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Anthem by Ayn Rand: A Summary and Book Review

Updated on May 6, 2011

“I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose."


I don't know what it is about communist Russia that has gotten me so interested, but I just finished reading Animal Farm, which I have a review for (link at the bottom) and Anthem by Ayn Rand. Rand was born in soviet Russia and lived through the beginning of the emerge of communism, so her novels, The Fountainhead, which is an amazing novel, and Anthem are quite reflective of her beliefs and philosophy.

Anthem takes places in a future where the greater good of men is more important than the individual. In fact, the collective is so important that the word "I" has completely disappeared from their vocabulary, and when one talks they refer to themselves as "we" which can be very confusing if you don't catch on early. It took my about a chapter to actually get it, but once I understood, it made it much easier to read and a lot more interesting.

The story is very simple. A man feels that he has more potential than he is given, and is even punished for this. He goes around the City's back and teaches himself things that are reprimanded when he brings them to light. No pun intended ;)

Eventually, he finds a woman, who is quite like himself, but they are forbidden to speak to each other, let alone acknowledge each other's existence.  This makes it that much more difficult and unbearable for the main character to live where he does now.  And I completely understand.  It actually sounds like an awful time and place to live.  Who would want to always refer to themselves as part of a whole and never being a singular individual?

Not me!

Eventually though, he escapes what would have ended up being a death at the stake, into the woods, where he's sure no one will follow.  They're all too scared and it's absolutely forbidden, among everything else.  But someone does follow him! The love of his life! And they make a home together and start learning about the "Unmentionable Times" and live happily ever after.

And it was an entirely inspiring story.

That's just the shortest possibly summary of this novella, but I can tell you that it is absolutely an amazing story. It is a little slow at first, but once you reach the climax it is well worth the read and Rand's philosophy is wonderfully displayed.

My favourite part is when the main character starts to use "I" which brings me a sense of accomplishment and joy for the characters and that's what I always look for at the end of something I've read.  Although I can't say I had any expectations of this book other than that I wanted it to be just as good as The Fountainhead, and it lived up to it!

 I love Ayn Rand and hope to tackle Atlas Shrugged soon. You can bet there will be a review!

Let me know what you guys thought of Anthem!



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    • Stephen Rakoczy profile image

      Stephen Rakoczy 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Since you mentioned Soviet Russia near the beginning, I thought I'd suggest Ayn Rand's book "We the Living". It's the closest she came to an autobiography and is set in post revolution Soviet Russia. A simple way to describe it is a love triangle story but the novel highlights how the "dictatorship of the proletariat" crushed individual freedom and resulted in a state where power hungry people played politics to get ahead. Although it mainly criticizes communism, it serves as a criticism of any dictatorship. Personally, I think it's better than any other Ayn Rand book because the characters feel real and develop throughout the story. I think it would be a great book to read after previously reading Animal Farm.