Imagine a world so devoted to collectivism that even terms such as “I” have been abolished and personal names have been replaced with numbers — a world utterly devoid of individual expression or ambition.

This world is the setting for Ayn Rand’s 1938 novella, Anthem, which stands as a powerful testament to the enduring importance of individualism and personal freedom. For readers unfamiliar with Rand’s work, this novel serves as a perfect gateway into her works of fiction and indeed her unique philosophy of Objectivism, exploring the theme of individualism against collectivism

Note: as seen in the image above, Anthem has also been adapted as a graphic novel.

In the dystopian world of Anthem, conformity is the cornerstone of societal order, and any deviation from the prescribed norms is met with swift punishment. Yet, amidst this uniformity, the protagonist, Equality 7-2521, dares to defy the status quo and discovers the power of his own mind.

Despite the relentless pressure to conform, Equality 7-2521 embarks on a journey of self-discovery, reclaiming his identity and embracing his individuality. 

As he continues to explore his individuality, he uncovers remnants of the past, including a hidden tunnel from the Unmentionable Times, a period in history that society has condemned and forgotten. Within this tunnel, Equality 7-2521 discovers forbidden knowledge, including literature and technology, which he eagerly absorbs despite the risks.

Throughout his quest for personal freedom, Equality 7-2521 develops a romantic relationship with Liberty 5-3000, another dissenter who shares his desire for autonomy. Together, they embark on a journey to escape the suffocating constraints of their society and find a place where they can live freely.

Equality 7-2521 ultimately takes on the name Prometheus, one of the Titans in Greek mythology.

The novella serves as a stark warning against the dangers of sacrificing individual liberty on the altar of collective uniformity. Rand’s portrayal of a society where independent thought is suppressed underscores the indispensable role of individual autonomy in the pursuit of a meaningful existence. 

In our own society, where conformity and groupthink often dominate public discourse, Rand’s celebration of individualism and rational self-interest serves as a rallying cry for those who refuse to surrender their autonomy to the demands of the collective. Just as Equality 7-2521 defies the constraints of his society to pursue freedom and truth, so too must individuals assert their right to think, act, and live according to their own rational self-interest.

Enjoying a profound and lasting cultural impact, Ayn Rand’s Anthem found resonance with Neil Peart, the legendary drummer and lyricist of the iconic rock band Rush. Peart found Ayn Rand’s writing and philosophy to be an important source of inspiration, evident in his lyrics and the band’s music. 

Rush even dedicated their 1976 album “2112” to “the genius of Ayn Rand.” The title track, “2112,” tells the story of a protagonist who, just like Equality 7-2521, rebels against a collectivist society to reclaim his individuality and freedom. 

A year earlier, in their album “Fly by Night,” Rush released a song titled “Anthem.”

To learn more about how the genius of Ayn Rand helped inspire one of rock and roll’s all-time great albums, be sure to check out this video:

Today, 86 years on from its original publication, Anthem stands firm as a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit and the eternal flame of individualism. 

In a world where conformity increasingly threatens to extinguish individuality, Rand’s novella serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring us to reclaim our autonomy and forge our own path in pursuit of happiness.

Interested in finding out more about Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism? Don’t miss out! Click the button below to claim your complimentary copy of the e-book “The Morality of Capitalism.” 

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