Today I finished my latest 2016 reading challenge book, Ayn Rand’s Anthem. After my lengthy June pick, I wanted a shorter read for July. At about 100 pages, Anthem fit the bill. My younger brother, Ken, selected the novel for me to read. He went through an Ayn Rand phase a few years ago and found it to have an interesting story.
It took me just a couple of days to read Anthem. For the first 80 pages or so, I too found it to be an interesting read. The main character, known only by the name and number Equality 7-2521, is trapped in a future, dystopian society in which “I” does not exist. Everyone lives for “we” and must follow what is deemed best for the community rather than the individual. There is no freedom; there is no love. Equality 7-2521 begins to challenge this structure in secret when he finds a subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times of before. He begins to write and experiment – both sins in the eyes of society. Eventually Equality 7-2521 runs away from the city into the Uncharted Forest, where he is joined by a woman he refers to as the Golden One who is also seeking to escape the confines of “we.” Together they come upon a house from before and learn of the existence of “I.” They discover freedom. They discover love. They also turn completely inward.
And that is where I no longer found the novel interesting but rather infuriating. For it is one thing to acknowledge and respect “I”; it is another to elevate it above all else, even God. The Golden One can’t be pulled away from looking at herself in the mirror. She falls asleep in front of it. Equality 7-2521 writes,
“And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word:
As a Christian, I utterly disagree with Rand’s philosophy. She only writes of the world in black and white – either it’s “we” or it’s “I.” She is leaving out so much in between. Christ challenges us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He doesn’t require us to give up our freedom and individuality, but he does require us to love and respect our fellow men at the same time. And oh, what this world needs right now is love. And not self-centered love, for we already have plenty of that.
I gave Anthem only 1 star on Goodreads.