Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Anthem. (Novel) Ayn Rand

New York: New American Library. 1946.

Why read it? Novel. The world of the future—a collectivist future. The sacred word that unites society in that future is “WE.” Man must live and work, not for himself, but for others. To be alone in this world is a crime, a great Transgression. The protagonist comes to realize that the really sacred word is “I,” “Ego.” “Anthem” means a choral composition involving a sacred text. The word is based on “anti--,” meaning “against.” The protagonist sets up a counter-anthem to “WE,” “I” or “EGO.”

Flat emotionless prose. Short, simple words. Human beings are spiritless. They are beaten down, living in fear. They may not, in any way, deal with ideas, others’ or their own. Sentence structure seems to be simple. Not much variety in sentence structure. Not many complex sentences.

In a sense this novel is a corrective for the desire to make the goal of education social good, and is the antithesis to the practice of encouraging group cooperation, as opposed to the emphasis on individualization in the 1960s.

Raises the question of the role of the individual vs. the role of cooperation in society. Can’t have one to the exclusion of the other. The great Communist scare was about to be unleashed when the book was published in 1946.

Some sample quotes:

“…struggle of the individual against a paralyzing collectivization. “ ………. “the necessity of a social justification for all activities and all existence is now taken for granted.” p. vii. ………. “WE know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.” p. 11.

“We are nothing, mankind is all.” p. 16. ………. “We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the state.” p. 16. ………. Thus must all men live until they are forty. At forty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work, for the state takes care of them. They sit in the sun in the summer and they sit by the fire in winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know that they are soon to die.” p. 25.

“…we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our brothers are bowed. The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do they look one another in the eyes. The shoulder of our brothers are hunched, and their muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight. And a word steals into our mind, as we look upon our brothers, and that word is fear.” p. 47. ………. “What is not done collectively cannot be good.” p. 81. .......... “I am. I think. I will.” p. 108.

“There is nothing to take man’s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else.” p. 118.

Interesting technique in painting the world without individuality. Stark. Colorless. Plain. Simple. RayS.

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