Student Question

Expert Answers

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

Ayn Rand's Anthem is a dystopian novella, which means it addresses the dehumanization of mankind usually by some kind of totalitarian government. That is true for this work as can be seen by the following evidences:

  • every character is nameless and is known only by a number (the protagonist is Equality 7-2521, for example)
  • no one is allowed to be distinguished from anyone else (all men are brothers without any distinctions or divisions)
  • all decisions are made for the common man by Scholars and Councils (including each person's profession)
  • thinking, dreaming, and creating are strictly forbidden (and punishable crimes if they are discovered)
  • being alone is the greatest crime/sin (as that wrongly distinguishes one man from his brothers) 
  • work is the greatest good (so anything that eases men's labor is a crime)
  • independent thinking is not allowed (the only good is the collective good)

The theme of this work is relatively simple and has two parts. When the individual ("I") is absorbed into the collective ("we"), men degenerate into mindless, uncreative, and uninspired automatons who do nothing but live to work and die young and exhausted. However, the spirit of freedom and individuality lives on even in such a world, and a rare man will survive the oppression of the collective to create, think, dream, and love.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main theme behind Rand's Anthem is the importance of self-discovery and self-awareness. Rand, like many in the twentieth century, was concerned with the loss of self if people were to give up personal rights that include the word "I". When people start talking more about controlling everyone else rather than themselves, society can get into trouble. Fear is a theme in the story as Rand shows that many people go along with society's ideas simply because they are too afraid to stand up for anything else. At the extreme side of the spectrum, people would lose a sense of self and the ability to question anything or anyone. When a person loses the ability to question and seek truth out for themselves, it is then that they can be fully controlled.  But her main character is able to set himself free as he continues to question everything and to discover things that he is interested in. By becoming self-aware, we set ourselves free and open to self-discovery and free agency.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial