Anthem by Ayn Rand

Imagine a world where being an individual means nothing. Imagine living a life not in your control. Imagine having to be taken to the Home of the Useless when you were only forty, because you were considered too old to function properly in society. Welcome to the society in the novella Anthem…

The science fiction novella, Anthem, by Ayn Rand, is set in an orderly society, which at first, seems to be the perfect society. Everyone is forced to be happy, they all have to think the same thoughts, and no one was allowed to have friends. Having a friend meant that you considered a particular person special out of everyone in the community, which is a Transgression of Preference. The rules enforced in the society were explicit and made sure that everyone was functioning properly, according to the law. However, everything is not what it seems to be as readers later find out how predetermined this society really is. The lives of everyone in this society were already mapped out for them from the day they were born until the day they die. The protagonist of the novella, Equality, and the woman he has grown fond of, Liberty, flee from the tight grasps of society to the Uncharted Forest outside of the society. After their escape, Equality and Liberty decide to rename themselves in order to express their individuality and free selves. They change their names to Prometheus and Gaea. Equality renaming himself Prometheus is especially significant because they share a similar story, in that they take a risk in order to help mankind. However, their selfless actions are considered crimes in their societies. Prometheus is forced to bear harsh consequences, whereas Equality runs away from his society, realizing that he is unable to freely live there.
Equality 7-2521 is a young man who is curious to learn things which he has not been taught of. Curiosity is a sin in his community. He is brought up and raised without knowledge of his birth parents in a society where no person is allowed to make their own decisions, think thoughts which are forbidden, have friends, or live their life the way they want to. They cannot express themselves as individuals and do not know of words such as ‘I’, ‘mine’, or ‘my’, which shows individual claim over something. Whenever referring to themselves, they use the word ‘we’. The society is controlled by various councils. The Council of Vocations assigns jobs to every individual in the community, and assigns Equality to the House of Street Sweepers. However, Equality has always yearned to be a part of the Council of Scholars, and secretly conducts scientific experiments during his free time, leading him to rediscover electricity, which is a major accomplishment for him. Equality shows his work to the Council of Scholars, and expects to be praised for his work, but the Council is terrified by what he has made and tries to destroy it. However, Equality runs away from his society to the Uncharted Forest outside of it, realizing that the expectations of society pressure him to be someone he is not. He then realizes that the woman he loves, Liberty 5-3000, followed him to the forest, and they both stay in an antique house they came across which was from the Unmentionable Times, before his society was born. There, they rename themselves Prometheus and Gaea, after Greek immortals. The renaming of Equality and Liberty is a symbol of them gaining their independence from the constricted clutches of society.
Equality is a unique and exceptional man in his society because he takes a risk to do something different in order to make his life worth living, instead of blindly following the crowd. Equality renaming himself Prometheus is the opposite of expectations. According to ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus was a man that stole light from the gods and gave it to humans, to show them that they too, could become gods. By doing this deed, Prometheus was helping humans and making them realize that their life didn’t have to be full of hopelessness during a time of depression because he showed them different ways to utilize fire to survive. Although Prometheus stole light from the gods, he did it for a good cause, to help mankind. However, Prometheus suffered a harsh punishment. He was chained to a rock, and his liver was eaten by an eagle every day, only to have it grow back the next day and be eaten again. Ironically, although Equality defies the rules of his society, he does it for a righteous cause. Equality rediscovers electricity, and initially wanted everyone in his society to know about it, so that they could learn different ways to utilize this piece of technology. When Equality shows his rediscovered piece of work to the Council of Scholars, they reject his work, because they think it will alter the evenness of their society, and try to take his work away from him. In addition to renaming himself Prometheus, Equality renames Liberty as Gaea. Gaea was a goddess in Greek mythology who was the mother of all gods and of earth. Similarly, Liberty will be the mother to a future generation of humans who will grow up outside of a society not worth living in. This future generation will be free to have a life that they can live the way they want, and have a right to express themselves and let their uniqueness shine.

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