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Anthem is Ayn Rand’s “hymn to man’s ego.” It is the story of one man’s rebellion against a totalitarian, collectivist society. Equality 7-2521 is a young man who yearns to understand “the Science of Things.” But he lives in a bleak, dystopian future where independent thought is a crime and where science and technology have regressed to primitive levels.
All expressions of individualism have been suppressed in the world of Anthem; personal possessions are nonexistent, individual preferences are condemned as sinful and romantic love is forbidden. Obedience to the collective is so deeply ingrained that the very word “I” has been erased from the language.
In pursuit of his quest for knowledge, Equality 7-2521 struggles to answer the questions that burn within him — questions that ultimately lead him to uncover the mystery behind his society’s downfall and to find the key to a future of freedom and progress.
The setting is Soviet Russia, early 1920s. Kira Argounova, a university engineering student who wants a career building bridges, falls in love with Leo Kovalensky, son of a czarist hero. Both Kira and Leo yearn to shape their own future — but they are trapped in a communist state that claims the right to sacrifice individual lives for the sake of the collective.
When Kira is kicked out of the university as an undesirable and Leo’s past makes him unemployable, life becomes a grim struggle for physical survival. Leo contracts tuberculosis but can’t get admitted to a state sanitarium, despite Kira’s best efforts. Desperate, she seeks help from Andrei Taganov, an ardent young communist whose love for Kira helps awaken him to the meaning of genuine personal values, not to be surrendered for others’ sake.
What will happen as these three struggle to be living individuals in defiance of the power of the collectivist state?
In her first notes for The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand describes its purpose as “a defense of egoism in its real meaning . . . a new definition of egoism and its living example.” She later states its theme as “individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul; the psychological motivations and the basic premises that produce the character of an individualist or a collectivist.”
The “living example” of egoism is Howard Roark, “an architect and innovator, who breaks with tradition, [and] recognizes no authority but that of his own independent judgment.” Roark’s individualism is contrasted with the spiritual collectivism of many of the other characters, who are variations on the theme of “second-handedness” — thinking, acting and living second-hand.
Roark struggles to endure not merely professional rejection, but also the enmity of Ellsworth Toohey, beloved humanitarian and leading architectural critic; of Gail Wynand, powerful publisher; and of Dominique Francon, the beautiful columnist who loves him fervently yet is bent on destroying his career.
The Fountainhead earned Rand a lasting reputation as one of history’s greatest champions of individualism.
The country’s top banker — a leading oil producer — a once-revered professor — an acclaimed composer — a distinguished judge. All vanish without explanation and without trace.
A copper magnate becomes a worthless playboy. A philosopher-turned-pirate is rumored to roam the seas. The remnants of a brilliant invention are left as scrap in an abandoned factory.
What is happening to the world? Why does it seem to be in a state of decay? Can it be saved — and how?
Atlas Shrugged “is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit.”
Follow along as industrialist Hank Rearden and railroad executive Dagny Taggart struggle to keep the country afloat and unravel the mysteries that confront them.
Discover why, at every turn, they are met with public opposition and new government roadblocks, taxes and controls — and with the disappearance of the nation’s most competent men and women.
Will Hank and Dagny succeed in saving the country — and will they discover the answer to the question “Who is John Galt?”