I’m going to admit something that is probably a horrible thing to admit as a writer. Until recently I had never read anything by Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged is still on my “to-read” list. But I read through Anthem last night and I have to say that outside of Ms. Rand’s obvious political agenda (which I don’t find entirely frightening) this book was an amazing piece of loving work.
The book is quite simple. A man lives in a world where everything is controlled and everyone must be equal. All decisions much be unanimous and everyone must understand everything. This world is post-today, there’s still pieces of our world that exists, but the mass populace has turned their backs on it. Instead of moving forward, they focus on equality. One of the more amusing ideas in this book is that it took a committee of twelve (? not sure on the number right now) people to develop and implement the candle. And it took a great deal of time as well (even less certain on that). And that was the shining achievement of the population.
Anyways, so, the story goes, man lives in this world of oppressed equality, leaves and finds paradise.
There’s very little real action involved. This man looks for paradise and finds it. The book ends with the promise of a better day. But there’s very little conflict involved. Sure, there’s a dark moment where the man is whipped incessantly, but it’s such a minor piece of the tale.
But the book shines as a story all the same. It doesn’t need to fit the mold that authors are required to fulfill today, it’s just a simple beautiful story of one man standing alone and standing that he is him. There’s a minor amount of romance involved as well, seeing as he ends up with the woman he loved in this new found Garden of Eden.
Yes, Ms. Rand lays on the premise of egotism quite hard, and makes some rather convincing points, but the real beauty of this novel, in my opinion, is how simple the story really is. The conflict is there and overcome and there’s a happy ending.
Of course, I couldn’t help but connect with the character who names himself Prometheus because of his excitement over building his life for himself, working for his own needs instead of the needs for the people, creating with his hands the framework that will serve future generations. This man who stood in the face of this oppression and stated that he will not be forgotten, that he will leave his mark on the world.
It’s a short book, a novella, I suppose, but it leaves a deep impression on the reader. It also makes me wish I had more of her work around the house to start reading next.