Society is a process of living, not a thing. Each person has the freedom to do what they desire. Imagine not being able to think as an individual, speak freely and overall just losing your freedom. Ayn Rand’s Anthem, is a novel set in a future society where the word “I” has been banned and is governed by councils who believe that a man’s purpose of living is based on the “Great Truth”. In her novel, Anthem, Rand reveals a society that values categories and classification, while rejecting individualism and independence and her main character, Equality, concludes that individuality is healthy, similarly to American values today.
First, the society Equality lives in does not allow for the men to describe themselves as their own, but as a group. For example, Rand states, “We are one in all…” (5). Equality repeats these words to remind himself he is not to think of himself as an individual or different than his brothers. Individuality is forbidden in his society and suggests that the concept of “I” is not to be used or thought. This quote reveals how the word “we” is sacred to this community. Additionally, Equality says, “It is a sin to give men names…” (15). Equality has come up with a name for the woman he loves (the Golden One), but explains how giving men names is forbidden. He indicates that giving themselves a name that will give them an individual identity, is a transgression. This reveals that in his society, one cannot refer to themselves as an individual, therefore, they are given numbers and social values to mark them off as a part of society.
Secondly, Equality and the Golden One try to express their emotions, but after living in a collectivist society, they realized they are having trouble finding the proper vocabulary to express themselves. For example, Equality states, “We created it…our hands…our mind” (25). Equality admires his creation, which was electricity, because this proved his ability as an individual. The reader learns he has taken pride in his accomplishment. He tries to explain he created this all by himself, but finds it hard to express because he has no knowledge of the word “I” . This reveals the development of Equality, separating from his collectivist society, and begins to disregard the rejection of self conscious. Furthermore, the Golden One says, “We are one…alone…and only…and we love you who you are one…alone…and only” (40). After running away from their city, both Equality and the Golden One, the Golden One attempts to describe that she loves Equality, but clearly lacks the right word to do so and when she fails, it leaves both of them aggravated. The reader learns that love, in their society, is an affection between the relationship of two individuals that was not permitted, unless it was approved by the council. They love each other, but without the expression of self, they cannot verbally confess it. This reveals that they have no knowledge of the Unspeakable word “I” and because of this, they feel they are missing an essential concept in their understanding of the world.
Finally, at the end of the novel, Equality has found freedom. He has learned of his sacred word and his views of life were always right. For instance, the narrator states, “I am. I think. I will” (45). These three sentences conclude that Equality has finally achieved his search of the Unspeakable word. The reader learns how Equality values this word, for he has found the answer for his existence, not in humanity, but as an individual. Equality’s mind and himself were the real motivations. This reveals that he understands the meaning of freedom and self-worth, rejecting to live for others and be brainwashed the rest of his life. Similarly, Equality states, “the word which can never die on this earth” (49). Equality has realized his sacred word is “ego.” He now understands the curse he had, only strengthened his curiosity and led him to happiness. The reader learns that throughout the novel, Equality aimed for what is now the true empowerment in the strength of his own ego. This reveals that no matter what harsh conditions are foist on mankind, the strength of the individual ego will always win one way or another.