Anthem – Ayn Rand

This was my first venture into Rand’s work.  I can say she was a very eloquent writer, I enjoyed how she developed the short story and used her writing to describe a dystopia that man, though highly unlikely, may encounter.  The story was great, but I was not a big fan of the message.

Equality 7-2521 is the central character. He is living in a world where the word ‘I’ is forbidden.  He refers to himself as ‘our’ and groups as ‘we’.  He struggles in school and has feeling of sin as he explores his own thoughts and desires.  Everyone in his world is there for each other, as one.  The Council of Vocations has assigned Equality 7-2521 to be a street sweeper.  He is disappointed as he loves thinking, so he wanted to be a thinker, and to study and help the world he lived in.

One day, while cleaning a street, he found a secret passage.  Every night when the city went to the theater, he would sneak away and spend three hours in his secret underground passage.  Soon he discovered an ancient clear ball, which produced light like the sun (a light bulb).  He decided to take his discovery to the great minds to make the people’s lives better.  The elders decided that it would be foolish to use this as they just accepted their new tool, a candle.  Using the light would put hundreds out of a job because they wouldn’t need to make candles any more.

Equality ran away to start a new life, and found that a woman he knew and liked followed him out of the city into the uncharted forest. (I found it ironic that Rand wrote in a woman to follow Equality, when the theme of the story was independence.)  They found a house in the mountains and settled into it.  The house had a large collection of books, which Equality read and discovered the word ‘I’ and then the book went into a strong emphasis that ‘we’ was a thought that only hurt the progress of men.

“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.”

As a special education teacher, I read her message and disagree.  I am tasked with helping to provide an education to students who struggle with reading and math.  Without assistance, my students may not achieve goals in life that many others could take for granted.  I consider my occupation to be a part of the ‘we’ as I put others first.  I make students, their parents, and our school happy by helping them earn a high school diploma.  I concede there are parts of that message that are important.  I push students to help themselves. I want them to feel the achievement they deserve.  ‘I’ is important in that aspect.  These students will only go as far as they want to.  There are also students who have higher degrees of disabilities.  There are students who cannot talk, cannot communicate as well as others.  How can I put myself first to say they are not my concern.  Isn’t our world a little better by trying to get these students as far as they can go?

Rating: ****** 6/10

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