Last Friday night, I read Anthem by Ayn Rand. It is both easy and difficult to read in one night. The writing style is simple enough to be understood by middle schoolers, and the plot is not hard to follow. Characterization is dim, but that’s part of the design of the story. It’s more or less a fairy tale, almost in the style of Animal Farm, but without the talking animals.
The reason I say Anthem was difficult to read is because of its prediction for the future: a world where the accomplishments of the individual have been snuffed out and even the use of the word “I” is no longer allowed.
The book was written in 1937, and that prediction has mercifully not come true… but the scary part is that some of the characters’ “names” have become the “weasel words” or buzzwords of today’s politically correct discourse: equality, international, etc. I hope we don’t ever regress back to the point where we shun electricity and begin using candles again, but that’s where the “fairy tale” aspect of the book comes into play: it’s basically an allegory.
The point Rand was making in her book, I think, is that groupthink is incredibly dangerous if it is allowed to infiltrate the ruling class. Many human minds together don’t necessarily equal more intelligent thought. Instead the thoughts of all those minds become stitched together in a kind of smothering blanket that can cover up any opposing thoughts of single minds… even if those opposing thoughts happen to be more sound or right than the majority.
All in all, the book gave me quite a bit to think about.