I’ve found one criticism thus far and just annotated very thoroughly. After I write the abstract for that criticism I will scavenge for more criticisms. Finding literary criticism for Rand’s works are more difficult than I thought, especially for a more obscure work like “Anthem”. Although Rand is very well recognized and respected, her work is mainly treated as philosophical teaching and thus analyzed as such. Although she is a very skilled literary writer, not many scholars analyze the literary aspects of her works. Hopefully I find these 2 elusive criticisms by tonight.
This is frustrating the hell out of me. I’m at the OU library and am completely confused. I went upstairs first to look at the books published about Ayn Rand. Expecting to find criticism on her writing, I instead found more biographical accounts of her life. The online databases are not short on journals and essays about Ayn Rand but this abundance is also the problem. I have no idea how to weed through all of this shit (sorry?); I’m just trying to find some damn criticism I can use. Ill talk to Kreinbring tomorrow to get a better idea for what I’m looking for. I think I’ll go home now and remain bitter for the rest of the night.
I am just now getting some of the allegorical aspects of “Anthem”. Light is a major symbol and is even featured on the cover. The protagonist discovers how to produce electrical currents and tries to show the scholars of the society. When he is rejected, he flees to the Uncharted Forest (also allegorical) and discovers the paramount significance of the individual. This knowledge of individualism is the light, which he wishes to share with all men. He gives himself the name Prometheus, because he too wants to give “light” to men. So Prometheus (the protagonist in Anthem) essentially finds the light of individualism after he is rejected for literally discovering a source of light, electricity. Fascinating.
Interesting. Ayn Rand had so much disdain for collectivism that she wrote in “Anthem” that the word “we” was the root of all evil. Above all else, the god of men, is the existence of “I”, the individual, Rand wrote. Rand goes as far too say that collectivism is the cause of societal regression. In the case of “Anthem” mankind went from having “steel towers and flying ships” to candles as the most advanced source of light as the result of the worship of “we”.
A prevalent motif in the novella which reflects Rand’s disdain for collectivism is the belief that man only exists for the benefit of other men. Equality 7-2521 eventually breaks out of this collectivist frame and realizes he (they?) needs no warrant for being because his mere existence is the warrant. In one of my previous posts I wrote that there is no singular pronoun in the beginning of the novella. The first page of the last chapter contains 12 “I”s alone. I was confused when I began reading the novella because Equality 7-2521 was always described as “we” but seemed to be a single person. The lack of singular pronouns contributes to Rand’s portrayal of collectivism and shows the complete absence of individualism in a dystopian society. Great writing can use subtle aspects such as pronoun selection usually overlooked in most literature to portray motifs and themes.
So I’m one chapter away from finishing “Anthem” and I’m actually surprised at how quickly I read it. The protagonist(s?) Equality 7-2521 has escaped the dystopian society and the restrictive vacuum that made free thought or action an unjustifiable crime. Equality 7-2521 has found female companionship and is living in the Uncharted Forest. Ayn Rand’s cynical views on collectivism are increasingly apparent in her portrayal of this dystopian society. One cynical portrayal of collectivism is the society’s prohibition of ideas or principles stemming from one individual; in order for an idea or practice to be accepted, everyone in the society must agree on the concept.
About 35 pages in, the collectivism Ayn Rand seems to oppose is obvious in the novella. There has been no singular pronoun in the novella so far, only “we” or “they” even if it seems Rand is referring to a single person. The most striking thing is how this dystopian society perceives right and wrong. The narrator mentions that the most heinous crime is not murder or physical violence, but “doing a work that has no purpose save that we wish to do it.” In other words, anything that pleases the individual rather than the government is an unfathomable crime. Ayn Rand mentions the ignorance of blindly accepting collectivism in the preface of the novella and Rand has strongly highlighted the ignorant collectivism in the novella.
I am only a few pages in but I have a few observations. The novel, set up in a dystopian setting, is similar to George Orwell’s 1984, in that both are about totalitarian governments. One key difference is that Orwell introduces a tangible protagonist, Winston, whose name provides a connection to the reader. Rand does not introduce any names but rather a narrator only identified by numbers. Perhaps I was not attentive enough but I have yet to see singular first person, which implies the disapproval of individualism in this novel.
I actually picked my book a few weeks ago but just forgot to blog about it. “Anthem” by Ayn Rand seemed like the perfect choice since it is written by a respected author and contains strong philosophical messages from Rand. This is the first Rand novel I have ever read so I’m not completely sure what to expect. I have not studied Ayn Rand either so hopefully I will learn what her works are all about.
My first trip to Barnes & Noble dedicated to finding my book for the research project was not a complete failure; I came away interested in Ayn Rand. I’ve heard a lot about her and her works but haven’t rad any myself. I know I would be more interested in reading a fictional work that actually reflects the author’s sentiments about more aspects than just literature, which Ayn Rand’s writing would do. I’m not completely limiting my selections to Rand novels because I’m still far from sure (and her books are really long) but I have a better idea now than what I had a few days ago.