Kat

Anthem by Ayn Rand - Discussion

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Since I have posted the book Anthem in its entirety, I have locked those threads. If you would like to discuss the book, please reply within this thread.

Kat

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In one respect, that of style, Anthem is my favorite of Rand's fiction. It is lyrical and beautiful, and retains a remarkable consistency of style throughout. It ranks as the equal of the most beautiful of her writings in her novels -- with the "boy on the bicycle" scene and the death of the Wet Nurse. And it is in Anthem that we see the purest essence of Rand the Poet, without any of the harshness, the anger, the bitterness that came to mark her later work. Reading Anthem for the first time, many years ago, was one of the irreplaceable literary experiences of my life.

Barbara

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Anthem is such a wonderful book. I love the way it is structured, as a journal. I don't know if this is a common device in fiction-writing, but having it in journal form is a great way to enable a first-person story to retain some suspense. The journal writer first gives us some background, and then once we are caught up to his present-day, he is always writing about events that have just happened. At no point in the book does our journal writer know how things are going to turn out - until the climax at Chapter 11 - "I am. I think. I will." Wow.

The very first line of the book is just perfect. "It is a sin to write this." This is a graceful way of conveying that we are reading someone's journal, and at the same time it sucks us into the story, evoking the reaction "A sin? Wow, what's going on here?"

Another thing I like is the style of writing. She captured perfectly how an intelligent person would write in a culture in which the language had shrunk back to a simplified subset.

Has anyone read "Essays on Ayn Rand's Anthem" yet? Is it good?

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When I was around twenty I read Anthem two or three times, perhaps not as many as other books of Ayn Rand. But Anthem is the only book out of which I copied something which I have kept with me to this day:

"I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned. I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold."

The original hand written copy I made when I was still in the Navy fell apart in my wallet after a few years. I don't remember how many typewritten copies I have made. I agree it is exalted, but not religious. If I were a true zealot I suppose I would have simply memorized it.

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In one respect, that of style, Anthem is my favorite of Rand's fiction. It is lyrical and beautiful, and retains a remarkable consistency of style throughout. It ranks as the equal of the most beautiful of her writings in her novels -- with the "boy on the bicycle" scene and the death of the Wet Nurse. And it is in Anthem that we see the purest essence of Rand the Poet, without any of the harshness, the anger, the bitterness that came to mark her later work. Reading Anthem for the first time, many years ago, was one of the irreplaceable literary experiences of my life.

Barbara

Same here. The book is such a coup of that type of writing, a type which is difficult to sustain. And I agree that it shows no signs of the later harshness, anger, and bitterness. I first read it in 1962 when I was teaching horsebackriding at a girls' summer camp in Wisconsin. I read it by moonlight -- nearly full moon -- and flashlight, sitting crosslegged on the boat dock of the canoeing department. (The camp stretched along one side of a lake large enough for sailing on with small sail boats but not so large one couldn't see the whole perimeter.) I recall the shafts of moonlight across the lake surface. The whole scene was "perfect" for the occasion -- except for the ubiquitous mosquitoes. I anticipated the word "I" in the offing; nevertheless, that first time, the effect on me when it arrived was a physical effect of my scalp lifting and shivers going down my spine. An "irreplaceable" literary experience, as you say.

Ellen

___

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In one respect, that of style, Anthem is my favorite of Rand's fiction. It is lyrical and beautiful, and retains a remarkable consistency of style throughout. It ranks as the equal of the most beautiful of her writings in her novels -- with the "boy on the bicycle" scene and the death of the Wet Nurse. And it is in Anthem that we see the purest essence of Rand the Poet, without any of the harshness, the anger, the bitterness that came to mark her later work. Reading Anthem for the first time, many years ago, was one of the irreplaceable literary experiences of my life.

Barbara

What is the "boy on the bicycle" scene from? I agree that the death of the Wet Nurse was one of the most beautiful of her writings, as well as Dagny's scene with Cherryl Taggart. :)

Funny, Anthem is the only book by Rand that I've never read more than once. I didn't like it, for me it was too exalted, too religious.

Funny, my Brit lit teacher said it was "too preachy," so I suggested he read Atlas. :laugh:

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Kori, you asked about the “boy on the bicycle” scene. It is from *The Fountainhead*. I do not have the novel in hand at the moment, but it is in the storyline where the Monadanock (sp.?) resort is built.

It is one of my favorites.

-Ross Barlow.

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It's at the beginning of book 4. That and the final chapter are my favorite passages in Rand.

Peter

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Reidy and others; That is my favorite Rand passage. I have Essays on Anthem but have not read it.

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Funny, Anthem is the only book by Rand that I've never read more than once.

Interesting. I've never read any of Rand's fiction more than once (I *rarely* ever re-read books). I've re-read various passages and chunks, but never read any of them all the way through more than one time.

I did love *Anthem*, and I even considered trying to adapt it to the stage (I started this task some years ago, but didn't get very far).

RCR

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Anthem was the last fiction book I read by Rand. I suppose I read them in the wrong order because I started with Atlas Shrugged and so on down the line in longest to shortest order. Reading Anthem was fun for me. I was on a two hour plane ride and was able to read it in about thirty minutes between naps. The book is well written for sure. The only problem I've ever had with the book is that you can't give it to a person in order to show them the value of Objectivist philosophy because people refuse to believe that the society in Anthem is so far removed from what we experience daily.

Edited by Danneskjold

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This is a great place to repeat this post.

Michael

I watched several "Anthem" videos on YouTube. These are all kid productions. Anthem is typically assigned in 9th or 10th grade. The story is compact enough for a high school video production, or at least an attempt at one. In one of these, Equality finds the word EGO, by reading Anthem, a nice twist.

"Joshua Duggan film" probably the best of the lot.

Very young

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1-UrW0AvMM

Gothic

CC Productions animated

Music video with words on screen.

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I love Anthem. I have read it only once, but have listened to on on CD with my three youngest daughters.

I will NEVER forget, when we were riding in the car listening to it, and when it came to the part where the main character was talking about the word they couldn't say, my daughter (who was 9 at the time) leaned forward in her seat, and looked at me and said:" Oh - I bet it is I!!" and was so excited she was right.

To me, this was a great novel because it accomplished what Animal Farm and 1984 did, but with a better ending. (Though I love those two novels as well.)

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Sherry; What a wonderful story about your daughter and Anthem. I'd say a very smart kid. I suspect she takes after her mother.

I have to note that Ayn Rand did not like either "1984" or "Animal Farm". She did not like because she thought that the technology could not exist with the controls pictured in that book. She did not like "Animal Farm" because she thought the book states that the failure of Communism was caused by just having the wrong people in charge.

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Thank you Kat and Michael:

I had not re-read Anthem in at least two decades maybe three. I am stunned by how beautiful a work it is.

I used the way Kat had it arranged as a teaching tool for a client and friend in Missouri. She is in her mid thirties, two children, smart husband, very smart and allegedly ADD. She has been trained by me and has gotten to the point wherein she is receptive to these ideas.

Knowing her personality as intimately as I do, I had her agree to read one chapter at a time as I sent them to her and for her to journal back before the next one was sent.

Worked great. She really enjoyed the extra tension of waiting for the next "serial".

At any rate she loved it. I made my, how did Sherry put it "pay it forward" deal with her on Atlas.

By the way Sherry, I love that testimony from your daughter. Those moments, even the state cannot prevent, yet.

Ellen's lake side imaging was beautiful.

I wonder if this section of the forum existed before I clicked on Michael's link to Kat's incredibly user friendly page, all of which moved a person in Missouri to be another "grounds spring" of the ideas. Damn I have to find that section from the Fountainhead I think it should be considered for her top ten sections if we ever try to do a list just for fun.

By the way Gulch, I already recruited them for C4Liberty.

Thank you all.

Adam

Edited by Selene

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I've read a few chapters yesterday. I'm glad this was suggested to read as it's my first time reading Ayn's fiction. So far, it is wonderful. It seems to me that sight is the most engaged of the senses. I'm guessing it's because it's usually the first engaged in seeking out knowledge.

I can't wait to read on...

~ Shane

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Just finished Anthem...amazing.

Two thoughts...

1. In chapter 11, this passage struck a chord...

"For the word "We" must never be spoken, save by one's choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man's soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man's torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie."

The first thing that came to mind was "We, the People..."

Surely, it's out of context when you read the first sentence of the Constitution, but think it I did.

2. In the last chapter of Anthem, I see how Ayn holds man as the hero vs. the woman. By that, I mean that Prometheus names Gaea. By her choice, she accepted it as so. But she did not choose her own name. Not to mention, that Prometheus talks about sons, not daughters. I'm unsure if by sons, he meant in his attempt to free others, he would bring them along. But there is no mention of bearing daughters.

All in all, a great revelation of mans' spirit to fight the unknown on the surface and dig up what is innately true in us all...I.

~ Shane

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Shane:

Glad you were moved by it. It had a deeper impact on me yesterday and today when I read it with the person in Missouri.

To state that Ayn's women were essentially "submissive" in terms of their relationship roles with men who were "dominant" is an understatement.

The lady in Missouri is a submissive.

Adam

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If you have not read Anthem, read it before opening the following work:

Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem

Robert Mayhew, editor

(Lexington 2005)

From the back cover: “This is the first book-length study to explore the historical, literary, and philosophical themes of Ayn Rand’s anti-utopia novella Anthem. Written in 1937 . . . , published in 1938 in Britain, and . . . in a revised form in the United States in 1946, Anthem investigates the importance of the ego and freedom and explores the struggle of the individual against the state.”

I object to calling Anthem anti-utopia. In lower case, utopia means simply an ideal or perfect society. There is an ideal, if not perfect, society that is adored in Anthem: the ancient, scientifically advanced society that had been lost (concealed).

That objection is trivial. What matters about a book is what is between the covers. This book on Anthem is excellent.

My main interest is in the essays on the philosophical themes. Titles and subtitles of the major contributions concerning philosophy are these:

“Needs of the Psyche in Ayn Rand’s Early Ethical Thought” (Darryl Wright)

—Norms for Living: The Skyscraper, The Little Street, and “The Husband I Bought”

—The Normative View of Life in We the Living and Ideal

—Values and the Self: Notes for The Fountainhead

—The Ethical Vision of Anthem

“Breaking the Metaphysical Chains of Dictatorship: Free Will and Determinism in Anthem” (Onkar Ghate)

—Determinism and Dictatorship

—Free Will and Political Freedom

“Prometheus’ Discovery: Individualism and the Meaning of the Concept ‘I’ in Anthem” (Gregory Salmieri)

—Individualism and the Concept ‘I’

—Prometheus’ Discovery of Himself as a Valuer

—Prometheus’ Discovery of Individualism

Anthem’s Argument

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If you have not read Anthem, read it before opening the following work:

Essays on Ayn Rand's Anthem

Robert Mayhew, editor

(Lexington 2005)

From the back cover: "This is the first book-length study to explore the historical, literary, and philosophical themes of Ayn Rand's anti-utopia novella Anthem. Written in 1937 . . . , published in 1938 in Britain, and . . . in a revised form in the United States in 1946, Anthem investigates the importance of the ego and freedom and explores the struggle of the individual against the state."

I object to calling Anthem anti-utopia. In lower case, utopia means simply an ideal or perfect society. There is an ideal, if not perfect, society that is adored in Anthem: the ancient, scientifically advanced society that had been lost (concealed).

That objection is trivial. What matters about a book is what is between the covers. This book on Anthem is excellent.

I second your trivial objection. I would class Anthem along with other dystopian novels, such as We, Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Fahrenheit 451. In a sense, dystopian novels seem to not be so much anti-utopian as depicting what happens after a particular set of utopian plans are implemented. Of course, this might be generalized to the idea that all utopian plans are unworkable and result in an inhumane society. I imagine had Rand only been remembered for Anthem, many might have read her novel that way.

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