Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Book Review Anthem by Ayn Rand

By: Ayn Rand
Paperback, 105 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Plume (first published 1938)

I first read Anthem for my junior English class at West Monroe High School in 2007.  Mrs. Haywood warned us that even through the book is less than 100 pages that it could be hard to read.  The reason for this is there are no singular pronouns in this book.  The characters do not recognize them as a single free living individual, but as a piece of the collective brotherhood.  Instead of the main character, Equality 7-2521, saying “I am a Street Sweeper” he would say “We are Street Sweepers”.  As potential readers you might think that this would be confusing for the reader, but after the first chapter or two there is little confusion.

After reading Anthem in high school, I absolutely loved.  I am a huge fan of dystopian novels especially if they include a new but flawed regime/government after a great disaster. So, young impressionable Clair decided that Anthem was her new second favorite book in the whole wide world  (second to the Lois Lowry's Giver, of course nothing can outrank the Giver).  Since, then I have read many, many books and have reread many of my favorites, but somehow never made it back to rereading Anthem.  Last year I convinced my boyfriend to read Anthem; I  just knew in my heart of hearts that he would instantly fall in love with it, agree with me that it is amaze-balls, and we would spend hours discussing it our new favorite book together.  Well, that didn’t happen.  I was crushed, that he didn’t see how absolutely amazing it was, and when I tried to debate its awesomeness with him I realized I hadn’t read it in years. So, I put it on my “Clair, you need to reread this book” list.

So, Thursday I decided to finally reread Anthem after six years. Like many things in life my second impression, was a bit different that my first.  This time I realized that Ayn Rand had some things wrong.  She spent the entire book dumping on the collective and praising the individual.  Yes, the individual in very important—it’s important for an individual to have a personal sense of drive, happiness, and aspirations that are separate from the collective group.  It is also important for an individual to realize that some personal sacrifice is good if it helps society.  It’s important to know that every individual will not be 100% content 100% of the time, and sometimes the unhappiness cause by the masses and sometimes by one’s self. The answer isn't the collective is entirely evil, but also the individual isn't purely good and wholesome either.  There has to be a balance.

I feel like if Anthem was a dystopian book today it would be the first in a trilogy.  It just seems like all of the recent dystopians (especially YA ones) are all trilogies (Hunger Games, Uglies, etc.) . In the first book, Equality 7-2521 would love the status quo and live to uphold the rule of that society said were just. Towards the middle of the book a friend or lover would cause him to question the government and social norms, and by the end of the book he would have a new idea of what is right and the rule of the government and society's influence.  In the second book, Equality 7-2521 would break away from the society and chose his own path.  And in the final installment, he would take the government on head-on and try and change its wrongs.  But  Anthem is a single installment and was published in 1938, not 2013. Anthem's story sort of combines the single and second book of our new "Three book dystopian" idea.  But, the main difference is, Equality 7-2521 was never a blind follower of the law--even his bones would not obey the law.

In a way, I wish I hadn’t reread this book; I would have been able to live my life believing Anthem was a better book than it was, with a more relevant message than it has.  But on the other hand, I’m glad I reread it, because I know that the words in the book didn’t change over these six years. I did. I still really like the book and think it’s a good book to read in high school.   I like how even though Equality 7-2521 lives in a world without love, personality, and uniqueness he was able to conquer that and be an individual. 

I want to challenge you, to read one book this year that you’ve read in the past.  And answer these questions:
·         Has the meaning of this book to me changed since the last time I read this book?
·         How am I different now than the first time I read this book?
·         Do all books “change” as the reader changes or just certain special book?

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