Ayn Rand

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Anthem Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ayn Rand's Anthem. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ayn Rand

Born in 1905 to Zinovy Rosenbaum and Alissa Rosenbaum, Ayn Rand was the oldest of three children and an able student. A formative event in her early life was the repossession of her father’s successful pharmacy business by the Bolshevik Communists, following the 1917 Russian Revolution. This, and other perceived misconduct by Russian Communists, likely fueled the resentment of collectivist ideologies that Rand expounds upon at length in Anthem. In 1924, Rand took up cinematic studies in the Soviet Union, and in 1926 was granted permission to relocate to Chicago in order to obtain more filmmaking knowledge. There, she married an actor named Frank O’Connor and changed her name from Alissa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand.
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Historical Context of Anthem

Rand’s repudiation of collectivism is undeniably a reaction to the collectivist ideologies of the Soviet Communists who dominated her homeland. In 1917, the government of Russia was taken over by Bolsheviks, whose ideology based itself on an elimination of class differences and the notion that social welfare should be derived “from each according to his ability,” and granted “to each according to his need.” The popularity of her work in the United States, in turn, likely stemmed from their compatibility with the more individualistic tenets of the country’s laissez-faire capitalist system.

Other Books Related to Anthem

The most directly related works to Anthem are Ayn Rand’s later novels, which more explicitly elaborate upon her philosophy of Objectivism. Of these, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are by far the most significant. In considering other related works, it may be useful to consult texts at the absolute opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Of these, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Communist Manifesto is a definitive example; it is one of the most widely-known outlines of the sort of collectivist society that Rand denounces in Anthem.
Key Facts about Anthem
  • Full Title: Anthem
  • When Written: 1937
  • Where Written: New York, New York
  • When Published: 1938
  • Literary Period: Science Fiction
  • Genre: Novella, Parable
  • Setting: Unspecified collectivist dystopia, likely in the near future
  • Climax: Equality 7-2521’s empowering discovery of the word “I.”
  • Antagonist: Collectivism, as represented by the World Council of Scholars
  • Point of View: First-person narration by Equality 7-2521

Extra Credit for Anthem

Rhymes with “Mine” Befitting her self-centered philosophy, Ayn Rand’s oft-mispronounced first name is correctly pronounced as rhyming with “mine.”

Politics as Usual. Rand’s objectivist philosophies have been a major influence for American conservatives with an interest in smaller government, particularly the recent Tea Party movement.