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Anthem | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Anthem | Author's Foreword | Summary



Rand begins the 1946 American edition of Anthem by explaining the changes she made from the previously published British edition. She wrote the original in 1937 and made edits only to the style, cutting out "excessive language." She did not touch the plot, the theme, the content, or the structure. As she says: "I have lifted its face, but not its spine or spirit; these did not need lifting."

She claims some readers believe she was unfair to collectivism, but she argues one only needs to claim a proposal for "the common good" to get a "respectful hearing." This is one of the "blatant" pieces of evidence Rand sees for the world's slide into collectivism. She points a finger at those who would "accept collectivism by moral default." She says if one wants a world full of slavery, they "should have the grace to name it by its proper name."


Rand's intention in her foreword is to defend her scathing attack on collectivism in Anthem. And it would seem her critique is not only of the totalitarian style of forced labor camps of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes but also of social democratic policies. She believes one's activities do not need a "social justification" and that proposing government objectives based on "the common good" can only lead to collectivism. The dangers of collectivism are clear to her: the collective ignores the desires of the individual and cares only about his or her usefulness to others.

Those who critique Rand might say she is so opposed to the idea of collectivism that she goes to extremes in her support of the individual. In Anthem the way the antagonist collective society is portrayed as completely inept and the protagonist Equality 7-2521 as omni-competent borders on absurd. Equality 7-2521's escapes from his prison in Chapter 6 and from the World Council of Scholars in Chapter 7 are implausible in any real-world context.

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