Disclaimer: this isn’t a review on Ayn Rand’s philosophy. This is a review of Ayn Rand as a fiction author.
Why did I read it?
The World in the Twentieth Century, a class all juniors take at IMSA, assigned my classmates and me to find an individual from the 1900s, and create a biographical presentation for them. After looking around, I picked Ayn Rand, a novelist and philosopher, which lead me to read Anthem.
Why read it?
Ayn Rand writes novels as a medium to convey a philosophy of hers: objectivism. Reading this novel helped me understand another of her books on objectivism a lot better. However, Anthem is just a glimpse into this philosophy; this book focuses on collectivism a lot more than her philosophy of objectivism.
This novel is super short and readable, taking about an hour or two of reading. Even more, the book is incredibly straightforward. After reading it, I felt like the message wasn’t open for interpretation, which is not usually how I feel after reading a fiction piece. So, if you’d like to read through something in one go, or are interested in philosophy, this is a great option to get started.
How does she write philosophy through fiction?
It was clear there was a larger message Ayn Rand was trying to convey in her fiction: the importance of individualism. While her plot and characters seemed exaggerated to get her ideas across, these narrative choices allowed me to understand her philosophy a bit better and its applications in society.
Throughout the book, Ayn Rand makes her dislike for collectivism clear. In Anthem, the characters aren’t given conventional names, they have tags assigned to them by their society. By having the characters refer to one another as “we” instead of “I”, showing a loss of individuality, she creates a sour taste for readers when thinking about collectivism. This, along with the rest of the plot of the novel, aligns with her beliefs against selflessness being a virtue.
The benefits of Anthem’s fictional nature:
Anthem was one of Ayn Rand’s first books, and she wrote it to introduce readers to her philosophy. She expands upon her full philosophy through other books, some non-fiction and some fiction. Another one of her books that she wrote later in her life, The Fountainhead, builds off this understanding of individualism and transforms it into a much different story. The Fountainhead is the opposite of the short, simple, sweet nature of Anthem. In my opinion, The Fountainhead was glorious, painful, and unending.
Rand created such intriguing characters and stories of detail, and I felt more inclined to understand her philosophy because it passed through her writing so clearly. Her ability to connect her philosophical ideas in different novels allows her ideas to be understood in a very applicable way which I thought was awesome.
Anthem is a great introduction that you could download for free and read within an hour or two. So, if you are curious about selfishness and objectivism or just want a good read, Ayn Rand could be the place to start. At the very least, it will get you thinking!