Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is the way to read Ayn Rand

Anthem by Ayn Rand

So I had heard of Ayn Rand before and I had heard that her novels were very philosophical and perhaps life-changing? I was hesitant to say the least. Then I saw the length of her two most famous novels. I decided that perhaps Ayn Rand wasn't for me. Then I read a summary of some of her philosophies. That confirmed it.

And yet when I came across this particular book I took a second glance at it and was curious enough to read the dust jacket. It sounded interesting enough and happened to be short enough (less than 90 pages) so I decided to read it that day.

The setting is your typical dystopia. An indeterminate future time where individuality is not only suppressed, it is downright illegal. To enhance this idea the entire novel is written in first-person plural. The main character refers to himself as "we" and to other characters as "they". The main character is torn between his scientific curiosity and the ingrained idea that individuality is a sin. The two come to a head when he discovers an ancient tunnel from the "before times" that no one is allowed to talk about.

This story has all your typical dystopian traits. Future world, individual thinker against a group mindset, love as an expression of individuality. The thing that bugs me is that Rand's anti-individualist future resembles the dark ages. Rejecting science is apparently the way to get everyone thinking the same way? Whatever. Also, how the heck does this guy survive once he breaks free of the repressive society? He'll have to learn to hunt, to fashion weapons, to grow food...none of which he has any training in or knowledge of. He was friggin' street sweeper after all. He can sweep and pick up litter, but plowing and knowing when to sow? I remain unconvinced that he survived his rediscovery of individualism.


  1. I have read very few novels, yet for some unknown reason I actually read "Atlas Shrugged". It was a long time ago. Maybe I read it because one of the main characters, Dagny Taggart, is executive of a giant railroad company--and you know I like trains. I do not remember a lot about it but I really liked it and I found some truth in what she wrote.

  2. You pose a good point...I think often many writers of dystopian novels (or perhaps novels in general?) neglect to reason out all the details of their story, assuming you will just believe everything to be plausible without actually thinking for yourself. Oh wait...isn't that what the book was ABOUT? Hmmm...

  3. I need to read that book. I'd initially set out to read Atlas Shrugged, but had balked at the $20 Kindle price--and, do I really want to put that much time into that type of literature? Maybe Anthem would be a good compromise for me.

    I've been fascinated to learn about Ayn Rand and some of her ideas. From what I've read, it seems she is a very strange and fiendishly clever fusion of of reason-based philosophy and agenda-driven propaganda.

    I'm always amazed at the unabashedly Christian politicians who tout her as a major influence. Isn't her whole philosophy pushed out of the idea that there is no room for faith--that inherent reason and self-interest alone should guide the mind of man?

    Anyway, something this strange, and this central to certain current strains of political thought, --how can I not give it a read, even if I know I'll disagree with it.