions are left open-ended for the reader to imagine because Equality's story never ventures into that area of society. For a society like the one depicted in the novel, however, one could argue that population control was important to them and upholding such a societal structure.

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